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#ClayinKrakow Day 4: Following in Saint John Paul II’s Footsteps

Day 4 started off the same way days 1, 2, and 3 did: with a massive breakfast of meat, salmon, and potato pancakes.  After all, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

We boarded the tour bus just after 8:30am and went to our first stop:  the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy.  The property includes the Convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, where St. Faustina lived for over 5 years and where her relics lie.  We also saw the window of the room where St. Faustina passed away.

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We visited the chapel of St. Joseph, which has both the miraculous image of the merciful Jesus and the tomb of St. Faustina.

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It was a beautiful and prayerful start to our day.  We continued to the beautiful Basilica of the Divine Mercy, and it was here that I specifically prayed for all the intentions of family and friends.

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Then it was time to get some exercise.

Anna (our tour guide) invited us to go to the top of the Tower.  Never one to back down from a challenge – and because I’m not that bright – I decided to use the steps while my friends jammed into an elevator.  In an effort to partially work off some of the Polish food I’ve been eating, I started up the stairs of the 77-metre high tower.

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I breezed up the first few sets of steps, not even noticing that I had my heavy jacket on.  After a dozen flights of stairs, I started to slow down considerably.  I heard the voices of my friends who were now at the very top.  And they told me later that they could hear my breathing and panting.

I finally arrived to the top to their – and my – relief.  All told, I climbed between 25-30 flights of stairs of 10 steps each.  I’m not really sure the exact amount because I was too worried about passing out during the latter flights.

I took a few pictures from the top and then – after a brief flirtation with taking the elevator down – made my way back down the stairs.  Needless to say, it was a lot easier than going up.

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We jumped into the bus and headed to our next stop: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.  Thankfully, Anna didn’t ask us to pronounce it nor spell it.  St. John Paul II had made several visits to the beautiful monastery as pope.

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The highlight of our visit was when we were shown a bedroom that St. John Paul II had stayed in during his last visit to the monastery in 2002.  The room included a bed, kneeler, chair, and desk.

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It also included 2 pairs of slippers worn by St. John Paul II.  They were neatly tucked under the bed.  In a moment of creative inspiration, I quickly removed my shoes and snapped a picture.  I hope to be able to follow in our great saint’s footsteps one day!

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After lunch, we went to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  Opened in the 13th century, the mine produced table salt until 2007.  The salt mine reaches a depth of 327 metres and is over 287 kilometres long.  During our visit, we went as far down as 135 metres.  We were told that we only saw about 1% of the total mine.

Right at the start of the tour, I was the first one of our group and I was walking directly behind our tour guide.  She had warned us to be careful opening and passing through the heavy doors.

So as we approached our FIRST DOOR of the tour, she opened it towards us and quickly walked through.  In a move that I’ve spent YEARS perfecting (just ask Gail and my kids), I swung the heavy wooden door towards me and kicked it with my foot while snapping my head back quickly.  It gave the effect of me concussing myself on the door.

Almost everyone in our group saw it happen (remember, they were all behind me).  Half of them thought it was real, the other half knew I was joking.  All of them thought it was well-executed.

Especially our guide.  She ran back onto our side and asked me if I was okay.  Between chuckles I told her I was fine.  And that I wouldn’t do it again.

I hope she wasn’t inSALTed.  Or that she didn’t MINE my joke of being asSALTed by the door.

I really enjoyed looking at the statues and chapels all carved out of the rock salt.  The salt mine is now used for conferences, meetings, and even weddings – if you’re willing to pay $1,000 an hour to rent it out.

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Our tour of the salt mine ended when they piled 10 of us into this puny elevator to make the 45 second trip back to the surface.  The elevator was probably built for 6 people, although they kept telling us that 9 people should fit.  So I’m not sure why they put 10 people in there.

One younger boy wasn’t comfortable with the close surroundings (not like any of us were, either) and smacked me with the doors as he rushed to get out.  It was similar to what happened earlier.  Except this one was real.

We headed back to the hotel and I had just enough time to do some shopping before dinner.

I returned to the hotel, returned some work messages, and spent time praying in thanksgiving for a great day and wonderful trip.

You could say that I was exSALTing God in my prayer.