Beata Wagner

If Krakow is the cultural, religious and patriotic centre of Poland, then Wawel Hill, overlooking the Old Town, is its heart. No site in the country offers a richer insight into Poland’s past and national mythology. Wawel’s rambling and far from uniform patchwork of architectural treasures, built up over time (the hill was originally settled in the Neolithic period) and in different styles, continue to exert a powerfully atmospheric pull on the Polish imagination and provide a fascinating experience for visitors. The two great centrepieces of this heavily fortified complex are the splendid Royal Castle, which is both a fortress and a palace and the Gothic Krakow Cathedral. Both are an absolute must-see.

Other attractions include the fortifications and towers themselves, the cathedral museum, a statue of Tadeusz Kosciuszko (a great national hero and one of the leaders of the 1794 uprising), the ‘Lost Wawel’ exhibition for those of a medieval bent , an open archaeological site and, lower down, in the subterranean depths, the lair of the legendary dragon who terrorised the city long ago. During the season there is an outdoor cafe at which you can take a break from the swarming hordes (unless you have made an early start and hit the hill before noon) and wet your whistle with something cold. This is perhaps the best spot in which sit back and enjoy the overall ambience of the place, which manages somehow to be both grandly regal and inspirational yet intimate, cosy and charming. A very special place.

Tags: myth, culture, architecture, castle, chakra, religion, Wawel, patriotism, Royal Castle, exhibition, dragon, cafe, hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko
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