Welcome to the second and final part of my story about my recent trip to Poland. The first part covers my experience of a traditional Polish wedding and local culture. This post is all about one of the major tourist cities in Poland: Kraków.
Kraków is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland and was once the capital. It was about three and a half hours away from the original place we stayed at, near Aleksandrów.
We decided to see the Oriental art exhibition, which was a display of artefacts, armour and weapons from places like Turkey, China, Japan and Persia. Some of the artefacts were trophies from the Vienna campaign in which the Polish army commanded by John III Sobieski gained victory over the Turkish army. We also saw some ornate porcelain vases from China. Unfortunately you couldn’t take photos. It was very interesting as most museums I’ve been to are very anglo-centric so I’d never seen anything like that before.
We also visited the cathedral inside the castle grounds, which was free to enter. It was beautifully ornate with lots of gold and marble statues inside. We went down into the ‘Bard’s crypt’ which contains the remains of two 19th century Polish poets-Adam Michkiewicz and Juliusz Slowacki-as well as the symbolic tomb of Cyprian Kamil Nowid and a plaque commemorating the composer Frédéric Chopin.
“In the tunnels of a certain rock there lived an immensely dreadful monster, whom some used to call the whole-eater. Every week his voracity called for a fixed number of cattle. If the settlers had not supplied the cattle (as sacrificial beasts) they would be punished by losing the equivalent number of human heads. Grakch [Cracus] could not tolerate the shame of this […] and he secretly called his sons, told them of his intention and presented a solution […] To which they answered: […] ‘It is you who has the power to give orders, and we are here to obey’. Having experienced many, and generally futile, skirmishes, they were forced to use deception. In the place of the cattle they put cattle’s skins stuffed with ignited sulphur. And when the whole-eater swallowed it with great appetite, he suffocated from the outburst of an internal fire. Immediately after this, the younger brother attacked and killed the older, his partner in victory and in the kingdom, treating him not as a companion but as a competitor. He lied that it was the monster who was guilty of the killing, and his father happily accepted him as a winner. Thus the younger Cracus succeeded his father, benefiting from his crime! But he was tainted with fratricide longer than he was awarded with power. Soon after, the deceit came to light, and as punishment for his deed, he was banished forever[…] And it was indeed on the rock of the whole-eater that the famous city was soon established, named Cracovia from Cracus’ name, to commemorate him forever. The funeral ceremony finished only when the city was completed. Some named it Cracow because of the crowing of the crows, who flew in attracted by the carcass of the monster.”
Cool or what? There is a statue in honour of the dragon that belches fire right outside the exit of the caves.
Have you ever been to Kraków? Does it sound like somewhere you’d like to visit?