Lajkonik is one of the unofficial symbols of the city of Kraków. It is represented as a bearded man resembling a Tatar in a characteristic pointed hat, dressed in Mongol attire, with a wooden horse around his waist (called hobby horse). It is the subject of the Lajkonik Festival that takes place each year on the first Thursday after the religious holiday of Corpus Christi for the past 700 years. The origins of the tradition date back to the 13th century Mongols invasions.
His annual march from starts at midday from the district of Zwierzyniec and ends in the evening at the Market Square. On his way Lajkonik touches spectators with his golden mace and collects money for the traditional ransom. Being touched by Lajkonik’s mace is claimed to bring good luck. At the Market Square, the mayor of the city awaits the Lajkonik with a pile of ransom money and a chalice with which they make a toast to the wellbeing of Kraków and its inhabitants.
Last year the Historical Museum of Krakow organised a great exhibition „The Hobby Horse throughout the World”, which presented the ritual dance of the hobby horse from around the world – costumes and photographs were borrowed from other museums in Europe and Asia.