Rynek Underground was something I was so excited about I was telling people about it before we even left.
Under the Rynek (market square) that exists now are remnants of an older square: cobblestones and support structures for the original wooden Sukiennice (Cloth Hall). They turned the site into an underground museum about the history of Krakow from about the 14th century up until WWII.
They had cool exhibits about life at that time, including recreations of buildings (homes, blacksmith, etc), holographic images of various artifacts that they found in the dig, etc.
That’s cool and all, but I was in it for the VAMPIRE BONES.
In Slavic folklore, vampires are a little different. Vampires are born human but turn into vampires after they die. They can live a normal human life but precautions have to be taken when they die (you can also cause a regular human to become a vampire if you screw up their funeral rites).
I took a college-level class called “Dracula” (thanks mom and dad!) and although we did spend some classes just watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer we also did learn some cool Slavic folklore.
The professor at the time, Jan Perkowski, was/is an expert in the field. He told us that in the ’70s, he interviewed a group descendants of the Kashub Slavs about their beliefs. He asked one woman why she believed in vampires and her response was “Jestem.”
At this point in class he asked us if anybody spoke Polish and knew what that meant – I got all excited and raised my hand but he continued on without calling on me and I was so excited I told the girl next to me “IT MEANS ‘I AM [ONE]’!!” and she just gave me this bored side-eye. Like OK lady you’re in this class for the easy A but SOME OF US ARE ACTUALLY INTERESTED
It was also at this point that we ran out of time and he made us wait until the next week to hear the end of the story. :O
This woman said she was a vampire not because she spent her time sucking blood but because she had been born with a caul (a membrane covering her head/face) which was one of their signs that you would come back after you died. Other signs include being born with a full set of teeth, a tail, or red hair. She knew that when she died her family would have to take extra precautions and she was cool with it.
The best way to prevent a vampire from coming back after it has died (the first time) is to cut its head off when you bury it. Or you can put a scythe under its neck in its coffin so if it does rise up, it’ll cut its own head off. You can also go old school and just cover it in heavy rocks.
My favorite option is to fill its coffin with poppy seeds because the vampire will have a compulsion to count every seed. The task will take so long that it’ll be up all night and burn up in the sun. Why do vampires need to count seeds? It’s a mystery but it’s a FACT.
They found “real” vampire bones under the Rynek which they were able to identify by the method of burial: hands and feet found and, in some cases, the head cut off and placed behind the knees. They found 6 skeletons like this, They had reproductions of one of the skeletons in the exhibit but it was too dark to get a good pic. Here’s this informational sign instead (click to enlarge):
There is actually a LOT of interesting stuff around Slavic vampires and I sort of wish I had kept my books from that class. But you can go Google it on your own time. ;P