I had prepared a post yesterday on my iPad WordPress app, and scheduled it to be posted early this morning. It has managed to disappear – quite ungenerous, I would say! So now I shall try to recreate, but this might be a good thing – it might be a little less history and a little more chatter. Although whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is probably in the eye of the beholder, yes?
First we’ll visit the Jagiellonian University briefly. The University, also known as Studium Generale, University of Krakow, Krakow Academy, was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great when he realized that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, to codify the country’s laws and administer the courts and offices. Development stalled upon Casimir’s death, but was re-founded in 1400 by King Wladyslaw Jagiello and his wife Saint Jadwiga (the daughter of King Louis of Hungary and Poland).
The statue in the park is of Tadeusz Boy-Zelenski, who was educated at the university and was a pediatrician and gynecologist by profession, but a stage writer, poet, critic and, most notably, a translator of 100 French literary classics into Polish by avocation.
From the University, we’re going to head to Wawel Hill, which was a fortified castle and which Poland’s first ruler, Mieszko I (962-992) chose as one of his official residences. Thirty-five royal rulers used the castle as a residence, with each of them adding their own architectural details to the building. In 1596 the capital of Poland was moved to Warsaw and the subsequent partitioning of Poland and occupation by the Austrians caused the castle to fall into a state of disrepair, with the Austrians demolishing several buildings. The 20th century saw the castle change hands on a number of occasions with renovation work being halted on occasions. Today’s castle complex is a muddle of styles.
This last photo is Wawel Hill’s very own legendary fire-breathing dragon down below the castle in the Dragon’s Den (Smocza Jama) overlooking the Vistula River. Legend has it that for many years the dragon decimated Cracow’s virgin population until a local cobbler tricked it into eating a ram stuffed with salt and sulphur. This caused extreme thirst for the dragon, and it rushed into the river and drank and drank until it burst into 1000 pieces. The cobbler was rewarded by marrying Prince Krak’s lovely daughter. Apparently the many rulers who lived in the castle did not have power over the dragon – who would’ve guessed!? One would have thought they were omnipotent.
There you have it. Wawel Hill is also home to a magnificent cathedral, which we will visit soon. As with so many ancient buildings and towns, I am constantly amazed by the ability of man to create – using whatever is at hand. If only these walls could tell their stories!