There are many ways to do sightseeing in Kraków. One of them is a trip following the mysterious hills – from the most famous Kościuszko Mound to the much less popular, but equally interesting mounds of Krak, Wanda, Piłsudski and John Paul II.
The tradition of building mounds in our part of Europe is so old that it is difficult to trace back its origins.Some of them were burial places, while others were erected to commemorate important events or heroes.In the old days, they were also places of worship and vantage points.Although they were often erected, probably many of them have not survived to the present day.All the more so, it is worth taking the opportunity to see at least a few of them while in Kraków.Fans of beautiful panoramas and historical mysteries will not regret this decision.
Let’s start our trip from the largest mound in the country (35 m tall), named after Józef Piłsudski. It was built in the years 1934-1937 as a monument commemorating the struggle of the Polish nation for independence. It contains soil from all the battlefields of the First World War (and later also of the Second World War) in which Poles took part. The German authorities, and later the communist authorities, did not like the sublime symbolism of Piłsudski’s Mound, who, fortunately unsuccessfully, tried to remove it from Kraków. Today, it is a place eagerly visited by tourists and residents of Kraków. The embankment is located on the top of the Sowiniec hill in Wolski Forest, in a pleasant walking area in the western part of Kraków. From its top there spreads a beautiful panorama, showing the majestic view of the Tatra Mountains in good weather.
From Wolski Forest it is just a short distance to get to the Kościuszko Mound (approx. 10 minutes by car or 1h 15 on foot). It is one of the most famous objects of this type in Poland. It was erected on the Blessed Bronisława Hill in honour of Tadeusz Kościuszko. According to historical sources, a significant part of the work on the construction of this monument was carried out by volunteers who wanted to commemorate the supreme commander in this way. The mound was built in the years 1820-1823 and it is said that there is soil from the battlefields of the Kościuszko Uprising (Racławice, Maciejowice and Dubienka) and the American Revolutionary War mixed within. The picturesqueness of this place is certainly enhanced by the presence of Austrian fortifications that were built in the mid-nineteenth century. The restored walls now house, among others, hotel and restaurant with a panoramic terrace. Entry to the Kościuszko Mound is payable (normal ticket PLN 20, reduced PLN 15). From its top, there is a view of Błonia and Jordan Park, as well as fragments of Wawel and mountain areas.
John Paul II Mound
The youngest in this list is the John Paul II Mound, erected in 1997 to commemorate the Pope’s visit to Poland. From the Kościuszko Mound you can reach it in less than 10 minutes by car, heading to the southern side of the Vistula. It was erected in the place of the Congregation of the Resurrectionist Priests. It is only 7 meters tall, and on its top there is a large cross. You can see the mound up close or take a look at it while walking along priest Stefan Pawlicki Street. From there, it is close to another interesting hill – Krak’s Mound.
Krak (Krakus) Mound
Moving east, you will reach the Krak Mound, which is located at Maryewski street, in the Podgórze district. This 16-metre-tall mound was erected on Lasota Hill. Although you can admire more magnificent objects of this type in Kraków, it is this one that is considered the most mysterious and atmospheric. Despite many years of archaeological research, neither the exact time of the construction of the Krak Mound, nor its purpose are known. However, some items found inside the mound date back to before Christ. There are many legends about the Krak Mound. One of them was quoted by Jan Długosz in his chronicles, suggesting that it was erected in the times of Krak – the legendary founder of Kraków. Archaeological works did not confirm this version of events, but brought many other revelations. It was discovered, for example, that the internal structure of the mound rests on a high pillar, to which radially arranged wicker partitions were attached. The space between them was filled with tightly packed earth and stones. So whoever decided to build the Krak Mound, they made sure that it would survive for years. Every year, on Easter Tuesday, the inhabitants of Kraków go to the Lasota Hill to the Krakus Mound, where Rękawka – a Kraków festival takes place, originally referring to the Slavic tradition of the spring Forefathers’ Eve. The Rękawka tradition includes, among others, tossing and rolling eggs, a symbol of new life. There is also a church fair and medieval tournaments.
Located on the outskirts of the Nowa Huta estate, the Wanda Mound is rarely visited by tourists due to the distance from the centre. Archaeological research has shown that the location of this object is not accidental – it has been a place of religious worship for centuries. According to the legend, the mound was erected as the tomb of Wanda, the daughter of Krak, who rejected the advances of the German ruler, and then rushed to the Vistula in order not to expose her subjects to the revenge of the disappointed admirer. The top of the mound is decorated with a marble statue of an eagle designed by Jan Matejko, on the pedestal of which there is an image of a distaff and a sword side as well as the inscription “Wanda”. Apparently, there used to be a sixth mound in the city built for Esterka – the beloved of Casimir the Great, who was supposed to have jumped from a window into a pond. It was located in the park of the palace in Łobzów, in the place where the football field is located today. What other secrets are mounds in Kraków hiding? It is worth finding out for yourself by going on a tour of Kraków following their trail.