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Eastern Europe trip: part 2
that magic moment, balance, paying off, painterly
innie_darling
The next day, we were all a bit crankypants because we had a destination in mind and could not get any actual help getting there. (But aren't you glad to know that the city of Krakow has chosen this as the fabric in which it covers bus and train seats?) It ended up more than okay - the destination was definitely worth the aggravation, and I highly recommend it. (Again, though, there's no real warning of how arduous the tour will be - you need to be prepared to walk about three or four miles, almost a third of it going downstairs. Definitely go in the morning on an early tour and be prepared to spend about five hours, all told.) That destination was - drumroll, please - the Wieliczka Salt Mine! (I know, I know. Just trust me.) It was and is a working mine, started in the thirteenth century, when salt was more expensive than gold, and at some point, the miners turned it into a gallery and museum and more. It's totally wild. You know it's a Polish monument because there's our old friend Copernicus. And here's the legend of the Hungarian princess who threw her engagement ring into a salt pit in Hungary, traveled to Krakow to meet her prince, and had her ring found by Krakovian salt miners, who subsequently made her the patron saint of the mine (no, I don't know what that means either):
The place is still operating (and I can confirm that the Polish miners I have seen are very aesthetically pleasing) but can you imagine how scary working conditions must have been back in the day, if this is what it looks like now? No wonder the Spirit of the Mine has to intervene sometimes to keep the workers safe:
There are chapels down there - it's lucky to get married there, because "salt preserves" - that are really beautiful and the main one has salt chandeliers, religious reliefs all around, and supposedly the best acoustics in Europe.

Once we emerged, dazed and blinking, into the light, we found that the weather had unexpectedly turned beautiful (most of our time in Poland was wet or chilly) and we made the most of the afternoon, wandering around the old city (this is the Barbican): .

And then we made our way to the train station to board the sleeper train to Hungary.

The train was a disappointment - much less comfortable than the sleeper train I'd taken nearly twenty years earlier through Western Europe - but it got us to Budapest. And the first thing we saw when we emerged from the metro station was Parlament: That probably should have warned us. I've never been to a city that so immediately smacked me in the face with such an overwhelming array of architectural styles and magnificence. If you're at all interested in architecture or city planning, go to Budapest!

I really liked this guy and I have a weakness for wrought iron, so I was having quite a good time just looking around. Even the manhole covers are beautiful! I like the clean lines and bright facade of this building, and there is nothing I do not love about the seated guy's feet. . We took the tour of Parlament (expensive, cut short because Parlament [yes, they spell it without the i] was actually in session, shockingly, not really worth it because once you've seen one ornate corridor you've seen them all) - here are a few pics so you won't have to: The one bit I really liked was the photogallery at the end, in which they'd documented restoring the building; it included lots of amazing views and closeups of the artists themselves, working with such care and concentration. And this guy: Possibly a cousin of this rotund little policeman (who has the same stance as the grad student who crammed German into my head - it has long since vanished - one long-ago summer):

This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/452082.html.
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