Feisty, beautiful and busty. Her image has bewitched millions, and you’ll find her film star looks printed on everything from flags to mags. But stop panting at the back. She turns out to be it, and it turns out to have a tail. Who is this godless Jezebel you ask? Well, none other than the Syrenka, the fresh water mermaid who’s been representing Warsaw since before you’d remember.
The first known mention of a mermaid as the symbol of Warsaw can be traced to a royal seal dated from 1390, though this one certainly wasn’t much to look at; depicting a hideous looking bloke with a dragons tail was as close as you’d come to seeing a marketing blooper in medieval times, so it’s no surprise that over the next few centuries this rather grim form was given a bit of plastic surgery – man was turned into woman, and the dragon became a fish.
The legend has been debated and disputed scores of times, and it’s safe to say short of inventing time travel we’re not going to become any of the wiser. Until that time content yourselves instead by familiarizing yourself with the myth. First off is the one you’ll find espoused within these humble pages; Prince Kazimierz, while hunting in the marshlands that are now Warsaw, lost his bearings and faced a night in the open. Miraculously, a mermaid emerged and guided the prince to safety by firing burning arrows into the sky. Warsaw was founded out of gratitude, and the mermaid adopted as its emblem.