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Trumpeting Krakow traditions

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The bugle call that drifts over the rooftops of Krakow every hour on the hour is over 700 years old.

The Polish archers took up their positions along the battlements. The arrows were flying, hissing through the air, raining down on the Tartar warriors. They were forced to retreat. The city of Krakow was saved!

Who doesn’t know this episode from the history of Poland’s ancient capital? It gave rise to a legend and one of Krakow’s major attractions, which is now seven hundred years old.

the trumpeter of krakowThe defenders of the city were in jubilant mood until they found out that one of the watchmen was killed. A single Tartar arrow had pierced his neck, before he played the final note on his trumpet. In memory of the noble watchman who saved the city, for seven hundred years, the ‘hejnal’ as it’s called in Polish, has rung out of the city’s rooftops, stopping suddenly in mid note, in keeping with the legend.

The bugle call is played every hour on the hour and is repeated four time. Trumpeter Krzysztof Daniel explains why.
‘It’s played to the four corners of the globe. We start in the direction of Wawel Castle, then we plat it towards the Market Place, for the city mayor. The third time is for the visitors to the town and the last bugle call is for Krakow residents who come specially to the Market Place to listen to it.’

A British university lecturer Hugh Watt, who’s been living in Krakow for several years, says it’s all a great piece of tradition.

The bugle call is important for both the millions of tourists who visit Krakow every year and its permanent residents.

‘It’s a great tourist attraction and a very useful way of knowing what the time is. If you’re working on the Market Square or are in the shops there you would certainly know its sound very well. I suppose to people born in Krakow it would mean more, symbolizing foreign invasions being repelled and things like that. The tourists love it looking up at the tower.’

The bugle call is played by the city’s firemen who are obviously very proud of their job. Since 1927, the tune has been played daily on Polish national radio.