From TVN24 via Polskie Radio we bring you the exclusive (ish) news that from now on the making of any kind of noise in Krakow during the playing of the “hejnał” will leave you open to fines, embarrassment and a general talking-to from the city’s guards.
The hejnał, or Hejnał Mariacki to give it its full name is a short and relatively boring five note tune that is played on a bugle by a guy wearing a funny hat. It is played four times every hour on the hour from the top of the tallest tower of the big church on the market square. If you were in Krakow and didn’t hear it, it’s probably because everyone was making too much noise!
It is a tradition that goes back around 700 years although it is reasonable to assume the buglers have changed over that time. In fact…..
The longest serving trumpeter was Adolf Śmietana who played the Heynal for 36 years, starting in 1926. The Kołton family has played the Heynal for three generations. In October 2004, Jan Kołton retired after 33 years of service at the tower. His father had been a Heynal bugler for 35 years previously, and the tradition is currently continued by his son.
The origins of the tradition are riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma……..sorry, err, came over all Churchillian there. The story you will hear the most is that there was this Tartar invasion – don’t ask me why a delicious raw meat dish would wish to invade Poland – and the bugle boy on duty at the time, spotting the advancing delicacy, sounded a warning call. By way of shutting him up, the Tartar shot him with an arrow in the throat and this explains why the tune stops so suddenly. Personally, I think this is just national jealousy at not having an arrow-based myth like England’s good old King Harold so they made one up. There are more sensible options available in the Wiki article.
Anyway, the point is that a fine, upstanding member of the PO political party and local dignitary in Krakow, Mr. Paweł Bystrowski (pictured below with broken arm and shirt borrowed from someone with a neck), has decided that the tune is not getting the respect it deserves because all the stag party goers in the streets below are too busy singing rugby songs to pay it any attention. He’s therefore called for the city council to impose a rule of a five minute silence every hour on the hour. During this time nobody will be allowed to make a noise, talking, banging drums, whatever and anyone doing so would be liable to pay a fine of 20 PLN (per offence, per hour, per noise??)
Most interesting is the idea that…
….first offenders will receive a warning with a second offence garnering a fine.
I can see this working well, perhaps with a yellow and red card system like in football matches. Special constables can be drafted in wearing black & white striped shirts (God knows, Newcastle United don’t need them any more!) to wander around watching for people making too much noise. Any offenders can be shown a yellow card and then followed around by the constable until they leave the “penalty area”. If they repeat the offence while still in the penalty area then a red card is shown and money needs to change hands.
It is an idea ahead of its time and one that I feel certain the city council will approve when they vote in June.