Wednesday, August 18, 2004

"The Hell You Don't Know" Tour: Part III 

We left Oswiecim at around lunch time and continued heading southwest. We stopped in the town of Wieliczka to visit their famous salt mine. When we got there, we had to wait in line for an hour and a half, but there was no way we were going to miss this!

Once inside the mine, you walk down some 50 flights of stairs to begin the 3.5 kilometer hike. Everything in the mine is carved out of rock salt, like these figures:

And this one:

Even the pope is carved out of salt:

Each chamber holds a new surprise. In this one, a band played marches for us:

This entire chapel is carved out of salt, from the tiles on the floor to the chandeliers that hang from the salt ceiling:

At the end of the tour, you reach an underground restaurant. We wound up having supper there, feasting on kielbasa and pierogi. It was the perfect place for us, as we were able to point at what we wanted rather than trying to decipher a menu.

After we ate our supper and bought our postcards, we got back in the van and headed toward Nowy Sacz. Here's a picture of something interesting that popped out of nowhere as we rounded a curve next to a lake:

We pulled into Nowy Sacz at around 8:00 p.m. and promptly got lost. Our finely honed American navigational instincts kicked in, and we started following a series of McDonald's signs. We managed to find a gas station and went inside to purchase a map.

We already know that I don't speak Polish. The clerk didn't speak English. He didn't speak German either. He did speak some French, but that didn't help, as the only French I know are the obscenities my cousin taught me (thanks, Julie!). "Hotel?" I asked timidly.

"Ah, hotel!!!" he exclaimed. He jabbered on in Polish and pointed out the directions on the map. Somehow we understood, and a few minutes later we found ourselves at the Orbis Hotel Beskid, the swankiest joint in town. We took our showers and climbed into bed, happy and relieved to have finally reached our ultimate destination.

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