If you are a fan of folk tales you definitely have to come visit the Dragon of Wawel. In short, it is a representation of a popular fairy tale dating back to 12th century about a dragon that lived in a den under the Wawel hill and a cunning cobbler who outsmarted all the knights trying to kill the dragon. Today, you will find a fire breathing sculpture right by the Vistula river bank and on the foothill of Wawel.
Throughout the year the Dragon of Wawel become one of the symbols of Krakow and that is why you will most probably notice it whenever reading about the city. A dragon-shaped award is also presented at the annual Krakow Film Festival.
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The Dragon of Wawel is one of the most famous symbols of Krakow. His hideout was a cave called the Dragon's Den located under the Krakow Wawel Hill.
Long time ago, during the reign of King Krak, the founder of the Krakow city, a dragon settled in a large cave on the slope of the Wawel city. The dragon was extremely formidable, dangerous and terrifying. He was very hungry and demanded food from the residents. Every week the inhabitants had to prepare cattle to feed the monster. If they didn’t grant him with food, the dragon was simply devouring them. The king tried to find a solution. He promised half of the kingdom and his daughter Wanda's hand to the bravest man, who would defeat the creature. Knights began to come to Krakow more and more, but none of them managed to defeat the dragon. The dragon was becoming stronger and stronger and killed every daredevil that was on his way. No armor nor weapon could stop him.
Then a young and handsome shoemaker Skuba appeared at the royal court, who promised that he would cope with the dangerous beast. He didn’t have armor, a sword. Nobody took him seriously. However, Skuba did not give up. Next day he took a sheep’s skin and filled it with hay and sulphur. Then he slipped the sheep in front of the dragon's den. The monster greedly devoured his meal. Then the sulphur began to burn his belly, the dragon breathed real fire. To quench the fire he ran to Vistula River to drink water. However, as water cannot extinguish burning sulphur, the gases produced by the fires inside him made the beast explode.
And this is how the clever, inconspicuous shoemaker freed Kraków from the dangerous dragon. In return, he got the hand of a princess with whom he lived happily ever after.
The legend of the dragon is commemorated by the 6-meter statue of the Wawel dragon, created by Bronisław Chromy. The monument was made in 1969 and has been located at the foot of the Wawel Hill since 1972. The statue is powered by natural gas, thanks to which the dragon… breathes real fire!
Currently, the dragon breathes fire at around 10-minute intervals. It was also modernized recently so that the fire breath can be triggered by a SMS text message. The service is popular, and receives at least 2,500 requests a day. The statue is a major tourist attraction of the city, particularly for children.
For the adventurous, the "Dragon's Den" - associated with the dragon legend is open to the public. The tour begins at the foot of the Thieves' Tower. The cave exit is on the Vistula boulevard next to the Wawel Dragon. The route leading to the river, with a total length of 81 m, leads through corridors and chambers with fossils and karst carvings varied. There are three chambers on the route, the largest of which is 25 m long and 10 m high. In some places, the walls and the vault are reinforced with brick walls, one of them covers the chimney leading to another cave opening. The tour takes approximately 20 minutes and is possible only in high season (every day).
At the western entrance to the Wawel Cathedral, there are bones, which are rumored to have belonged to a local dragon. They are chained together in a random jumble, hanging high above the main doors. There is a legend that when the bones fall off the chain, the world will end. That is also why they are handled with extreme care and delicacy. According to sources, bones have been hanging in this place since the early Middle Ages. Unfortunately, in later times, scientists did not identify the bones as dragon remains, but as fossilized whale bones or mammoth bones. Regardless of their true origin, they have been there for centuries and are definitely worth seeing.