Well, we weren't exactly led by Gandalf into the belly of the mountain and it wasn't mithril that was mined in Wieliczka for centuries, but the whole excursion reminded me of it quite vividly ;D.
I always wanted to visit Wieliczka Salt Mine - one of the oldest salt mines in Europe. It was in operation from 13th century to 2007. At the time of its establishment it was providing a significant chunk of the kingdom's income, insuring its prosperity. Salt was almost as valuable as gold and silver.. Over 300m deep (it takes quite a long trip round and round down the stairs to get to the bottom and by the time you're there you are quite dizzy) and over 200km long (the tours are quite a walk and the guides are quite conscious of any people that might get lost). Currently, along with close by Bochnia mine, Wieliczka is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The tour we have taken was very rushed and, in order to be able to take any pictures, that would be worth sharing we have had to stay behind and disconnect from our group. We have been constantly asked by other guides to move along so that we would not get lost. At the end we did not get lost, but it took us hours to finish the whole tour and we were quite happy to finally escape to the outside world. If you are ever close by, I recommend a visit. There are multiple sculptures made out of salt rock inside, inspired by visits to the mine by famous people as well as showing how the mining operation was conducted in the old times. The lovely Chapel of St. Kinga, who, it is said, discovered the salt deposits in this place, is quite amazing, as well. Above the ground, there is another attraction - the graduation tower. A walk in the area of one of those (called in Polish: tężnia solankowa) is one of the most pleasant forms of inhalation therapies, used for treatment of some chronic respiratory system disorders. The salty mist is similar to the sea air. The inhalation therapy is believed to cleanse the respiratory tracts and that is why they are also referred to as nebulisation therapy.
Picture-wise, the conditions inside are very difficult. It is very dark and even with a camera flash you are shooting on very high ISO, so even my Fujis were tested there quite hard ;D. If you want to keep with your tour, you won't be able to do any proper shots with a tripod (there is simply not enough time and too many people around). However we prevailed and, with a great pleasure, I can share some of the things we saw under and above the ground. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.