Greetings my fellow readers! I apologize for the lack of posts recently. The past two weeks have been filled with tales of bravery at haunted alleys, chasing dragons down the Wisła River, mountain expeditions, fine dining faux pas, and most excitingly, exams. Now that things are winding down, I’m finally ready to catch you up.
Lost Souls Alley
Ranked #5 of 236 things to do in Krakow on Trip Advisor, Lost Souls is a haunted house type situation that involves you wandering through a bunch of dark rooms with a flashlight while people chase you with chainsaws and axes for 20 minutes. And if that doesn’t scare you, the Alley is a series of about 5 rooms that you have to strategically escape from. That’s right, they padlock all the doors so you’re stuck until you find the combination or key to move from one horror to the next.
I really wanted to go considering I used to volunteer at a haunted house in high school. My job was to sit in the basement and rattle a bunch of chains while I screamed at the top of my lungs. I wasn’t very good at it. On my first day, I went to the basement and they closed me in there after explaining my duties. I subsequently started screaming and rattling chains for an exhausting 15 minutes before the manager came down and told me the first group wasn’t coming for another 20 minutes. Sigh.
None of my friends wanted to go with me, but I was able to trick one of them, Pierre, into coming. The first room wasn’t so bad. There was a guy in a wheel chair that started chasing us, but I could run faster than he could roll. I don’t want to give away too much, but the worst part was the last room. There was a series of shredded sheets hanging from the ceiling, and we knew someone was stalking us. We walked the perimeter of the room several times before we realized there was no exit. It was cruel. They kept us trapped for 10 minutes with this guy we couldn’t see breathing down our necks.
The whole time I was grasping onto Pierre (sorry for any fingerprint bruises), who was whispering French profanities while he tried to rationalize the people chasing us. We took turns kicking open the doors FBI style, and eventually made it out with our newly formed ulcers. I highly recommend Lost Souls. The best part is that there’s no constant action. Some rooms don’t have anything jumping out at you, which is great because you can’t predict what’s next.
The Wawel Dragon is a particularly delightful Polish folk tale. It goes something like this:
There once was a dragon that terrorized the Kingdom of Krakow. His name was Smaug. (I was recently informed that Smaug is Benedict Cumberbatch and not the Wawel Dragon, but no one has offered a better name. Also, ‘dragon’ in Polish is ‘Smok,’ which is has the same etymology as ‘Smaug,’ so Smaug it is.) Anyway, Smaug was an evil dragon that terrorized Krakow, blew his fire on passerby’s, and ate all the maidens. The King was very distressed by Smaug, so he ordered a proclamation claiming that anyone who kills the dragon will receive his daughter’s dainty hand in a fairytale wedding. Knights from all over the kingdom came and fought with their brawn, but brawn < fire. One shoemaker decided to tackle the challenge instead with his intellect, and tackle the challenge he did. He filled a dead sheep with sulfur and left the sheep outside the dragon’s lair one morning as part of the dragon’s breakfast buffet. Smaug ate the sulfur sheep, which made him so thirsty that he drank the whole Visła River. And because the whole Visła River did not fit in the belly of Smaug, Smaug exploded. The shoemaker married the princess and they lived happily ever after in a kingdom that smelled of rotten eggs.
Krakow is still known as a City of the Dragon, and every year, there is a big dragon festival to commemorate Smaug. On Saturday evening, there was a dragon parade on the river, so my friends and I went, expecting boats to shimmy on by with big dragons all lit up. It was SO MUCH MORE than that. At 10pm, this epic music which reminded me of Mothra started playing and fireworks were sent off in all directions as this dragon boat started attacking other monsters on different boats. It was 40 minutes of non-stop dragon packed action.
Let me also just say how different safety standards are here. Forty minutes of fireworks being set off right next to giant, inflatable balloons leads to precarious situations. We couldn’t even see some of the fireworks because we were literally sitting in a cloud of gunpowder. We had no idea how those boats fought each other without ending up with a Titanic-like fate.
Here’s a clip from last year’s river show (I couldn’t find a good one from 2015):
Ok, I think this is enough storytelling for one post. I’ll try to post again soon to fill you in on the rest!