A trumpeter and a chicken for a glorious victory
African El Dorado, Mali
"I'll knock you down to Timbuktu", you said probably to someone at least once in your life thinking about Timbuktu like to the end of the world, a great distant place, a myth. For a many years and for the most of the people Timbuktu was exactly that, the city at the end of the world, a legend, a myth and the destination for which maybe few people will be able to point the side of the world where it really exists. If it exists, anyway. And it does exist indeed in the West African nation of Mali, Sahara desert is it home.
Legends of Timbuktu's wealth started to spread through the world in 13th century by Muslim and European traders when the city became a major trading depot for the caravans of the Sahara desert. At that time salt was worth as much as gold and Timbuktu has them both thanks to the merchants. And after then the city established Islamic university under the Songhay Empires the century latter, with extensive collection of manuscripts offering knowledge and wisdom of medicine, science and astronomy never seen before, it started to be a myth. Soon, the voice of African El Dorado started to spread fast as wind and everybody had a dream of becoming somebody.
Sahara desert cheated several who had no clue where they are going to, Tuareg nomads killed a few, some explorers survived both but they never found the way to the city or lived long enough to reache the legendary town. Timbuktu golden legend ends in the late 16th century when Moroccan army destroyed the empire. When you today visit Timbuktu you can hear people saying: "One day God may turn it all around again, and Timbuktu will once again find its rightful place and regain its glory."
Claddagh ring, Ireland
There's only one country in the world where while driving you can see a traffic sign which warns you to slow down because you could drive over an elf, or to hear "The elves made me do it". That's, of course, the Republic of Ireland, the specific geographical - sociological - historical phenomena and that's the undeniable truth. But this time we will not talk about Irish phenomena than about legends for as much Irishmen believe in Guinness that much they believe in legends.
The tale of Claddagh ring begins with Richard Joyce, a young man from Galway who decided to leave his true love to make his fortune in the West Indies. But, his ship was captured by a pirates and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. Through the many years of service to the goldsmith, he perfected the art of jewellery, eventually becoming a master craftsman and earning the respect and admiration of his master. When King William III negotiated the freedom of the slaves in 1689, the Moor offered Richard the hand of his daughter and a healthy dowry on top of that. But Richard refused for his heart still lay in Ireland.
Returning to Galway, Richard found that his sweetheart had remained true to him through all those years. In a fitting tribute to his true love, he fashioned the Claddagh ring - the two hands represented their friendship. The crown signified their loyalty. The heart symbolized their love. Richard wedded his beloved one and the two lived happily ever after never to be apart again. And that is a story about a true love and Guinness that flew on their three wedding days but it's left out from the legend because a storyteller loved Bailey more.
The trumpeter of Krakow, Poland
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland with roots in Stone Age. It began its life as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and became the second largest city in the country, an economic, academic and artistic centre. It has the Market Square with the church which remains all citizens of an old legend.
And the story goes like this: A long time ago, the cruel Tatars were galloping towards the city in another attempt to kill, steal and burn. The luck was that the trumpeter, one of those who hadn't falls to sleep, saw the incoming horror and he started to think wildly. How to warn the city? He doesn’t have the time to run down into the town. What to do? There was only one thing left: his trumpet. And the brave trumpeter started to play melody Hejnal, over and over again.
The soldiers quickly realized why the trumpeter plays and jumped to arms. Unfortunately, Tatars heard the Hejnal and their leader loosed his bow, and the deadly projectile hit the trumpeter in the throat. Thanks to the brave trumpeter it was too late to surprise the city - Krakow was saved. Since that day, the Hejnal is played every hour, broken at the same note on which it was broken off by the Tatar arrow.
The story about brave trumpeter is one of best legends around. However, it shows another side of great armies of old times. If we recall the legend about the people of Croatian town Durdevac who fired a rooster out of a cannon at the Turkish army, convincing them that the city is full of food an prepared to a long siege, we clearly see that big army muscles usually comes with a tiny brain. Or we can put it this way: to win a battle, it's good to have a brave trumpeter and a chicken. ■