One of the greatest assets Polish -not only as a mineral, but also cultural heritage – is a salt.
Salt was exploited in southern areas of Polish from the Neolithic Age, 4000 years BC. Initially, it was collected by evaporating brine from salt springs. Then, probably to reach the brine, people started to dig wells, which led to discovery of rock salt. First mine was established between the 12th and 13th century in Bochnia. Later salt was discovered in Wieliczka, where was funded the most famous polish salt mine.
According to legend salt into the area was brought by St. King, also called Kunegunda. Hungarian princess was about to be married to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków. As a dowry Princess asked for salt, which was then very appreciated, so father gave her mine in Maramures. The princess threw to it her gold engagement ring. According to legend, when the princess came to Poland same ring was found in a large block of salt mined in Wieliczka, where later established the first mine shafts. St. Kinga became a patron of Polish salt miners and there are statues and chapels in her honor in polish salt mines, including a small cathedral located 101 meters underground in Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Bochnia and Wieliczka are one of the oldest salt mines of the world, and worked from 13th to 20th century. Now both are underground museums, one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments, also placed on the UNESCO’s lists of the World Heritage Sites. Mine in Wieliczka were visited since the 15th century, and in 1774 started the register of visitors. Visitors can see how salt was mined and visit the tourist route which miners created in the 18th and 19th centuries. The route consists of corridors, underground lake, chapels, working church and chambers with unique sculptures and reliefs made of salt.