Opened in the 13th century, the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland was one of the oldest operating salt mines in the world until it ceased production in 2007. But what put this mine on the original UNESCO list was the chapels and and intricate statues carved out of salt or carved directly into salt walls of the mine. In the largest and most elaborate St. Kinga’s Chapel, one of the wall reliefs is a salt carved version of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.
As I walked out of Krakow’s Glowny Train Station, I passed an interesting monument and sculpture. Later, I learned that it had just recently been erected this past June to honor the controversial Polish Cold War hero Ryszard Kuklinski. Colonel Kuklinski worked as a NATO spy for ten years passing top secret Warsaw Pact documents to the CIA during the height of the Cold War. Interestingly, it is only fairly recently that his actions have been accepted in a positive light in Poland. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Kuklinski was initially deemed a traitor by the Polish government. The square in which the monument was erected is named after Jan Nowak-Jeziorański who was a World War II hero that spent his life fighting for an independent Poland.
Most of the old protective wall that once encircled Krakow’s Old Town is now gone, but a small section still remains on either side of the Florian Gate. Here, the old wall acts as an outdoor gallery for local artists displaying their colorful canvases. Each morning the artists use ladders to hang their creations, filling all the available vertical and horizontal wall space. An ever changing collage of street art in Krakow.
I’m a planner. For me, figuring out the details of a trip is just as much fun as the actual travel. But not surprisingly, I discovered that the most meaningful experiences are often the unexpected ones.