Krakow

Queen Wanda

12 Oct 2017

The only daughter of 'Krak' (or 'Krakus') - Kraków’s mythical founder - there are many tales chronicling the life of Wanda, which have been the source of numerous literary works and taken their place in the Polish national consciousness. Though first mentioned by a historian in the early 13th century, Princess Wanda reputedly lived during the 8th century, becoming Queen of the Vistulan tribes upon her father's death. Wanda (like all Polish women, mind you) was apparently quite an exceptional lady: possessed of great beauty (obviously), grace, wisdom and charm, even the most ruthless enemies were said to willow at the sight of her, including a Leman tyrant who – in attempting to seize a throne he perceived as ‘vacant’ – laid down his arms at the sight of her indisputable charms. Not just a pretty face, Wanda is also credited with military talent, defeating the Germans in a battle at Skotnickie Lake. As you can imagine, a lady of such high nobility, endowment and appeal had her fair share of suitors and apparently the list of humiliated hopefuls throwing themselves on their swords was a long one. Valuing virginity as the highest moral station, Wanda refused all those who asked for her hand, most notably the powerful German prince Rytygier - who threatened to take her and her kingdom by force if she would not submit. Reasoning that vengeful foreign suitors would forever use her refusals as a pretext to invade her kingdom, Wanda threw herself into the Wisła River in a revered example of self-sacrifice to her people; during the highly-patriotic periods of Polish annexation and occupation, the act would earn her the snarky nickname ‘Wanda who didn’t want a German.’ To honour their great Queen, the nation built her an earthwork tomb as impressive as her father’s near Mogiła, the place of her birth. Although she died a virgin, those brave enough to visit Nowa Huta today can easily conquer Wanda’s mound.

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