Saturday 15 February 2014

Krakow, Poland I: Old Town Square and Wawel

Reached Krakow at 5.30 in the morning and I was absolutely freezing. With frozen hands, I tried to find my way to my hostel. Since it was way too early to check in, I warmed myself up with a cup of coffee in the lounge. After breakfast I went off for a walking tour. The Old Town is so near! Just 5 minutes away. Krakow Old Town is a lot busier and smaller than the one in Warsaw.

Statue of Adam Mickiewicz who was the greatest Polish Romantic poet in front of the Cloth Hall where you can get all sorts of souvenir from.

St. Mary Basilica which was supposedly built by two brothers. One brother, the designer of the smaller tower, was envious of his brother's success, murdered him and then threw himself from the higher tower from remorse. The knife that was said to have been the murder weapon is hang at the gate of the Sukiennice. I saw it but don't have a photo of it.

Every hour, a trumpet signal—called the HejnaƂ mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary's two towers. The tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.. well according to legend.

Town Hall Tower - Krakow's leaning tower! It leans just 55 centimetres so you probably can't really tell. And near the tower is the sculpture of a head called "The Head" haha ok official name is Eros Bendato. The rest of his body is supposed dotted in various locations in Europe.. I tried to google for images but can't seem to find any. Did anybody see the other parts of his body somewhere? This is like in hidden object game but in real life. Scary.

Wawel Cathedral seemed to be pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. The architecture is like a mish mash of styles (at least to my untrained architectural eyes). The interior is really beautiful. I always wonder how people in the past managed to build such extricate cathedrals.

The two bright windows were positioned there to make people think they were doors opening up to rooms. Clever eh? King Sigismund had a love for Italian architecture so he hired two Italian architects to design Wawel Castle.

But a fire broke out and restoration was carried out but this time it was mingled with Gothic style. The guide pointed out the difference to us but I couldn't see it so I took two photos. The left side is supposed to be a different style from the right. Can you tell?

Krakow's iconic Wawel dragon that blows out fire every few minutes. There's a story behind the dragon. There used to be a dragon living in a den just at the foot of Wawel Hill, it killed villages, ate their livestocks and the whole village lived in fear. So the king announced that whoever who could kill the dragon would get his daughter's hand in marriage but nobody could defeat it. Then a shoemaker/cobbler/basically a poor young man came along and claimed that he could do it. He stuffed a lamb with sulphur and placed it in front of the dragon's den. The next morning when the dragon awoke, it saw the lamb and ate it. Then he felt so thirsty that he drank up the whole of Vistula River and his stomach (and it too) exploded. It explains why you see dragons all over Krakow, in the form of stuffed toys, t-shirts, on cups, bowls, plates, etc.

And a friendly beer said hi. :)

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