Sitting on the bed of the Wisla River in Poland is a classic example of medieval fortresses and the worlds largest brick gothic castle, Malbork Castle. Originally founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Order, a German Roman Catholic religious order, the castle was expanded upon several times to host the growing number of knights which led it to become the largest fortified gothic building in Europe. With the outermost castle walls enclosing 52 acres, it is four times larger than the enclosed space of Windsor Castle. The castle, as well as the town, were originally named Marienburg which translates to “St. Mary’s Castle” until 1945 when the castle and town became part of Poland and were renamed Malbork. In 1997, UNESCO listed the castle and its museum as World Heritage Sites under the name “Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork”.
The castle’s great position on the river Nogat allow it easy access by barge and trade ships, it also allowed the Teutonic Knights to collect river tolls from passing ships. The Teutonic Knights controlled Malbork Castle until 1457, when they were abandoned by their mercenaries. The mercenaries left due to the Knights inability to pay their wages and an offer from the Polish King to pay them what they were owed if they left. The Polish monarchy held the castle for a few thriving centuries. During the Partition of Poland in 1772 control of the castle was given to its new Prussian rulers. Unfortunately the Prussians decided to turn the castle into a barracks and proceeded to remove many of the walls and towers, this combined with the vicious bombing and looting it received at the hands of the Soviet army during World War II took a massive toll upon the castle rendering it a shell of its former glory. Thankfully, Malbork Castle as well as the surrounding areas have been reconstructed and renovated and are now one of the top tourist attractions in the country. The castle is home to a variety of fairs and festivals both big and small throughout the year, with its largest event, the “Siege of Malbork Castle”, held during the summertime.
The Malbork Castle Museum is a must see during your visit, it houses a variety of enlightening exhibitions. An interesting exhibit is “The architectural transformation of Malbork Castle” which chronicles the changes the castle has undergone throughout its existence using preserved images. There is also an amazing collection of rare and old weapons collected at the castle since the 19th century as well as an exhibit dedicated to the Arms and Colors of the Teutonic time period. The “History of Amber” exhibit is a beautiful sight to see with an assortment of amber creations on display. Individual tickets to the castle will cost you around $15 per person and include a guided tour (available in English, Russian and German), entry to the Main Tower will cost you about $2 additional. Guided night time tours are also available for about $10-15 depending on language preference.
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