The salt mine in Wieliczka is now on Google Street View

Wieliczka salt mine

Ever dreamt of visiting the UNESCO-protected salt mine in Wieliczka, but never really managed to get there? Now you can – and the best bit is, you don’t even need to worry about expensive air fares.

Google applied the same technology it’s been using for years to help us explore various cities around the world and created a 360-degree tour of the famous salt mine outside Krakow.

The salt mine first started operating in the 13th century and throughout the centuries the miners have not only been producing what once was one of Poland’s most precious commodities, but also carved out some mind-blowingly detailed and beautiful sculptures, halls and corridors.  Most of which are made of pure salt, obviously. (Yes, some tour guides do encourage you to lick the walls or the floor to see for yourself. Don’t – it *is* salt.)

A mural in Wieliczka


The famous St Kinga Chapel (top picture) is probably one of the most spectacular areas of the mine. Even the chandeliers are made of salt. It’s still used as a chapel, but also for classical music concerts, weddings and other occasions.

The mine itself is over 300 metres deep – not that deep compared to many coal mines – and there are almost 300 kilometres (yes, that’s right) of subterranean corridors. Only a tiny fraction of them is accessible to the public.

Wieliczka salt mine

It looks like the Google experience has recreated the most popular tourist trail, and they’ve done a great job. It’s not the same as experiencing the real thing, obviously, but at least there are no crowds to battle with…

Best Polish murals

Image via

Image via

I love street art. I went to Berlin a few months ago and took hundreds of pictures of their murals.

But having seen this gallery, I think I should be visiting my homeland more often for a bit of awesome (well, mostly) street art.

If you are into street art – and possibly art in general – have a look at Natalia Rak‘s website. She is a prolific (and classically trained) Polish street artist and painter. Some of her murals are incredible and incredibly detailed. Her latest mural – called “The legend of the giants” – was unveiled recently in Białystok in the north of Poland:

Image copyright: Natalia Rak

Image copyright: Natalia Rak

Isn’t it just beautiful?

Got any other examples of Polish murals? Let me know.

Street neon signs in Cold War Poland

Kino Ochota neon - image by Monika Kostera via Flickr (CC licence)

Kino Ochota neon, Warsaw – image by Monika Kostera via Flickr (CC licence)

There are certain childhood  images, experiences and smells you tend to remember for the rest of your life. For me one of those experiences was the view of the now demolished sports hall we passed in our car on the way to visit my cousins.

It was a big (at least big in my eyes) building with a curved roof which looked a bit like an oversized trilby with its brim curved upwards. Or at least that’s how I remember it. The architecture was quite striking. But the building’s real feature I still remember to this day was its ‘mobile’ neon sign.

As the hall was primarily used to host basketball matches, the neon sign was created to resemble a bouncing ball which an invisible hand placed in a basket at the end of the three- or four-second sequence. It was mesmerising.

As you drove past the hall, you would wait for the ball to appear in its initial position. The neon would then go off and the ball would reappear a split second later slightly lower, then higher, then lower again. Eventually the ball would end up above – and then go through – a neon basket.

And all these balls were linked by a thin neon light which blinked for that split second between the different sequences to express the ball’s movement.

And the Poland I remember was full of such neons. We often thought they were rubbish – not as elaborate as the Piccadilly Circus neons, not advertising any Western brands – but looking back at them now I often think they were small pieces of art. Sometimes on purpose, often probably by accident.

A few months ago the BBC website published an audio slideshow featuring some of the remaining Cold War neons (click image to open the slideshow in a new window).


A Polish photographer, Ilona Karwinska, is on a mission to save them and she talks about the neons in this BBC piece.

Her website features some lovely images of the surviving signs, she also set up a Neon Museum in Warsaw:


Really lovely stuff, despite all this sentimentality.

Shame the modern signs and neons are so boring and less imaginative. No more bouncing balls….

Sunday music: Paula & Karol

OK, it’s definitely time to say goodbye to the summer – and I have a perfect song for this.

The Way We Were was recorded by a Polish folk duo Paula & Karol, and it comes from their 2012 album Whole Again.

According to the blurb on their site

The Guardian listed them in their “sound of 2011 around the world”, stating that „They are Poland’s new superheroes. Not the tight pants, fluttering cape kind. More like, come to our concert – we’ll break your heart, and then we’ll fix it up kind.”

I love their catchy music (thanks Joanna for the tip again), love the video and I’ve had their album on repeat for the past few weeks.

So without further ado….

Great! Cool! Awesome! – polish your Polish, part 18

Great! You want me to keep on blogging on here. I asked you a week or so ago whether this blog should continue and within 24 hours almost 20 people voted to say yes. Thanks, guys, that’s really awesome.

The vote is still open, at the time of writing 58% of you wanted me to blog whenever I can and 42% wanted regular posts. I won’t make any false promises – all I can say, I won’t abandon the blog. I’ll post whenever I can and when I do it will be something you probably didn’t know about Poland, its people or its language.  Once again, thanks for your support.

Right, so it’s all awesome, cool, great and perhaps even – if you’re so inclined – amazeballs. I’m not down with the (Polish) kids these days, so I can’t offer a direct translation of the last word.

But I can definitely teach you how to express your amazement or positive surprise in Polish.

Probably the most commonly used word to say something is great is


which means ‘great’ or ‘that’s great’.  A great movie would be:

Świetny film

Another commonly used word is:


which translates as ‘excellent’. This is the masculine form of the adjective, the feminine is:


The often used (and equally often hated) Americanism ‘awesome’ translates as:


This word also can mean ‘unbelievable’ and can therefore be used to express disappointment or surprise.

And the word for cool? Try ‘kool’….

Sunday music: Mela Koteluk

Ah, my best friend Joanna never fails to impress me. I asked her a few days ago to recommend some new Polish music I might enjoy and within minutes my inbox was full of names, titles, links and videos.

Here’s one I really liked – Mela Koteluk. I had to Google her to find our a bit more about her and it turns out she started out as a backing singer before releasing her debut album Spadochron (Parachute) last year.

In 2013 she was awarded the prestigious Fryderyk Award for the Debut of The Year and the Artist of the Year.

This track is called Melodia Ulotna (Fleeting Melody). Love her energy…

Oh, and do come back next Sunday for my farewell to the summer track!