Wieliczka, salt spring

Wieliczka, salt spring, after Fischer, steel engraving from 1843. Collection: Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw [Dział Ikonografii, T. I-13, G. 4681].

The license is accorded by the owner.


During the journey to Vienna in 1829, Fryderyk and his friends, led by Romuald Hube, visited Cracow and the surrounding area, including Wieliczka, already fashionable in those times. Now seven hundred years old, this salt mine was opened up as a tourist attraction during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Around this time, attention began to be drawn to the salt water’s healthful properties, and the mine began to offer treatment as a sanatorium. Among the sources of information as to what a visit around Wieliczka looked like during the first half of nineteenth century are the descriptions of Klementyna Tańska. So it is worth turning to her memoirs, as we may, with a good deal of probability, presume that the situations and emotions experienced by Klementyna Tańska during her stay there were similar to those of the young Chopin: ‘In pleasant company, comprising five people, having received from the mine’s management permission and a guide and declaring that we wished to descend by cable rather than walking down the steps, we proceeded to the mouth of the mine—a place which looks like a shed; in the middle is an opening in the shape of a huge well, and through this the workers and the curious descend; on glancing into these dark depths, through which one is to pass, one senses an involuntary shiver; the quill that one is handed for writing one’s name in the book prepared for this purpose shakes slightly in the hand, and the long linen shirt in which the traveller is covered to spare her dress seems to resemble a final deathly garment. Klementyna Tańska goes on to write that anxiety is overcome by curiosity, and that the visitor embarks on a mysterious voyage, in order to examine this remarkable underground town. It should be assumed that Fryderyk went down under the ground to visit the mine; otherwise, he would not have been invited to make an entry (on 23 July 1829) in the visitors’ book.