June 12, 2006
I need to announce a big feat that was experienced today. I, Jennifer Nathan, put my internal demons to the test and went
135 meters beneath the ground for two hours. For us Americans who have no idea how far that is (I’m still trying to
familiarize myself with the metric system), it’s over 400 feet. About forty floors underneath the ground.
Why would I do such a thing?
To see salt. Yes...salt.
This town is the home of the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines. While mining ceased about nine years ago, miners still work here
to preserve the pieces of salt art that have been created.
Dating back to the 12th century, salt mining began here. The composition of the ‘rocks’ is 95% NaCl and 5% rock.
When the miners’ shifts were over, they took up the hobby of carving sculptures out of the salt. Amongst the most
impressive thing I witnessed (other than my not having a panic attack) was the church that is entirely made out of salt.
Everything. Even the salt-crystal chandeliers. It took them thirty years to complete this and twenty-thousand tons of rock
salt had to be removed. There are also two reliefs in this church that were done so that they appear three-dimensional. One
of these is ‘The Last Supper’.
Before leaving, my claustrophobia would be tested once more on the elevator ride to the top. About ten of us were squeezed
(literally) into a wrought-iron box as we zoomed up the 135 meter shaft. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt as if an
amusement park ride was part of the package of coming here.
I’m happy I battled the mini-wave of panic that struck me when I saw the doors shut when we had all entered the stairway.
The guys who made these sculptures were amateurs who mined for salt. It was truly amazing to see the treasures that
people are capable of making.
The church made out of nothing but salt.
The salt version of The Last Supper..