We only got to spend 1 night in Krakow on our family trip to Europe in 2013 but what a night!!
We flew in early in the morning from Berlin to meet up with our Polish and German friends who were meeting us at Krakow airport.
As travellers, Rebecca and I love castles and seek them out where ever we go. Not sure why maybe it is because we are Australian and no such castles exist in Australia. It’s the size, the design, the opulence and the history that’s associated with these magnificent buildings.
I must admit to showing some ignorance about Krakow. I did not research anything about Krakow or southern Poland for that matter. I knew we were meeting friends who were well aware of the sights of this region. We just assumed they would take us to the worthy attractions and tell us about the history that they had learned. Sometimes this is the best way, to leave it in the hands of those who know and live there. You get a more realistic view and experience of these places. It is even more interesting when you put another person’s view and experiences into it
The next day before leaving for Istebna in Poland we toured the Wawel Castle complex. Its sits at the end of the Krakow old town district.
The gothic Wawel Castle in Krakow in Poland was built from 1333 to 1370. The Wawel complex consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard.
“The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally important site in Poland. For centuries, this was the residence of the kings of Poland. It was a symbol of Polish statehood and Power. The Castle is now one of the country’s premier art museums and UNESCO world heritage site.
There are many buildings on site including the Wawel Cathedral, the crown jewels and the armoury. The Wawel Cathedral dates back over 900 years. The Cathedral’s history is intertwined with those of the Polish royalty that made Wawel castle home. It is a polish national sanctuary and site of many Royal Coronations. A young Karol Wojtyla who went on to be Pope John Paul 11 has a strong association with this cathedral. He offered his first mass as a priest in this church in 1946.
At Wawel castle, we found the armoury and the jewel exhibitions quite interesting. In the armoury t dozens of different swords were on display. The weapons represented different eras of polish wars and combats that were fought defending the polish nation and people throughout history. The presentation only displays a small amount of what was once the collection. In 1795 the Prussians broke into the treasury and almost destroyed the whole collection.
There is a nice cafe on site. We had coffee and cakes and soaked up our amazing surrounds. If you get a good table you can look straight at the castle while enjoying a break. Room 2 of the collection which contained many full suits of Amour was favourite among our kids. Mike the Knight the Tv show was mentioned more than once in reference. Room 4 full of spears and hand to hand weaponry was my favourite. Combat must have savage back in the Medieval times.
The Legend of the Wawel Castle Dragon
There is also a legend about a dragon associated with Wawel castle. There is a cave at the bottom of the hill that is referred to as the “The Dragons Den”. The oldest known version or first written mention of this Dragon of Wawel was in the 13th century in relation to the mythical beginning of Krakow.
The legend goes something like this
A popular version of the Wawel Dragon tale takes place in Kraków during the reign of King Krakus, the city’s legendary founder. Each day the evil dragon would beat a path of destruction across the countryside, killing the civilians, pillaging their homes and devouring their livestock. In many versions of the story, the dragon especially enjoyed eating young maidens, and could only be appeased if the townsfolk left a young girl in front of its cave once a month. The King certainly wanted to put a stop to the dragon, but his bravest knights fell to its fiery breath. In the versions involving the sacrifice of young girls, every girl in the city was eventually sacrificed except one, the King’s daughter Wanda. In desperation, the King promised his beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who could defeat the dragon. Great warriors from near and far fought for the prize and failed. One day a poor cobbler‘s apprentice named Skuba accepted the challenge. He stuffed a lamb with sulphur and set it outside the dragon’s cave. The dragon ate it and soon became incredibly thirsty. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and drank and drank. But no amount of water could quench his aching stomach, and after swelling up from drinking half the Vistula river, he exploded. Skuba married the King’s daughter as promised, and they lived happily ever after.
I must say up till this point my 2 daughters had been little brats lots of moaning and complaining and not listening to their parents. As kids do. They sure perked up once they found out there is a dragons cave that you can venture into. I think they were half expecting the dragon to still be there.
A trip into the dragon’s cave at Wawel Castle begins at the foot of the Thieves tower where you need to descend down a staircase into the cave.The cave is 270 meters long but only 81 meters is open to the public to view.
When you exit the cave there is a sculpture of the Wawel Dragon that breathes fire every few minutes. My daughters loved this part for sure. If I had of know earlier I would have been telling them behave or no dragon lol!
There is a nice walk along the river back to the car park or public transport from here.