One of my favorite parts of roaming about Kraków, was refreshing my memory on all the legends I heard of as a kid. It’s one thing to hear old stories or read books and another to walk the old, whimsical roads and spot the marks left behind on the walls, the floors and the people. Kraków is a dreamy city which is bound to make you feel as if anything is possible.
Here are five legends to feed your wanderlust and have you planning your next adventure to Kraków.
The Legend of the Two Towers
St. Mary’s Basilica is one of the main landmarks of the Main Square in Krakow. It is beautifully designed, with two tall towers, one of which is a bit taller than the other.
Legend has it that the two towers were built by two brothers. However, one of them grew with jealousy when he saw that his brother’s tower was taller and decided to murder him.
Afterwards, he was so consumed with grief that he stabbed himself with a knife and threw himself off of the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica. Look for his knife in the Main Square’s Cloth Market, where till this day, it is chained and hanging from the entrance.
The Legend of the Arrow
While on the subject of St. Mary’s Basilica, listen up for the Krakowian Anthem, hejnał, played each hour from highest tower of the basilica. It’s sort of a big deal, at noon they play it in the radio and everything.
The trumpet calls were meant to signal the closing of the gates but, there’s a story!
During a Tartar invasion on Kraków, sometime in the twentieth century, the trumpeter signaled an alarm for the gates to be closed. The gates were closed in time, saving the city however a tartar arrow shot straight into the trumpeters throat, thus abruptly ending the hejnał. In his memory, till this day, the hejnał is ended in the same manner, just, minus the arrow.
The Legend of the Chakra
Many believe (I mean like seriously believe) that Kraków is a magical city, due to the ancient chakra stone. It is believed that there are several chakras on earth which provide a source of energy on Earth. They are said to be located in Mecca, Jerusalem, Rome, Delhi, Velehrad and can you guess it? The Wawel Hill.
People believe that the Chakra is at the heart of the hill and visit the Castle’s underground chambers to meditate and rejuvinate. Supposedly, the radiating energy of the Chakra can be felt from heat emerging from one of the tiles of the Royal Courtyard.
The Legend of The Dragon
Kraków is a true city of legends, and you can bet that the Wawel Royal Castle has one of its own. I remember watching a cartoon about the Wawel Dragon as a kid back in kindergarten.
Now after all these years I got to walk through his cave myself.
When Kraków was first build and growing with riches, this terrifying dragon occupied the Wawel hill. It was a blood thirsty dragon. It ate the cattle and sheep. In fear for their lives, people would leave their treasures and gold by the hill for the dragon, hoping it would satisfy his hunger. But it didn’t, and eventually it began to devour the citizens of Kraków.
King Casimir, offered a reward to anybody who could slay the beast. Unfortunately, no knight was able to even come close to harming the dragon and the city grew with despair.
One day a lonely shoemaker named Skuba, decided to take up a battle with the dragon. But he had an unconventional plan. He sew a giant, wool bag and covered it with sheep skin. He then filled it with sulfur and tar, leaving it out for the dragon to consume it.
The next morning the dragon was found by the Vistula, drinking so much water to calm his scorching stomach that he finally exploded. The King wanted to reward Scuba for his brilliance. However, all the shoemaker requested was the skin of the dragon, so he could make shoes for the poor.
The Legend of the Rafter
Every Thursday after the Corpus Christi festivities (which take place 60 days after Easter) you can spot a “Tatar invader” marching through Krakow on his horse. (The horse is fake.)
So when those darn Tartans were trying to invade Krakow again, they decided to spend the night on the other side of the Vistula and attack in the morning.
Well they were spotted by local rafters who assaulted them, thus saving the city. Hurray for the underdogs of Krakow! So after the assault, they dressed themselves in Tartan clothes and entered the city. Once the citizens realized the Tartan invaders were actually dressed up rafters the city burst into celebration. The King then declared this as an official tradition and it stuck till this day.
If by now, you’re planning your adventure, check out my Weekend Guide to Kraków!
These are just few of the legends I learned of but there are plenty more, most of which with multiple versions. Do you have a favorite one? Mine is the the legend of the dragon. The ending is so touching ♡
Let me know in the comments below!