We got to Chelm city, a town famous for its underground chalk mine.
The museum is located in the Chełm city center, in the vicinity of Castle Hill. We managed to get there for a few minutes before sightseeing. There is only one problem – to find free parking lot. This museum has no dedicated parking so we need to use one of city public parking lot. After a while we found small parking at the church located nearby the museum.
Before arrival we checked on website how tour looks like. Well, there are available three hours to enter: at 11 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM. The tour is guided, so we are able to hear some stories about underground tunnels.
The chalk mine is located under the streets, and the route stretches all the way to the Edward Łuczkowski square. This square has an ancient well, the lower part of the shaft can be seen in the basement. At the bottom of this shaft archaeologists have found fragments of old weapons during decontamination works.
In chalk mine is quite dark and cold. The temperature is around 9 ° C, like in Miedzyrzecki Fortified Region. The route was set through the chamber tunnels with exhibitions of for example former miner, weapons from ancient times, excavated by archaeologists fragments of old vessels, examples chalk jewelry, and even art works of children.
City of Chelm was built on the chalk rock. We learned that in the past almost all inhabitants of the town were the amateur miners. Since the thirteenth century every building had own entrance to the mine through basement. Chalk was very popular and was great trade for itinerant merchants. It was used for the manufacture of paints, powders, drugs, pottery and construction. The biggest grow of the mine took place in the sixteenth century as a result of the development of the construction industry in Poland. The tunnels dug by residents in the basement began after some time to connect with the tunnels of neighbor and the next neighbor, and the next… This way they created a labyrinth of tunnels under the city reaching depths up to 20 meters. Such a labyrinth began to pose a danger to the city, who were built on the structure similar to Swiss cheese. According to historical documents, it is estimated that up to 80% of the houses have their own access to the underground chalk resources. The fact of having such access weighed even on the price of the property. In the seventeenth century there was the first collapse of the street. Since then independent extraction of raw materials was banned. However, they did no protect tunnels and it have been used mainly as a storeroom for food storage. It was not easy to watch those who were still chalk miners. As a result, the tunnels were built so large that there was even a collapse of the building, cracking the walls of houses and roads. In 1957, the ground sank a passing truck down the street. Finally in 1974 entrances to old tunnels were filled with concrete and now they are not longer a danger to residents.
During the tour we find out a lot information about chalk and its mining process. We’ve founded out that it was not an easy task. The most valuable were medium and large lumps of raw materials. Production takes place mainly in an amateur style without special mining tools.
Underground tour lasts about an hour. Between stops, where the guide tells us story are quite long sections of the corridor to go. The tour pace is relatively fast. The route has a length of 2 km. Kids really liked it.
During the tour awaits us a surprise. According to legend, in the basement of prowling White Ghost. Therefore, exploring the tunnels of the mine is not for the fainthearted. We actually confirm that the ghost exists, and even spoke to us. He don’t like cameras, so we are not having any photo of him. If you want to see how he looks like you have to necessarily go to Chelm and its underground chalk mine.