For a long time, Krakow has been the capital of Poland and it is considered to be one the most beautiful cities in Europe and has lots of interesting historical places to see. One of them (that is a must-see for every tourist) is the old residence of Polish kings – Wawel Royal Castle near Vistula River.
Legend of the Dragon
The stories of Wawel Royal Castle and the city of Krakow date back to the end of the 10th century and are tightly connected with each other. The legend of the 12th century tells that once upon a time, there lived a big and cruel Dragon called Smog and he had a cave on the Wawel Hill. One day the Polish King, Krak decided to build his castle on that hill so he founded a whole town on top of the hill and called it after himself. Unfortunately, the dragon ate the residents if nobody gave him sheep to eat. One day, the king got bored with such tradition and decided to kill the dragon.
History of the Castle
The modern Castle was built in the end of 16th – beginning of 17th centuries by the King Sigismund III Vasa on the site of the medieval castle. It was a five-corner construction with a 60-meter high Sigismund Tower. It featured the biggest bell in the whole country. During all these centuries it served as a Royal home for almost all of Polish kings, and so was the heart of the country. Unfortunately, that attracted attention of enemies, so this stronghold has been destroyed several times and then several times restored again.
Even when Warsaw got the status as the capital of Poland, Wawel Castle was still considered to be the Royal residence. All the Kings of the country came here for their coronations.
The Wawel Castle has been reconstructed after all the miseries it faced. Poles from all over the world sent money for this purpose and now you can see the red bricks with their names, sums and places they sent money from in the wall near the main gates to the castle.
Nowadays, Wawel holds lots of expositions and there is much to see. You can feel the ancient atmosphere walking from one building to another or watching the interiors of the castle – like Armory, Royal apartments and the Treasury. There is also the Smog’s Cave and the statue of the dragon that belches fire every 5 minutes or on demand, by sending him an SMS.
The Wawel Cathedral built near the Castle in the 17th century is a place of historical, architectural and religious interest. Its official name is Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus. Saint Stanislaus is the tutelary saint of Krakow and Poland in general. Inside the Cathedral, there are tombs of many polish kings, queens, famous political and cultural figures. In 2010, the President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, who died in the plane crash near Smolensk in Russia, were placed in the crypt under the Basilica.
The Castle is situated in the City Center, or Old Town. It is not far from other places of interest, as well as from the Main railway station. There are many kinds of transport (trams and buses) that go directly to the Wawel.
You can take a taxi or hire a horse carriage – that is the most unforgettable way to get to the Royal Castle.