Hanging in the Old Town Hall of the largest Moravian city, a little bit as the hanging crocodile in Verona’s church, in Italy, is the carcass of a real “dragon”, or so the originators of the Brno Dragon legend would have you believe.
One of the most famous legends in the city of Brno is that of the dragon that once threatened the people, and there are several versions of the story.
The most popular has that the beast was threatening the citizens and all of their livestock, and no one seemed to know how to stop it. The people had never seen such a beast before, so they called it a dragon. Merchants stopped coming to the city to sell, and women stopped going to the market, that is until a visiting butcher had a brilliant idea. The tradesman called for an animal hide (ox or sheep, depending on the telling) and a large amount of caustic lime. The lime was placed in the hide and sewn up to look like a juicy meal for the dragon. The beast became very thirsty after eating fur and lime, and after drinking so much water at the river his stomach expanded with the lime inside, and it burst. So, the citizens celebrated by having the dragon preserved, the same that now we can see hanging from the Old Town Hall.
Unlike similar legends across Europe, the people of Brno actually have a body to back up their story. However, as you might notice, this “dragon” looks a lot like a crocodile! Supposedly the preserved reptile hanging in the town hall is the actual beast that inspired the legend, although it is more likely that the exotic animal was presented as a gift from a visiting dignitary. However, given how large the crocodile is, it does not seem that implausible that people might think it was a creature of legend….
Next to the dragon at the Old Town Hall another well-known emblem is displayed. This is a wagon wheel (diameter 144 cm) made from a tree found and felled fifty miles away from the city.
According to the story Georg Birk, a craftsman from Lednice, wagered that within 12 hours (6am-6pm) he would fell the tree to make a wheel out of it, and to roll the wheel to the city of Brno (about 45km), all for 14 (other sources reported 12) Tolar (the silver coin mined in Kingdom of Bohemia in the 16th century).
Since the whole achievement was considered impossible by normal human means, the man was later believed to have called on the devil for assistance, and he died in poverty as a result.
The wheel has remained in Brno ever since, however, expert examination revealed that the wheel was not made from fresh wood, not even the wood of a single tree. This presented a fundamental challenge to the truthfulness of the story, even if still today this legend is still celebrated. Every year, in October, teams race from Lednice to Brno with a wooden wheel.