Krakow Wawel Castle and Smok Wawelski14 July, 2009
As our night train to Budapest depart at 10.15pm, we left our luggage at Greg and Tom’s reception (check-out time: 10am) before proceeding to Wawel Castle.
Getting Around Krakow
For 10.40zł, you can hop on/off any trains, trams, buses in Krakow for 24 hours. An hourly and one-way ticket cost 3.10zł and 2.50zł. If you plan your journey well, you might only need to get 2-3 hourly tickets to complete a day trip since most attractions are within walkable distance. Most bus stops have vending machines (with English instructions) which dispense the type of tickets you need. Krakow trains/trams are usually on-time so check the bus/tram schedules to plan your journey ahead.
Remember to stamp your tickets immediately when you board. We heard that there were quite frequent ticket checks by plain-clothed inspectors who will issue strict on-the-spot financial penalties for those found in possession of an invalid ticket – 75zł.
There is free admission every Monday to parts of the Wawel Castle from April to October. You will have to collect the admission ticket from the ticketing office. The ticket gives you access to the Crown Treasury and Armoury and an exhibition to the Lost Wawel. You will have to pay for other parts of the Castle e.g. State Rooms and Royal Private Apartments.
Watch out for this group of performers at the entrance to the Wawel Castle. They will grab you and ‘encourage’ you to take a photo with them. After which, they will ask for a donation (I gave 2zł – yeah I am a sucker for these things!)
An overview of the Wawel Castle.
One of the ‘highlight’ of the Wawel Castle is the Dragon’s Den, a legendary cave in the western slope of Wawel Hill. This was supposedly where the dreadful Smok Wawelski, also known as The Dragon of Wawel Hill or simply The Wawel Dragon lived. The entrance to the Dragon’s Den – nothing much – just a series of dizzying spiral steps down to a dark cave-like structure and leading straight out to a statue of the famous dragon.
The legend of the Smok Wawelski’s took place in Kraków during the reign of King Krak, the city’s legendary founder. Each day the evil dragon would kill the civilians, pillage their homes and eat their livestock. The dragon enjoyed eating young girls, and could only be appeased if the townfolk would leave a young girl in front of its cave once a month. 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 anybody 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 Dratewka 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 he drank and drank. But no amount of water could quell his aching stomach, and after swelling up from drinking half of the Vistula river, he exploded. Dratewka married the King’s daughter as promised and they lived happily ever after.
A metal sculpture of a dragon stands outside the Dragon’s Den and it breathes fire every five minutes, or when an SMS with the text “SMOK” is sent to the number 7168. See the dragon breathe fire in this video:
This dragon also became a symbol of Krakow. Many souvenir shops selling plush toys, magnets, key chains carrying this symbol.