Exploring the Real-Life Mines of Moria in Wieliczka, Poland

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Descending a seemingly endless staircase that plummets for 150 meters, you arrive at the starting point of the Wieliczka Salt Mines tour. The dark dampness of the narrow tunnels evokes a Tolkienesque world of elves and orcs. The main attraction, however, is the “salt-work”—the saline equivalent of a wax museum, with a who’s who of mythological, religious, and historic figures carved into the crystals. The space opens up where the miners created an underground chapel of salt chandeliers, bas reliefs of Biblical scenes, and even a life-size salt sculpture of Poland’s national hero, Pope John Paul II.

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