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The Strangest Mythical Creatures in Europe

Travel isn’t just for the fun and excitement - it’s also a learning experience. Getting to know new places and new cultures lets us see the commonalities that exist between all people.

One of the most fascinating ways to explore a country is through its folk history. Delving into how people used to live is a great way to discover the roots of today’s culture. Centuries ago, our ancestors would create mythical creatures to explain the things they didn’t understand. The legacies of those myths still linger in mystical places, like the Highlands of Scotland or the forests of Poland.

Let’s travel through Europe by exploring some of its most fascinating mythical creatures. Keep a sharp eye out - you never know what you might find!

The Kelpie, Scotland

In Scottish tales, the kelpie is a shape-shifting water spirit riding the waves of Scotland’s waters. There is some disagreement as to its equine form, with some saying that the kelpies are in fact demons that can even assume human form. Be as it may, the kelpie is not a gentle beast - many versions of the legend state its voracious appetite for human prey.

Made-up evil magical creature or not, the Scots have taken to the animal - in fact, you can glare up at the world’s largest (at 30m) equine statues derived from the legend, towering over Scotland’s Helix Park in real life. Go Kelpie hunting on our fantastic Lochs, Castles and Kelpies tour here at HAGGiS.

The Golem of Prague, Czech Republic

The Golem, an emblem of Jewish folklore, exists in many a folklore telling. The most famous though is the Golem of Prague narrative. It goes something like this: during the 16th century, the Jewish people of Prague were living in constant fear. A man called Rabbi Loew created the Golem, a giant creature made from the clay from the riverbanks of the river Vltava. Designed to protect the local people, the Golem grew increasingly violent and had to be killed to save the lives of innocents – though rumour has it that he was brought back to life and is still protecting Prague to this day.

The Wawel Dragon, Poland

While Polish folklore is teeming with mystical creatures of all kind, the Wawel Dragon is a real standout. The Wawel Dragon is so-called because he used to live in a den at the feet of the imposing Wawel Castle in central Kraków. Friendly only when fed with weekly offerings of cattle, legend has it that the dragon occasionally turned to human flesh instead.

Luckily, the dragon is now no longer around to wreak havoc (a local shoemaker apparently defeated the dragon by tricking him into death by water intoxication) and so you can explore the castle and admire the Wawel Dragon statue on Wawel Hill in all tranquility.

The Wolpertinger, Bavaria

The slightly difficult-to-pronounce name of this fantastical beast sure can be taken to be an indicator of things to come. The Wolpertinger is indeed one of the strangest phantasmagorical creatures to inhabit this list. It is a hybrid of a rabbit, squirrel, deer and – as though that wasn’t enough weirdness already – pheasant, and is said to roam the alpine forests of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. If this piques your interest, the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum in Munich features a permanent exhibition on the strange creature.

The Turul, Hungary

A mythological bird of prey, the Turul is a legendary creature from Hungary. Widely referenced to and used to this day, it first appeared in the 9th or 10th century and is most reminiscent of a falcon. In the historical mythological legend of Emese, the ancestress of the Árpád dynasty, the Turul appears in a dream when she is pregnant of her baby. Another mention of the Turul occurs in a second dream when it saves tribesmen’s’ horses from attacks by eagles. This seems to suggest that the Turul plays the role of protector from harm.

Go Kelpie hunting with us on the fantastic Lochs, Castles and Kelpies tour, or go searching for Nessie on our Loch ness Hunter tour.