Wawel Dragon Statue
Most souvenirs in Krakow are with drawings of a dragon. This reptile often appears on houses as an element of decor. Drains or gargoyles are often made in the form of dragons. One of the Krakow-Warsaw trains is called the Wawel Dragon.
The Wawel Dragon (Polish: “smok wawelski”) is a legendary dragon that allegedly lived in a cave (called the Dragon's Pit) at the foot of the Wawel Hill in Kraków. Now it is a symbol of the city - back in the days, it was the biggest problem of Krakow’s citizens. Here is what the legend says.
After many years of a calm and happy life in the vicinity of Krakow Castle came bad times. Shepherds who grazed cattle in the meadows of Privislin, in the evening, driving the animals to the barn, could not count the herd. Usually, it lacked a few heads of the most beautiful animals. However, the real anxiety among the inhabitants of the city arose when people began to disappear in the same mysterious way. More and more often it happened that a person who went to the river alone for water did not return home and went missing…
For a long time, no one could find out the cause of these mysterious disappearances. But once the apprentice of one of the Cracow basket-makers went to the Vistula bank for the vine. In search of the best branches, he reached the foot of the Wawel Hill, where on the west bank of the river grew particularly a beautiful willow tree. Breaking through the plexus of branches, the apprentice plucked the most beautiful and flexible branches.
Suddenly the thickets thinned, and a horrible picture appeared before the boy's eyes. A pile of white bones was on a small rocky patch of the shore. A little further on, in the steep wall of the Wawel Rock, a black hole could be seen, leading to a cave hollowed out in the rock. Near the entrance, basking in the sun, lay a monster - a huge dragon. His body was covered with shiny yellow-green scales, sharp needles bristled on his back, and bent claws appeared from his large paws, which resembled the trunks of young oaks.
Paralyzed by fear, the young basket-maker stood motionless, staring at the beast. Suddenly the dragon yawned, showing a mouth full of huge fangs, from which flared clouds of smoke and fire. Then the boy gathered all his strength and, in good spirits, ran in the direction of the city, forgetting about the branches of the willow.
The news of this discovery quickly spread and reached the castle of the prince himself. Krak called the boy to him and told him to tell everything. He then convened all his advisers and the bravest knights to decide together what to do.
At the same time, various guesses were made as to where the monster under the Wawel came from. Some claimed that it sailed to Krakow on the waves of the river, others insisted that the beast came out of the ground. This, in their opinion, was evidenced by a mysterious cave in the rock. In the end, everyone came to the conclusion that the dragon should be killed as soon as possible.
The next day, at dawn, by order of the prince, the three bravest knights went to the cave. Krak, along with his court and subjects, looked forward to them until late in the evening. But all for nothing…
In the morning, when there was no hope for the return of the knights, the prince sent messengers. Those around the neighborhood warned people of the danger and said that the brave man who would rid the city of the dragon, regardless of his condition, would be generously rewarded: Krakow's daughter would become his wife, and he himself would get half the kingdom.
This news spread very quickly and even reached neighboring countries. Soon many princes and knights began to come to Wawel Castle to fight the terrible beast. They were attracted not only by the Kraków award but also by the desire to become famous if they managed to defeat the dragon. But none of them was lucky. Most of the brave died in an unequal battle, and only a few took their heads.
Then Krak decided to kill the dragon himself. He ordered the court gunsmith to make knight's armor from the hardest steel. Then he chose the best sword.
These preparations for the battle with the dragon were interrupted by one of the courtiers, who said that a young man demanded a meeting with the prince. Krak saw in front of him a young man who was brought to Krakow, with linen hair and a friendly smile. The boy bowed deeply and said that although he was just a simple shoemaker Skuba, he came up with a reliable way to defeat the dragon. He only asked to give him the biggest ram. After receiving it, he immediately began to implement his plan. To do this, the young man killed the animal, skinned it, filled it with a mixture of sulfur and tar, and then sewed. At dusk, he went to the cave and put this ram on a sleeping dragon.
In the morning, as soon as the first rays of the sun shone, a loud roar suddenly woke up the inhabitants of the city and its environs. This dragon greedily swallowed the lure. Then sulfur, like fire, began to burn his entrails. To quench his thirst and quench the heat inside, the dragon began to drink water from the Vistula. And he snatched it so much that it burst with a crash and fell to pieces.
That is how Wawel Castle was freed from the monster. Prince Krak kept his promise and soon played a loud wedding of his daughter with the winner of the dragon. During the marriage, the young people offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Vistula: a precious treasure was thrown into its waters. The river took its toll, and since then no monster has disturbed the peace and happiness of the inhabitants of Krakow Castle.
The cave in which the beast lived, the so-called "Smok Pit" or "Dragon's Pit" ("smok" - in Polish "dragon"), has survived to this day. It is located in the southwestern part of Wawel Hill.