Hejnał for dessert on the 750th anniversary of the founding of Kraków

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It was one of the annual visits at my parents’ home near Kraków. The year was 2007. It is usually so that when you’d lived somewhere or know a place very well, you never plan to visit it unless there is something going on in the area.

Somewhere on a way from the Airport in Balice we noticed a banner advertising the 750th anniversary of the foundation of our Cracovia. It was impossible to skip such action.

Not everyone knows what this Kraków is all about. Some say that there were two cities, others talk about the dragon and King Krak, yet others about Wanda, who did not want the German. There is also a Basilisk, and Mr. Twardowski, of course. Well, legends are many, but where to go and what to look at when the 750th birthday is celebrated?

It’s simple 🙂 To Floriańska Street, towards the Market Square and then it goes by itself.

Before you enter the embrace of the remains of the medieval walls of Kraków, and you get there through the Florian Gate, you need to get to know a building that is extraordinary, beautiful and architecturally rich. An unusual addition to the Planty park surrounding the old town, but above all a building whose function not everyone understands. Namely, the Barbican.

The Barbican in medieval Kraków served as a foregate to the city. The entrance to it was on the right side, not from the front, which in the event of an attack allowed flank fire, hence from the side. Its main purpose was to defend the entrance to the city.

It is worth standing by the wall of the Barbican and looking up. There you will see rectangular holes that also served defensive purposes, the so-called machicolations, through which boiling tar, for example, could be poured onto the attackers.

Medieval Barbican and the walls of Kraków (source – wiki)

The city itself was surrounded by walls, in which a tower appeared from time to time. Currently, only three of these towers remain: Passamoniki, Ciesielska and Stolarska. Unfortunately, in the nineteenth century, so-called burzymurka (wall smashing) took place throughout Poland during which the medieval walls of the city of King Krak were not spared. Except for the fragment in the vicinity of the Florian Gate, which was once entered through the Barbican and the oldest Butcher’s Gate, which is a part of the buildings of the monastery in Gródek.

Whoever passed through the Florian Gate already knows where he is and where he is going. Namely, straight ahead, where on the horizon, appears a silhouette of the beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica.

At the beginning, however, we pass the city walls, which are hung with handicrafts and paintings, a few meters further on the left the house of Jan Matejko, one of the greatest Polish painters who happened to have a crazy witch for a wife. On the right pub Pod Złotą Pipą, then Hotel pod Różą, which was the first hotel in Kraków and actually began its career as an inn with a stable for horses.

Today, the hotel is housed in the former Renaissance palace of Prospero Provana, the courtier of Queen Bona. Since the seventeenth century, it has been welcoming the most distinguished guests. Among others, Russian Tsar Alexander I, Grand Duke Constantine, Persian envoy to Napoleon – Mohamed Riza, Franz Liszt and Honoré de Balzac stayed here.
And for several beautiful years, the role of its General Manager was held by one of my favorite lecturers from the university, who loved this place above all.

It would be a sin to forget about Georgian Khachapuri. On the corner with Mark Street. This restaurant appeared in my student days and Lavash, which they served there, literally melted the brain. Amazing thing and I hope you can still count on value for money.

The anniversary of the location of the city of Kraków is not just a random date and not some Night of Museums. It’s a mega party with free admissions to normally inaccessible places, artists on the streets, processions, parades, flowers, music, fireworks. Well, but above all, the ubiquitous history.

There are few cities that can boast the title of European City of Culture, where the Middle Ages mix with the twenty-first century. Where there are more artists and students than residents, and where it is easier to meet a Jew in traditional robe with ear locks hanging from under a hat than in Israel. 🙂

Finally, who has heard, knows that in Kraków, every hour the entire Market Square fills with crowds. People raise their heads and watch an extraordinary spectacle of the bugle call (hejnał) played by a trumpeter from the St. Mary’s Tower.

St. Mary’s Tower is, of course, the tower of the mentioned Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The legend of St. Mary’s bugle call refers to historical events that took place in 1241, when Tatar troops attacked the city of Kraków. It was a medieval custom to keep guard on a tower and warn the city in case of danger.

One morning, when everyone in Kraków was still asleep, thick fog was floating around and the twilight still did not give way to the light of the day, hordes of Tatars sneaked quietly under the city walls.

A trumpeter working in St. Mary’s Church, climbed the tower, as every other day. When he was at the top of it, preparing for work, he saw in front of the city gates hordes of enemy armies. As soon as possible, he decided to warn the inhabitants of the danger, playing his instrument with all his might.

Initially, sleepy citizens did not react, but after a while they understood that increased trumpeting was a warning.

The Tatars, angered by the vigilance of the bugle-caller, pierced his throat with an arrow from a bow, breaking the wailing of the instrument. Everyone who could, however, took up arms and soon a real fight for Kraków was unleashed, which the enemy troops did not bear.

The memory of the trumpeter’s courage spread throughout the world and since the invasion of the Tatars, the bugle call was played from Hejnalica (the tower from which hejnał (buggle call) is played) on St. Mary’s Church, continuously until the end of the eighteenth century, when for some time it was necessary to withdraw the function of the bugle caller due to the inability to finance such an employee. This custom returned to Kraków when private donors – Tomasz and Julianna Krzyżanowscy left in their will a large sum of money to support the trumpeter.

From 1810 to 1939, the bugle call resounded again every day. It was banned only during the Nazi occupation. After some time though, the Germans agreed to have the hejnał trumpeted from the tower at twelve and nineteen o’clock.

The Kraków’s bugle call is of such great importance to Poles that in the 20s of the twentieth century, Polish Radio Station began the custom of streaming it directly from the tower. Hejnał therefore resounds exactly as on that memorable day also via radio, always at twelve o’clock at noon.

When I was a little girl and black and white television did not turn me on (color television does not turn me on either) my mom and I often listened to the radio. Hejnał and the stories read to children on air were our favourite. It is from these times that all my life knowledge comes from. Ah, and those most beautiful songs for children that no one listens to anymore.

When speaking of St. Mary’s Church, at least three things should probably be mentioned. Namely: 1. Wooden altar made by Vit Stwosz, 2. Yellow ciżemka and finally 3. Polish Gothic.

This church – a legend, deserves therefore its own blog post.

So until next time!



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