First or one of the first buildings of its kind in the world. Thanks to its advancement, an inspiration for military constructors in the Middle Ages.
In the late Middle Ages, Krakow was the seat of Poland's kings, and the bustling market square and royal castle were surrounded by a maze of narrow streets and a high protecting wall. The gates were opened every morning for merchants to enter the marketplace, and closed again at nightfall as the merchants returned to their villages. Guards manned the towers and defended the city from these walls in times of invasion. The main gate, Brama Florianska, was protected by the Barbican, a turreted fortress with arrow slits and defensive walls three meters thick, reached from the gate tower by a walled passage and a drawbridge.
Today, the Barbakan stands alone, beautifully restored, in the midst of the Planty gardens, which follow the outline of the old city walls. Fragments of these walls can still be seen in places, but the only remaining segment lies beyond the Barbican at the Florianska gate.
As you gaze up at the high towers from a garden bench just outside the Old Town, remember that a moat once lay where you sit, twenty meters wide and eight meters deep; a footbridge leading up to the Barbican gate marks the point where the moat was crossed. Enemies were greeted with arrow fire and hot tar; a plaque on one of the Barbican's walls commemorates the bravery of the 18th century townsman Marcin Oracewicz who, for lack of any proper ammunition, shot an attacking Russian with his own button.
The Barbican now houses a historical museum and many open-air exhibitions and concerts. Particularly popular are reenactments of medieval tournaments, complete with swordfights, torture instruments and a demonstration by an executioner. A fencing tournament is held here every year. A ticket to the Barbican costs about 6 zloty and includes entry to Krakow's city walls.
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"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream" - Jack Kerouac