Krakow Feature

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Mysterious Mounds

A perfect destination for a Sunday walk is Kraków's Mounds. Distant relatives of Stonehenge and Newgrange, Kopiec Krakusa (the Krakus Mound) and Kopiec Wandy (the Wanda Mound) are prehistoric man-made hillocks, each about 50 feet high and almost 6 miles apart. Like their British and Irish siblings, they constitute an astronomical calendar of a kind. Looking from the Krakus Mound on the eve of the Celtic celebration of the sun (May 1), you can see the sun rising exactly above the Wanda Mound. The Sikornik Mountain overlooks the sunrise above the Krakus Mound on the Celtic New Year, November 1.

According to the medieval chronicler of Kraków, Jan Długosz, the mounds were erected to commemorate the first legendary ruler of Kraków—Krak, from whom the city derives its name—and his daughter Wanda, who chose to jump into the Vistula River rather than marry a foreigner, as another legend tells us. Historians and scholars have given differing interpretations of the intriguing humps in the skyline. Are they burial sites, fortifications, pagan temples?

Between 1813 and 1820, during the Austrian occupation, the people of Kraków erected another mound in the Sikornik Hill to commemorate the very Tadeusz Kościuszko who fought first for the freedom of Poland, and then supported the American War of Independence. Finally, near Kopiec Kościuszki, the fourth mound, Kopiec Piłsudskiego was erected between 1934 and 1937 to commemorate Marshal Piłsudski, the leader of the revived Polish state.

On a Sunday afternoon, as well as on major holidays, you will see a distinctly Krakovian ritual: families complete with grandparents and toddlers—more often than not in their Sunday best—majestically strolling along the walking path that follows the gentle slope of Sikornik Hill. A slightly better fit pedestrian can take the path farther to Lasek Wolski and the Kraków Zoo, or to Przegorzały, and Bielany Monastery.

Updated: 2014-01-28

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