A Swiss in Krakow – Liking the Koniki

A Junteressli in the hotel

Along the stairs to the rooms of the cosy hotel Wawel, there are drawings of a man sitting on a horse, but actually he carries a wooden horse around his waist.

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“Look”, I say to Radek, “this is a Junteressli.” “A what?” asks Radek, and adds, “we in Kraków call this man “Lajkonik”.”  I say that Junteressli (literally a horse as a skirt or “Junte”) are common at the Basel carneval (or better “Fasnacht”). Radek explains to me that the lajkonik represents a Tatar or a Mongolian and that the Lajkonik Festival takes place at the day of Corpus Christi (check out the wikipedia entry for this).

I like Koniki

Later Radek takes me to the tourist information desk not far from my hotel Wawel.  He bursts into a laughter. “Remember the lajkonik in your hotel? Look what it says here: Like Konik. They just tweaked the term lajkonik.”

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All sorts of Krakówian symbols

On my Art Nouveau walk, I come across this doorway displaying all sorts of Krakówian symbols.

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There are the Smoki Wawelskie… the dragons spying smoke, and this is why they are called “smoki” in Polish… well, not really, but this is how I can remember the Polish word for “dragon”. Legend says that there was a dragon living at the foot of Wawel hill who devored maidens, until a cobbler fed the animal with a lamb stuffed with sulphur. The dragon ate it, became thirsty, drank water from the Vistula and exploded.

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The Hejnalisci – the man blowing the tune on the tower of St. Mary’s church on the Rynek and then stopping  abruptly in the middle of the tune, because his predecessor was shot exactly at that moment, when the tatars invaded the town. This is what legend tells us refering to the Mongolian attacks from the 13th century.

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Wawelskie Duszki – the Wawel phantoms. This must have been a friend of the “kleines Gespenst” or “mala duszka” from the mountains nearby (as described in the childrens book by Otfried Preussler).

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And here it is again, the Lajkonik refering to the tatars.

Kraków is full of culture and science, and it also cultivates some charming traditions.

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