From Auschwitz we bused to Częstochowa, and visited Jasna Góra, a pretty monastery that houses the much venerated Black Madonna. A photo I had taken out of pure curiosity in the monastery provided a clue that helped broaden my understanding of the period when things began coming apart for the Polish-Lithuanian Coalition and the huge geographical area controlled by that alliance. As we passed through the Monastery a large painting with a big Polish sign underneath intrigued me, so I snapped it. Looking at it a few days ago, I translated the sign and the painting was indeed important. It refers to what is called the Lwów Oath sworn on April 1, 1656. The Swedes had invaded Poland. They marched into Warsaw in 1655. This was the beginning of the 5-rear-long Swedish Deluge. In November 1655 the Swedes threatened to take the monastery at Jasna Góra, but a force of 3200 was fought off by about 150 monks and locals successfully. Their heroism inspired all of Poland to rise up. The Black Madonna (Mary) became the “miraculous” power behind the Polish resistance.
The old story is told that Kraków was founded in 350 A.D. by a bloke named Krakus. He had a beautiful daughter, handy if you want dangerous work done. Let’s call her Jo. Worried by Smok, who lived in a cave under Wawel Hill (see model above), Krakus offered Jo’s hand in marriage to any man who could snuff Smok. Many tried, but when they cut off Smok’s head, he grew two more instantly. It was a bloody, dragon-head-filled while before one chappie whom I’ll call Pawel figured out that cutting off one or more heads just made things worse. He poisoned a goat and left it in front of Smok’s cave. Poison worked. Pawel won the damsel, Jo’s dowry and a lifetime supply of Grey Goose.
We had a lazy morning, since we had opted not to opt for the optional tour of the Salt Mines.There were many stairs down even after the elevator. Going down a ton of stairs is hard for Anita. We still had 9 days left in our trip; not a time to risk your mobility! I opted to stay at the Sheraton with her, tying up some loose ends… where to eat lunch, what museum(s) to see after lunch, and how we might fit in a walk to the 14th C. Kazimierz neighbourhood… until our Salt o’ the Deep Earth group got back. The Salt Mine, and its beautiful acoustic space and sculpture, is a World Heritage Site. Kinda wish I’d gone…
Anyway, when the salts, old and young, returned and had been hosed down with Perrier and rubbed up with aloe cream, we walked up Wawel Hill. Our local expert took us through its cathedral. Most of the royal bodies are kept there, so it is still the most important cathedral in Poland. Continue reading “Kraków, Ancient Capital – May 7”