The Marienburg in Malbork is the most famous attraction in the region. The medieval castle complex is the largest brick building in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After the reconquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims, The Knights of the Teutonic Order sought a territory in Europe. The Duke of Mazovia promised them in 1230 the Kulmer Land in return for the subjugation of the Prussians. The conquest by the Teutonic Order was regulated in the Treaty of Kruschwitz. Together with Konrad I of Mazovia, the Teutonic Order conquered the Kulmer Land and built its first castle in Thorn in 1231.
The Teutonic Order conquered more land along the Baltic shores and built many castles to control their new property. The Marienburg was built from 1274 on ward. The high castle was built first, with the chapel and the dormitory. In 1309, the Marienburg became the seat of the Grand Master and thus the headquarters of the Order, which was previously in Venice. From 1309, the middle castle with the Grand Master's Palace was built for the administration of their land.
A city wall was built around the High Castle and the Middle Castle, enclosing a large area where the lower ranks of the friars lived. This part is called the Vorburg.
The extension of the Teutonic Order to Gdansk and Lithuania created tensions with the Kingdom of Poland. When Poland and Lithuania merged in the Union of Krewo in 1385, the decline of the religious state began. In the Battle of Tannenberg (Battle of Grunwald), the German knights were defeated by Poland and Lithuania in 1410. The monks retreated to Marienburg and resisted the siege until 1455. Then they ran out of money and sold the castle to the King of Poland. The Grand Master moved to Königsberg and the Marienburg was used by the Polish kings as a residence.
The Marienburg is in a good condition today. The castle was rebuilt by Poland, after the destruction during the Second World War. The Marienburg is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
How do you get there?
By train from Gdańsk Glowny to Malbork takes about 30-45 minutes. Malbork is located about 50 kilometers southeast of Gdansk.
Tickets can be bought online (see link). In summer, there are often long queues in front of the few ticket counters.
The "Vistula Spit" (Mierzeja Wislana) is a narrow strip of land in the east of Gdańsk. One side is on the Baltic Sea, the other shore is on the "Vistula Lagoon". The long sandy beach with pine forests is one of the most popular leasure destinations of Gdańsk.
The "German Order" founded the settlement of Mewe (Gniew) in 1276 to control the River Vistula. The monumental castle was built in 1380. It is surrounded by a wall and a moat. The Knights of the German Order had to withdraw from the castle in 1466. The Polish kings took over the fortress after the siege.
The Frombork Cathedral was built between 1342 and 1388. The complex is surrounded by a wall with watchtowers and an observatory. From the bell tower you have a beautiful view of the "Vistula Lagoon" and the Cathedral. Nicolaus Copernicus lived here, before he could prove the earth's rotation in Torun.
The Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) was the headquarter of Adolf Hitler and the German Wehrmacht during the German invasion of Russia. This was also the place, where Graf von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Today huge bunker remains decay in the forest. The bunker complex was built in 1940 and consisted of about 100 buildings.
Mazury is the southern part of East Prussia with a beautiful lake scenery. One can take a boat trip on the lakes, because most lakes are connected by channels. Who is more sporty can sail or go canoeing.
Welcome to Masuria
The land between the Vistula and Memel was controlled by the knights of the Teutonic Order in the 13th century and later referred to as "East Prussia". The capital of East Prussia was Königsberg (Kaliningrad). After the Second World War, East Prussia was divided between Russia and Poland. The German population fled to Germany.
Today southern East Prussia is the Polish holiday destination "Masuria" (Warminsko-Mazurskie), with old teutonic castles, wonderful brick churches and beautiful nature.