Today was my final sampling of that wonderful Krakow breakfast I’ve been spoiled with for the last few days, which made me quite sad.
We left at around 8 in the morning and took a quick drive from Krakow to Wieliczka, where there is the world’s largest salt mine (around 3,000 kilometers long). We walked all of it, of course. 😉 Unfortunately, there was an extra charge to be allowed to take pictures, so I don’t have pictures of my own to show you, but the cave was awesome. We descended 135 meters, three layers deep into the mine, in order to see where the people worked and even run some of their old equipment (like their barrel-lift) ourselves. The entire series of labyrinthine caverns is made completely of salt.
“You can taste the walls and see that they’re really made of salt,” our tour guide said. Everyone but me ran over to the walls. He smiled and mumbled out of the corner of his mouth, “Oh, and we have more than a million visitors here every year.”
I don’t think half of them got what he was suggesting.
Anyway, the caverns are supported by pine beams because they absorb water very well, and the salty water of the cave solidifies the pine and slowly crystallizes it, making it tougher each year. White, sparkling salt coats the wood that you pass by, and glistening urchin-like globs of salt collect on the ceilings and walls, sometimes creeping down hanging chains to create stalactites. [picture courtesy of Quality Junkyard: http://qualityjunkyard.com/2009/03/13/wieliczka-salt-mine-poland/ and Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Salt_Crystal_-_Salt_Mine_Wieliczka_2.jpg]
Inside was also the world’s largest underground church, which was fantastic. Everything you see — the statues, the steps, even the chandeliers — is made from salt. [picture courtesy of kuriositas: http://www.kuriositas.com/2011/08/wieliczka-salt-mine-astounding.html]
It was in this large church that we actually witnessed a man proposing to his now-fiancee. Of course she said yes. 😉
I made it my mission to go through the caves and collect the largest piece of salt that I could find without damaging anything in the mine (scraping, cutting, etc). This is what I ended up with.
After the three hours at Wieliczka, though, it was a pretty standard ride home for the next nine hours or so. The usual police stopped us, then decided halfway through us pulling over that they didn’t want to check us after all, so we were free to go. We got in an hour-long traffic jam in the mountains of Slovakia, and I munched on some of those Polish sweets from yesterday. I had three, making sure to savor each.
The babeczka tiramisu [tiramisu bun]: The bun itself was very crumbly and a little bitter, as shortbread is prone to being. It was very buttery and delicious, but the dark filling underneath that icing was only very sweet and carried little to no coffee flavor that tiramisu should have. The icing, which was purely vanilla with a small hint of bitterness, made up more than half of the dessert. Too much focus on the icing, leaving the rest of the tart neglected.
The babeczka kajmakowa [bun with toffee]: Much more satisfying in its unique flavor than the tiramisu tart, the breading was the same but the filling quite different. Good smell. Like smooth caramel without the chewiness, a strong butterscotch flavor permeated the thick and satisfying cream. No lumps and a good ratio of sweet filling to bitter exterior made this a great treat.
The pianki advokatowe [advocat cookie]: I was most surprised by this cookie. It was lighter than a feather when I picked it up — it felt hollow, actually. The flavor was simply a very, very sweet milk-cream, and the texture of the dessert was like that of ground Smarties; there is no need to chew, as the crispy cookie dissolves almost instantly in the mouth with a vague fizzling sensation. I believe that this type of cookie is simply made with whipped egg and sugar. Highly satisfying.
The rest of those little desserts will be picked off one by one in the upcoming day or so.
So, what’s coming up in my life now that Krakow’s done with? Well, Thanksgiving is this week, and all of us are planning to pitch in a bit to make a meal just like from back home. After that, Kelly and I are going to go see another Hungarian musical with Adri, so I’ll definitely post about that later this week. Aside from that, I’ve got some other things planned that will just have to be a surprise. 😉 Plan on it!