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Niepolomice Castle, and the stolen Wawel Chakra.

Krakow Tours to Niepolomice and the castle.

KRAKOW TOURS – Commonly known throughout history as the ‘Second Wawel,’ it shouldn’t come as surprise that the Royal Castle in Niepołomice shares (steals?) a bit of lore from the more famous royal residence in Kraków.

No there’s no tale of a dragon (though you’d think with all the dark, spooky woods surrounding it they could at least cook up some kind of Grendel story), but Niepołomice does try to get some of the good vibes from one of Wawel’s more famous legends – that of the fabled chakra stone.

According to many eastern religious, spiritual and yogic traditions, a chakra (if you don’t know) is a specific point where the powerful network of energy connecting all living things can be felt the strongest. Apparently when the Hindu goddess Shiva sent seven sacred stones – corresponding with the seven natural chakra points on the body – hurtling across the earth, one just happened to end up on Wawel Hill in Kraków and has since become a hit with travellers seeking to channel its powers.

According to local legend, King Kazimierz the Great liked his Niepołomice retreat so much he brought a piece of the Wawel chakra stone here and buried it beneath the castle in one of its gothic cellars. Since all this Hindu mumbo-jumbo doesn’t jive with Wawel’s status as a Catholic spiritual centre, Wawel authorities have done everything possible to downplay the legend; however keen observors will notice a plaque in the courtyard of Niepołomice Castle vaguely identifying the place where Kazimierz His Greatness deposited the chakra chunk in 1340.

Tours to Niepolomice and the castle are available from Krakow Tours, why not combine it with your Wieliczka Salt Mine trip?

Extracted from Krakow In Your Pocket Guide Book, available here.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Polish Legends # 6 – The Pigeons of Krakow (Ver 1)

KRAKOW TOURS – When it comes to Polish cities, Krakow certainly has the highest pigeon-per-square-foot rate.

The Krakow pigeons – mostly residing on the Main Square – have become one of the city’s symbols, and many-a-legend has been told about their impact on Krakow’s history.

It seems, though, that it’s only the Krakow tourists who are so fond of the pigeons, and many inhabitants seem to feel that they do more harm than good. Apart from the obvious threat they might pose to the landing and starting airplanes of the Krakow Airport, the pigeons are also a threat to the city’s landmarks, especially when it comes to aesthetics.

Anyway, tradition is tradition, and hardly anyone can imagine Krakow without its pigeons.

Back in the medieval ages, Poland was divided into several regions of relative autonomy – this period of “Regional Disintegration” lasted between the 12th and 14th centuries, and the lack of a strong central authority weakened the Polish lands. No wonder then, that Henry IV, a Polish prince residing in Krakow, decided to try and become the king of all of the Polish lands. As it usually happens in legends, Henry contacted a witch, who told the Krakow prince that to achieve his goal, he should go alone to Rome and present the pope with a large quantity of gold. She offered him assistance – she turned the prince’s knights into pigeons, and they quickly flew all the way up to theSt Mary’s Church’s tower, and started to rip out small parts of the stone and bricks, that fell on the ground turned into gold. Having collected enough, Henry left Krakow, leaving his knights-pigeons behind to keep the city safe. However, the Krakow prince never got to Rome – he spent all of his gold on girls, food and drink, got lost along the way, and never even returned to Krakow. Poland wasn’t re-united until Wladyslaw Lokietek was crowned Polish king in theWawel Cathedral in 1320, and Henry’s knights are still waiting for their king on the Main Square.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Recommendations, Tour Information | , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish Legends # 5 – Krakow’s Lajkonik

KRAKOW TOURS – In 1287 a detachment of Tatars approached the walls of Krakow.

Before the planned assault they hid behind some bushes to get some sleep, as you would do. Unluckily for them they were spotted by some sturdy Wisla raftsmen who grabbed their oars, got stuck in and thereby ruined the Tatar plans to conquer the Polish Capital.

After that the raftsmen rode into the center of Krakow in Tatar uniforms to tell the people about their daring escapades – that’s the legend anyway.

Nowadays, Krakow’s iconic Lajkonik character celebrates the city’s deliverance by marching with band and sergeant from the Sisters of Norbertanki’s Monastery Courtyard to the Main Square, hitting passers by on the arm, just to bring them luck.

And today’s the day, Lajkonic parade starts at 12.00

June 10, 2010 Posted by | Events, Tour Information | , , , , | 1 Comment

Polish Legends # 2 – The Dragon of Krakow

KRAKOW TOURS – Long ago in Poland’s early history, On the River Vistula, there was a small settlement of wooden huts inhabited by peaceful people who farmed the land and plied their trades.

Near this village was Wawel Hill. In the side of Wawel Hill was a deep cave. The entrance was overgrown with tall, grass, bushes, and weeds. No man had ever ventured inside that cave, and some said that a fearsome dragon lived within it. The young people of the village didn’t believe in the dragon. The old people of the village said that they had heard their fathers tell of a dragon who slept in the cave, and no man must dare waken it, or there would be dire consequences for them all. Some of the youths decided to explore the cave and put an end to such foolish talk. They thought that they knew better and dragons were just old stories from the past.

A group of these young people took some torches and went to the cave. They slowly entered the cave until they came to a dark mass of scales blocking their way and the sound of heavy breathing. The boys ran as the dragon awakened and roared. Fire came from it’s mouth warming the boys heels and backs. When they were far enough away, they looked back and saw the dragon at the entrance of the cave, very angry being awakened from it’s sleep. From that day on, the people knew no peace.

Every day the dragon appeared and carried off a sheep or preferably young virgins. The populace made many attempts to kill the dragon but nothing succeeded and many of those that attempted were killed. The hero in this part of the story differs. In the village lived a wise man, or a shoemaker or a shoe makers apprentice named Krakus or Krac. He got some sheep and mixed a thick, yellow paste from sulfur. Krakus smeared it all over the animals. Then led them to a place where the dragon would see them. The dragon came out as expected, saw the sheep, roared, rushed down the hill and devoured the sheep. The dragon had a terrible fire within him, and a terrible thirst. It rushed to the River Vistula and started drinking. It drank and drank and could not stop. The dragon began to swell, but still it drank more and more. It went on drinking till suddenly there was a great explosion, and the dragon burst.

There was great rejoicing by the people. Krakus, was made ruler of the village, and they built a stronghold on Wawel Hill. The country prospered under the rule of Krakus and a city grew up around the hill which was called Krakow, in honour of Krakus. When Krakus died, the people gave him a magnificent burial, and erected a mound over his tomb which can be seen to this day. The people brought earth with their own hands to the mound, and it has endured through all the centuries as a memorial to the person that killed the dragon of Krakow.

The large 200-foot-long cave in Wawel Hill, Krakow, which has been known for centuries as the monster’s den, now attracts thousands of visitors each year. Whatever the truth of the dragon legend, the Dragon’s Cave (Polish ‘Smocza Jama’) is Cracow’s oldest residence, inhabited by man from the Stone Age through the 16th century.

June 5, 2010 Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, Tour Information | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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