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The story of Krakow's eerie, melodic trumpeter


St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow's Grand Square. (Tanya Talaga/Toronto Star)

KRAKOW - The Grand Square in Krakow is a chilly, winter delight during the holiday season.

The old, city centre which remarkably is still mostly intact after the destruction of the Second World War, dates back more than 800  years. It was a Jewish merchant who first referred to the trading centre of Krakow in the 8th Century.

In December, the Grand Square or in Polish the Rynek Glowny, is a holiday shopper's paradise. This is the hub of the old town and it is said to be the largest square of all of Europe's medieval cities. Rings of kielbasa hang from shop stands, thick woolen socks and mitts along with Christmas decorations hang from dozens of outdoor stalls. Poles and tourists alike examine the goods while snacking on fried Polish cheese and plates of pierogies.

Every hour, on the hour, a lone trumpeter high up in one of the towers at St. Mary's Church opens up the window and begins to play a forlorn, melodic tune that stops everyone standing in the square cold. The window where the trumpeter plays can be seen in the photo above, it is the window in the left-hand side tower with the light on.

While the trumpeter's eerie song, called Hejnal Mariacki, may surprise tourists, it is a Polish tradition that is near and dear to all Poles' hearts, according to the Krakow Info website.

Legend has it the bugler played the song to warn citizens that invaders were on the horizon and it was time to either flee or take up arms.

However, the trumpeter suddenly stops in mid-song, commemorating the musician who was shot through the throat and killed by an invading Tatar archer in 1241.

At noon, Polish national radio broadcasts the Hejnal Mariacki, in remembrance of the actions of the courageous bugler.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga




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