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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
Independence Day
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Wieliczka mine a brand worth its salt
November 5, 2008   
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Wieliczka Salt Mine was one of the first 12 sites entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List Sept. 8, 1978. The explanation of the decision reads: "The historic salt mine in Wieliczka is the only mining site in the world functioning continuously since the Middle Ages. Lying on nine levels, its original excavations (longitudinals, traverses, chambers, lakes, as well as minor and major shafts) stretch for a total of about 300 kilometers. Reaching a depth of 327 meters, they illustrate all the stages of mining technology development over time."

The first signs of salt production in the Wieliczka area date back to some 4,000 BC. At that point, salt was obtained by evaporating brine taken from the salty springs on the surface. As these became exhausted with time, miners sought for salt underground and found rock salt. That was probably in the 12th century, since the oldest document mentioning salt production in Wieliczka dates back to 1105.

In the 14th century, more than 30 percent of the state's revenue came from salt production in Wieliczka. This was where a Polish product was first stamped with a brand: salt obtained from the exceptionally pure deposits was sent to royal tables, packed in barrels stamped with the royal eagle. The mine's historic insignia have been preserved to this day and are among the world's oldest.

Wieliczka Salt Mine is among the most valuable cultural treasures of the world. It was also the world's first underground tourist trail. It attracts over 1 million visitors a year. The walk along the underground corridors takes nearly two hours. Tourists can see original mining excavations from the 17th-20th centuries, impressive underground lakes, unique chapels with sculptures and reliefs made of salt, historical mining machines and equipment, and the traces of the labors of many generations of miners. These all paint a picture of the miners' struggle with the elements, their work, passions and beliefs.

The mine is a veritable underground town with extensive infrastructure that combines centuries of tradition with modernity. It is the heritage of dozens of generations of miners, a witness to the history of Poland. Hence great care is taken to preserve the facility for future generations and to ensure high quality of service. Owing to consistent efforts regarding product and service improvement, the mine maintains and is developing a strong and reliable brand that has roots in both history and modernity.

Zbigniew Zarębski, President of the Board Wieliczka Salt Mine
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