In the footsteps of the Teutonic Order through nature and history

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When Konrad Mazowiecki asked the Teutonic Knights for help in appeasing the rebellious Baltic peoples on the northeastern border of the Kingdom of Poland in 1229, Konrad Mazowiecki didn’t realize that it would enable the Order to create an independent state, which 200 years later , at the time of its greatest expansion, it covered the territory from Gdansk to present-day Estonia.

The history of the Order is extremely interesting; he was born to provide medical aid to pilgrims in Jerusalem, and as a result he became a Catholic state that recognized only the authority of the Pope. Also interesting is the history of the Baltic countries, which witnessed numerous misunderstandings, changing alliances and mythical battles, such as the one at Grunwald. This amazing country, characterized by wild nature, medieval castles, stork nests, bunkers from the Second World War and the old amber route, stretches between Gdańsk and Kaliningrad, between the Baltic Sea, the Vistula lagoon, between rivers and thousands of lakes. It is worth going there as it is a journey that will satisfy even the most demanding expectations; There you can sail on the lakes or canoe, and the Italian tourist can especially discover extraordinary landscapes. During my journey, I chose a city known for its canal as my base, through which ships are transported from one bank to another at a nearby point through a unique system of 5 ramps built on grass, which is considered one of the best hydro solutions in the world! One of the wonders of Poland! In the old town, right on the bank of the canal, there is Hotel Elbląg, where we can find a swimming pool, a SPA area and an excellent restaurant – the perfect place to relax in the evening after a day of sightseeing. Recommended places in this area include towns on the shores of the Vistula lagoon. I stayed in a small and charming town of Kadyny, located between a dense forest and a wide beach, and in Frombork, until 1945 called Frauenburg, the town where Nicolaus Copernicus spent his last years. In this town, it is worth not only to walk to the pier along the small harbor, but also to visit the castle, from which you can admire a beautiful view of the Vistula lagoon from the towers. There is also a Copernicus museum in the castle.

From Frombork it is good to head towards Kętrzyn to visit the Wolf’s Lair. The military headquarters, immersed in a dark and damp forest, is a collection of Spartan bunkers where Hitler stayed from June 24, 1941, immediately after the Barbarossa operation, i.e. the attack on the then Soviet Union, until November 20, 1944, when the Red Army reached 15 km from Kętrzyn and forced Hitler to return to Berlin; however, he had previously given orders to blow up most of the headquarters’ bunkers. Of Hitler’s headquarters, which could house millions of soldiers, with a railway connected and equipped with two airports, only bunkers remained, most of which had been destroyed by the explosion of mines. This moving and terrifying sight takes us back to the times of war turmoil. The current state of this place, combined with the description of life in the harsh conditions of a military base, makes it easier to imagine the gloomy atmosphere of everyday life, closed between the bunkers, each 6 meters thick and covered with vegetation. Gierłoż in the municipality of Kętrzyn, where the Wolf’s Lair is located, was chosen for its location between the former East Prussia and Russia, and for its dense forest surrounded by lakes and swamps. It was here that on July 20, 1944 at 12:42 PM the failed attempt on Hitler took place on the day of the visit of Benito Mussolini. On the road between Frombork and Kętrzyn is a small town Braniewo, where we can find a cemetery where more than 20,000 people were buried in 750 group graves. soldiers of the Red Army. Driving along side, winding roads through hilly landscapes, with horses, cows and bulls grazing here and there, we drive away from Gierłoż and dive into the true soul of Warmia and Masuria, whose borders end a few kilometers from the unusual fortress in Malbork, formerly Marienburg, already located in the Pomeranian Voivodeship. It is the largest Gothic castle in Europe; Construction began in 1270 and was the command center of the Knights of the Teutonic Order for centuries, until it came under the rule of the Polish king in 1466. The castle and museum deserve a thorough tour of at least 3 hours. If you decide to depart from Malbork in the direction of beautiful Gdańsk, do not forget to stop in another city on the Baltic Sea along the way. I accidentally found myself in Jantar, a seaside village whose beach, torn by a strong wind that day, with colorful fishing boats on the sand, became an ideal photographic setting.

photo: Sebastiano Giorgi, Agata Pachucy
Polish translation: Agata Pachucy

this item is available for
Italian Polish

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