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Monday, 30 March 2015

FREE walking SPECIAL Pagan Kraków

My dearest friends,

Today's journey brings us to a different view over Krakow - today I shall tell you about the Free Walking Special Tour about Pagan Krakow. I had the pleasure of taking this tour on the 21st of March, on the very first day of Spring, the perfect timing for this kind of tour ;) I shall start with the introduction to the tour, that was given to everyone who visited the Facebook Event Page.
"When you think about religion in Kraków, first thing that comes to mind is the Catholic Church and John Paul II. But it was not always so. Starting with sites linked to the ancient Celts, to places of Slavic Pagan worship and legends coming from before Christianity was introduced here, there is plenty of stories connecting Kraków to the „Old Ways”. We will talk about gods, customs, and old Pagan beliefs that found their way into the modern holiday celebrations and we will try to discover layers of early history of Kraków usually hidden from sight."
The tour hosted by Free Walking Tour Krakow - a group of young and enthusiastic people that love to share the knowledge over Krakow and its hidden gems - started at 1:30 PM at Saint Mary's church - or Mariacki, as the locals name it. The tour took about 2 hours and a half - it finished around 4 PM at Podgorze district (Jewish district) next to Krakus Mound.
Street level vs. old level of the Adalbert Church
You surely remember Free Walking Tour Krakow as I have been telling you about them a couple of times before:
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - StreetArt - FreeWalkingTourKrakow provides city tours in Polish, English & Spanish. You can find them on Facebook or on their website or you can just call them at +48 513 875 814. I joined them in a StreetArt Tour and it was amazing!
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Macabre Krakow - stories about ghost and real vampires... methods of torture, bodies under the Main Market Square with their hands and legs tied, stories of impailing living people... dark and twisted and perfect for a rainy Saturday evening :)
  • FreeWalkingTourKrakow - Her Story - there is a saying that if the men is considered to be the head of the family, than the heart belongs to the woman.
The Bones of the Dragon? Or maybe a huge whale / dinosaur?
I usually have Aljcia or Jacek at the walking tours, and it is always great fun and a pleasure to hear them speak about Krakow. They are well prepared and know how to answer any question. But this time I had the opportunity to meet one more team member: Navia. She is a graduate of History of Religion and knows a lot of things when it comes to the subject - hence she was the perfect guide for this type of tour ;) The tour had 2 parts: part 1 was a short guided tour inside the old town + Wawel Hill + Wawel Castle & part 2 included taking a 15 min tram up to Krakus Mound.
The view of Krakus Mound from the Wawel Inner Yard
When you think about the words: son, mother, three - in all the languages in Europe, you will see that the translations are quite similar to ones ear. That is because they have the very same root. Hundreds of years ago, all started from a tribe in Eastern Ukraine... Later on there were several waves that went through Europe: the Latins, the Celts (or the Celtic people), the Germanic and the Slavic waves. In its fundament they all had pagan religions - which, in time, changed as they adopted the true faith in one God. 
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In every slavic pagan religion they had one demon that was always present in the local folklore: the vampire! Around 10 years ago there were some escavations done in the Main Market Square - around the Sukienicce and the Church of St. Adalbert. They managed to dug out around 100 graves, out of which 6 were typical for vampires. A few skeletons can be found displayed at the National Museum below Sukienicce. Also, it is to be noted that the Church of St. Adalbert is the oldest church in Krakow and that it was also build on the crossroads. At the time it was build, the only buildings raised in those kind of locations (crossroads) would be pagan temples. It was easier to make from a pagan temple a Christian church, as people already connected it to a sacred place. The only things to be done was just to switch the symbols and the items to be worshiped, in order to receive penitence. Also, if you have a good look at the Adalbert church, on the side, you will see the true main entrance of the church, from the time it was created - that was also the street level back then, just a meter or two below what we have today.
Also, if you believe you are true Christians, to the heart, have you thought of all the symbols and the beliefs we have nowdays - that should be counted as pagan? Take for example all the superstitions related to alcohol: if you open a beer you must drink it whole, or else it is bad luck. You must not drink only one beer, you have to drink at least 1 for each leg = 2 in total. Never have 3, 5... so on! Always have 4, 6 or more. Also breaking a mirror - the connection between the real and unreal world - is bad luck. Not letting the groom see the bride before wedding, and so on... What is your superstition?
The Wawel Hill and Wawel Castle are also surrounded by many legends and myths. For example, the legend of the Wawel Dragon and the smart shoemaker that saved the princess by killing the beast. It is said that the bones of the dragon hang above the main door - main entrance - to the Wawel Cathedral. That could be true, but those could also be the bones of a large whale or a dinosaur, placed there to instate fear in people and later on attract tourists... who knows?! :) 
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Also, did you know that on the 21st December there is the Equinox and the Yule celebration? Yule or Yuletide ("Yule time") is a religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later undergoing Christianised reformulation resulting in the now better known Christmastide. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht. Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. A number of Neopagans have introduced their own rites. There is actual recordings of Nazi's celebrating Yule inside the Wawel Castle, while General Hans Frank was living there. The official religion of Nazi's was pagan faith, developed by the germanic people. This is how there are pictures on NAC of the celebration of the birthday of light. Now, at almost the same time, we celebrate Christmas - the birth of God, shown to the mortals if they folowed the bright burning star. Coincidence? I think not!
The View from the top of Krakus Mound
Once in Podgorze, near the Krakus mound, there is one more stop before the final one of the trip - the old church upon the top of the hill. A legend is connected to it about a pagan Princess and a witch that put a charm over the Princess so she would have to be confined to the palace until someone falls in love with her and spend everything he owns in 3 full days. There is an archeological site now open there and they have found 7 skulls - they presume that maybe the skulls are actually 7 unfortunate souls that tried to rescue the princess but died trying, as in the end if they would not manage they would be beheaded by the Princess... tough luck, I should say! But in case you wish to see the church inside, it is open only 2 days a year! (I find that quite odd, don't you?!)
Also, nearby the church, if you are a fan of Schindler's List - as am I! - then you will be curious to know that the scene where they are exterminating the ghetto and there is the small little girl in a red coat and Oskar riding his horse upon a hill... was shot just upon that very hill and you can still find a small part of the ghetto wall, that was used in the movie - just look closely behind the trees ;) HINT!!! From the small church to the Krakus mound is just a few minutes of walk, so it is a pleasure if the weather is nice - as we had it :) - but make sure you are not wearing high hills on this tour... there is a bit of climbing to do and if you are wearing regular flat soles that would be the best + if you wish to escalate the mound quicker you can go straight through the grass but it is slippery so you might to try the long way: the stairs, or the longer way: circling the mound.
Now there are a lot of stories connected to Krakus mound but I shall leave you with a short 3 minute movie of our darling tour guide Navia - it's my first try-out for filming something with the camera so be patient and don't expect James Cameron or anything similar... :) and most of all: Enjoy! we had a lot of fun during this tour and we learned new things about Krakow so if ever you are in Krakow and Free Walking Tour Krakow hosts it again, jump in and give it a go! :)

P.S. Make sure you have with you 2 tickets worth for 20 minutes as you will have to take the tram from Wawel Castle to Podgorze and from Podgorze back to the city center & there are no ticket machines in the area. You can buy them inside the tram but it always gets very crowded so have them with you, just in case ;)

** This post was made out of love for Walking Tours. I was not repayed in any way and all the opinions are my very own, straight from the heart! **

Yours truly,
A LadyBug That Loves The Free Walking Tour Krakow Team & their awesome tours :)