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On the wings of dreams
Imagination and desire to experience an extraordinary adventure can drive us to extraordinary feats. That is why it is said that you do not need wings to soar above the ground. But what can it be said when one wants to do the same deep underground? It turns out that in the undergrounds of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine nothing is impossible. In the salt chambers, many unusual, sometimes even wild ideas have been put into practice so far.
A balloon flight in the mine undergrounds? That idea sounded like a fairy tale when it was proposed.
But Mirek Rękas, a paraglider and balloon pilot and the other members of the Tarnowski Aviation Association knew perfectly well what to do and how to make their dream come true.
The flight was prepared for almost two years - that much time was spent obtaining documentation and expert opinions. The Stanislaw Staszic Chamber, the tallest of the chambers along the tourist route, was chosen as the location for feat. With a height of up to 36 meters, the chamber was ideally suited to the purpose.
The balloon had a diameter of 14 meters and a height of 18 m. Initially, it was filled with cold air. Next, electric blowers were brought in, raising the temperature of the air inside the balloon envelope to 65°C. The pilot finally managed to lift the balloon to a considerable height of... 213 cm and kept it there for all of four minutes.
In this manner, the Wieliczka salt mine permanently entered the Guinness Book of Records.
Bungee jumping is one of the most popular extreme sports. Every year, thousands of people rise to the occasion to feel the amazing adrenaline rush and... test the strength of their nerve. It is said that the sport has been practised for over 2,000 years. It appears to have originally been a ritual custom of the young inhabitants of the Pentecost Island , who thus marked their passage into adulthood. Legend has it that the first person to bungee jump was a woman.
Today, it has become a pleasant and a very exciting manner of spending time. "Bungee jumping is practised almost everywhere – people jump from skyscrapers, bridges, special cranes... so why not try it underground?”, Bogdan Kopka, the founder of an extreme sports centre once thought.
Witnesses to the feat performed by the daredevil, who jumped head first from a height of 36 meters in the underground chambers of Stanislaw Staszic scenery, claim that it was a breathtaking view.
- I dreamed to sail where no one has sailed before - Mateusz Kusznierewicz, multiple world and European champion in the Finn class, once said. When the television crew of Polish TV Channel 2 "My first time" broadcast heard that declaration, they immediately set out in search of such a place. They found it underground, in the picturesque "Wieliczka" Salt Mine. Kusznierewicz sailed on a Starboard Formula 158 race windsurfing board, on the surface of a salt lake... situated 104 meters below ground, and 9-meter deep.
"I am lacking a little space here and it worries me. But I am reassured by the sight of water." thus the Olympic medallist described his experiences on right after the event. The water, it should be added, was quite special - with low temperature of about 8°C and a salt concentration so high that... nothing can not sink in it. A huge fan set on the lake shore worthily replaced the winds raging on the surface. Mateusz Kusznierewicz rose to the challenge and proved that an underground salt lake is a perfect place for a true sailor.
Tour de Pologne
The history of the Tour de Pologne, a great sports event and a well-known brand, also has its Wieliczka episode. One of the oldest and finest cycling events in the world could not stay away from the beautiful location offered by the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine. Competing cyclists ride by the Daniłowicz shaft.
Traditionally, the prestigious race is closed by gala evening in the salt environment: cyclists, organisers and supporters of cycling meet to celebrate in the Warszawa Chamber. Every year, the winners are handed unique salt sculptures which Wieliczka miners prepare.
- Before the competition starts, I receive many phone calls from cyclists asking if the race will end at the mine - says Czeslaw Lang, director of the Tour de Pologne. - When I confirm, they express joy and enthusiasm.
Beautiful chambers carved in salt can perfectly act as full-size sports halls. Here, an underground field , court, or even a real boxing ring can be quickly build. More than 100 meters underground,you will find real sports thrills and a competition which is worthy and healthy, literally so, because you will compete in the beneficial atmosphere of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine underground!
In the autumn of 2004, the Warszawa Chamber hosted an unusual soccer tournament between the teams of Malopolskie region police officers and... British diplomats, with Wieliczka miners playing the hosts. The event was honoured by the presence by "the man who stopped England", the legendary goalkeeper of the 1970s Polish soccer team, Jan Tomaszewski.
The fame of the salt "turf" also reached... British police stations. Every year, a team of English enforcement officers from the International Police Association (IPA) participates in an underground tournament. It is also worth noting that Poland's Trade Union of Miners also organises its annual football tournament in the salt chamber.
The Warszawa Chamber floor also attracts... professional dancers. In 2008, the "Salt Cup" tournament received the prestigious rank of the Professional Polish Dance Couples Championships during which teams from Poland and around the world compete for the "Salt Cup".
But not only professionals have a chance to show their dancing skills in the salt undergrounds. During the three-day Festival Crystal Salsa Party workshops, all aficionados can try their hand at dancing under the supervision of world-renowned instructors.
The "Wieliczka" Salt Mine lived the first episode of Enter the Dragon in 2005, when a nation-wide kung fu tournament was held in its undergrounds. Athletes from the invited schools of this legendary Chinese martial arts competed in unarmed, short- and long-arms combat. The salt chambers provide an excellent backdrop for the struggles worthy of the successors of Bruce Lee. The salt chambers also hosted boxers on a number of occasions. Underground boxing galas attract a large audience and well-known boxers.
Although it is forbidden to race in the underground galleries, the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine is closely associated with rallies. Every February, Wieliczka streets fill with a unique noise of engines and the characteristic smell of burning rubber. The race route leads around the mine, and its ceremonial ending is organised in a salt chamber 125 meters underground. Best Polish race crews attract many fans and.. drivers from Wieliczka and the surrounding area, who want to compete with the pros.
The Wieliczka SSS is a part of the Marian Bublewicz and Janusz Kulig Memorial, which is organised in the memory of racing drivers who died tragically.