Peace Corps Writers
Knight Tracking through Prussia (page 2)
Knight Tracking through Prussia
page 1
page 2
page 3

Mishelle recommends:

for castle accommodation


for general
information about
the main castles:

for general tourism information:

The castles
The castles’ verifiable history is littered with intriguing legends turning their otherwise inert stone walls into tales alive with mystery and passion. The old fortified castle of Dzialdowo is one of many with a story of love, torture and betrayal. Constructed in 1309, the castle fell into the hands of one vicious and widely disliked knight and his family. As the legend goes, a Prussian military leader and talented musician was imprisoned there with his violin as his only distraction. The beautiful melodies drifting up from the dungeon inspired the love of the knight’s sister, and the two secretly planned their escape together. But the couple was betrayed and their plans ruined by the furious knight who then forced the sister’s marriage to a more suitable partner. The prisoner/musician was instructed to play at the matrimonial ceremony and when he refused was killed before her eyes. She is said to have died of grief only a short time later and still wanders the castle waiting in vain for the carriage that would have carried the lovers to safety.
     To give appropriate attention to all the castles in the small region would require volumes and could be spread out over a timeframe impossible for the average visitor, even though it covers an area about the size of Vermont. On my journey I explored both the major tourist must-sees as well as some far off-the-beaten-path treasures and it was in combining these two extremes that the aura of the region revealed the striking similarity of the Teutonic architectural style and their deep influence in both urban and rural life.


The castle at Malbork

A closer view

Photos by Mishelle Shepard

Not far from Gdansk, and also part of the main tourist trail, is the master of all the Teutonic strongholds, Malbork. The town was partly destroyed by the Soviets and has a drab, colorless feel to it, but the stronghold itself covers over 80 acres, and is an amazing site to behold. One of the largest of its kind in the world, the castle became the new headquarters of the Teutonic Order in 1309 and the oldest section is the High Castle, which was begun in about 1270. The castle museum is a great place not only for history buffs with its extensive collection of old weapons, medieval sculpture, stained-glass windows, china and pottery, but also for esthetic seekers of priceless art. Its collection of the most famous stone in the region, amber, is worth a look.
     However, it was not the museum or even the sound and light show held in the castle courtyards that etched this castle in my memory forever, it was the hotel. After a depressingly unimaginative selection of accommodations for several nights in a row, for me, to step inside the exquisitely decorated room seemed a luxury that could be paralleled at that moment only by a night at the Ritz. This is the most popular of all the castle-hotels, so reservations need to be made in advance any time of the year. But, if you have only one place to splurge, I can’t imagine a better place to do it. The high ceilings, dark heavy furnishings, large windows covered with plush, velvety drapes, and, of course, the superbly modern bathroom with all the extra little touches are the perfect combination of old and new to make this wanna-be-princess-for-a-night sing with pleasure. The main restaurant has a large menu and a fabulous gothic ambience, but unfortunately it is not very consistent in service and quality and closes without warning for large tour groups. Also, as is still the case all around Poland, what is on the menu or wine list is not necessarily what is actually available.

Three castles of Olsztyn
Continuing east towards the Mazurian Lake district, three smaller castles are situated not too far from the town of Olsztyn, where a fortified castle rises up on the right bank of the Lyna river. Its construction began about 1350 and the castle administration was headed by Copernicus for many years, who, in 1520, successfully forced back a raid of the Teutonic Knights' forces.

Lidzbark Warminski
The castle at Lidzbark Warminski is one more of the many situated on the Lyna river, in a town left mostly in ruins after 1945. The castle itself was left untouched and it was here that Copernicus wrote his greatest work “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” [“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”] and the museum exhibits illustrate his life and scientific work. Having begun construction in 1350, its interior was completely redesigned in the early 16th century. This castle is considered to be one of the most valuable monuments of defensive architecture in Poland.

A stone’s throw from the town of Ketrzyn, known for its castle and its proximity to the famous pilgrimage site of the Baroque Swieta Lipka cathedral, is the 14th century Reszel. This is another gothic castle where it’s possible to spend the night. In the late 18th century the Prussian authorities converted the castle into a court and prison. In addition to the Art Gallery, where artists are invited to work during summer, there is also a regional museum with a wildlife exhibit.

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