Going to sleep in a hotel bedroom when you have a stunning view outside the window to enjoy is always difficult – shutting your eyes in sleep seems somehow treacherous and wasteful, when such an awe-inspiring sight is all yours, unprecluded, to be enjoyed for a series of days. And this was no more of a problem than at our hotel room in the Wentzl Hotel in Kraków, which afforded us such an incredible panorama over the full 200m width of the majestic Rynek Główny, that I never wanted to drag myself away from the window, even when sleep was beckoning. And all of this, as well as the sheer excitement of being in a completely new place, must have made me sleep uneasily. For every so often I would wake up and open my eyes – unable to resist the temptation to take another peek at that view, just to make sure it was still there.
While a few such glimpses were met with dark skies, when I awoke at around 6am, I was greeted with a view so beautiful that I find myself compelled to devote an entire post to it – Kraków at 6am, the dark silhouette of the iconic Mariacka Basilica against a lightening pink sky – a view in transition that just took my breath away, and had me jumping straight out of bed to take in every detail. For the exquisite details of Kraków’s architecture were not lost despite the early hour. Even in this low light, the architectural spectacle of the Mariacka’s elaborate spires were captured against the light sky; the delicate shapes, the balls and the flags becoming even more noticeable when seen in this flattened one dimensional silhouette.
What made the view, and my experience of it at this time even more special was first of all seeing the city, otherwise a bustling centre of tourism and a magnet for international students (who attend the famous Jagiellonian University) so quiet and tranquil, with just a few street sweepers already setting up the square for the influx of visitors due that morning, but also for my being able to hear, so clearly through the crisp morning air, the sound of the Hejnalista trumpet player ring out across the square.
The Hejnalista is a trumpet player who, every hour, 24/7 (yes, even through the night), plays the “Hejnal” – a short tune which is played on a single trumpet from the windows of the Mariacki Church lookout tower, once in each direction, north south east and west across the city. The tradition, which is one of Kraków’s most unique and defining customs, recognises the 13th century attempted invasion of the city by the Tartars. The watchman who was on duty that night had noticed a group of Tartars approaching the city ready to invade, prompting him to blow a loud, clear warning on his trumpet to alert the inhabitants of Kraków. Just at that moment, and wanting to stop him from scuppering their invasion, the Tartars shot the watchman in the throat. While the city was saved, the watchman died from his wound. The Hejnal tune which is played today finishes abruptly at the end of the melody, marking the moment in which the watchman was struck by the arrow in mid-play. It’s a touching legend, and a charming tradition, which really added magic to my awakening that morning, as I watched Kraków slowly lighten against the rosy pink sky.
I leave you with my photos of that beautiful morning – undoubtedly some of my favourite shots of the city.
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