A misty morning – in a hurry to Malbork castle

It just appeared to me, that for a long time now I have not posted a single word here. Well, the touring season has not come to the end yet, so I scarcely have time to write. But I take pictures… Few of them are HERE, just as a reminder how beautiful are the LowLands, and how magic they can be – especially in a morning mist 🙂

The quality of the photos is bad, but I took them from the train to Malbork Castle, through a dirty train window, and with a mobile phone 😉 I was on my way to meet another wonderful group ready to follow me through the wonderful Biggest Pile of Bricks in the World…

 

Another winter in Frombork

I often visit Frombork. And it is not only because I guide there, but also because I simply like this sleepy little town “at the world’s end”, according to Doctor Copernicus… I wrote about Frombork HERE, and now I am posting some PICTURES of winter.

And this post has been provoked by my recent visit there – as I have just returned from a training I participated in the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum. It was concerning the new exhibition “Mors ianua vitae” – Christian Funeral Customs. Seldom today we think of how much death accompanies us – we rather push its “presence” aside. It does not constitute the everyday life anymore, and became something embarrasing. It stands in contrast of the omnipresent worship of youth, eternal beauty, and fitness. Here – the exhibition shows how death was once somewhat a natural end of a long and tiresome journey.

HERE is a picture gallery of some very interesting exhibits. What is worth mentionning, they survived the madness of wars. And there have been quite many of them here – as this part of Europe had suffered from numerous hostilities since the early medieval times…

Winter Malbork

Malbork is beautiful all year long. And this is a true cliché.

However most of the visitors prefer to come here in summer. Of course the blackbirds are singing then, and the days are long AND warm… Yet whoever dares to come here in winter – leaves trully bewitched.

To prove this – I attach today’s photos HERE, and HERE some from my archives…

Enjoy 😀

St. Mary’s – how much can be read from the brick walls

This time there will be no comment – just THE PICTURES of one of my favorite churches in Poland – the St. Mary’s in Gdansk …

Incerdible, how much can be read from a brick wall 😉

Enjoy 😀

Night views of Malbork Castle

For the past 10 years or so, I have been guiding around the World’s Biggest Heap of Bricks 🙂

Still I find it wonderful, amazing, admirable, exceptional, enchanting… (there still are many more words to express my fascination with the massive beauty of this brick structure and with the medieval engineering 😉 )

HERE is what I caught with my camera while waiting for my group last night…

Enjoy 😉

Malbork is beautiful and impressing during the day. And definitely it is a MUST when in Poland. But in the evening it is even more impressing, as the castle is illuminated – and the lights are focussed on details, which we sometimes do not notice in the daylight.

So – come and visit the Malbork Castle in the evening. From September till April it is possible to do the night tour here – with a delicious stop at the famous Gothic Cafe & Restaurant

Widny Saturday in Malbork Castle

It was a very windy day today 🙂 I could have stayed at home and spent the day in warmth – preparing the exams for the new tour leaders “to be”…

However I went to the Castle. For the past 10 years I have been leaving everything – and going to Malbork on every occasion. This time it was an extra training about … bricks (as if it still surprises anyone here).

I took my camera – and attached are the results of my Castle fascinations.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unreal and magic – Malbork

Yesterday I went to the monthly training in the Castle. This time I got off the train in Kalthof (today Kałdowo).

It was a border between the Free City of Danzig and East Prussia before WW II. In 1939 – September just before German attack on Poland – the Nazis murdered Polish customs officers based there. Of course the gloomy history is not the only connection with Kalthoff… As a part of Malbork (once Marienburg) it is a very interesting place, worth a walk. It was probably there that most of the bricks used to build the Castle were made… Most of at least 35 million bricks, so they say 😉

When I got off the train – it was already at dusk, and as I approached the bridge over Nogat River – the view which I saw amazed me. Luckilly I had my camera, so here it is – the Castle unreal in its beauty, seeing itself in the still Nogat waters, looking back into the long and turbulent history. But most of all – still in its eternal beauty.

My Malbork Castle. The biggest heap of bricks in the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Evening Gdansk – a short walk

And so I walked through my Town in the evening, admiring it again and again.…

I had beautiful moon over the Manor of St. George Brotherhood and the Long Street Gate (called the Golden Gate) in front of me, with the view on the City Hall in the distance. All this pushed into my camera lens and to my ears to, as the Town Hall carillon “chimed” at the same time

And for the thousandth time or so the Long Street Gate attracted my eyes again.

It was once an ordinary medieval brick gate, just a gate, one of few leading to the town. And then in the 17th century, there came the time of changes, great changes in Gdansk. All the construction activity in the town must have been unnerving and irritating to the citizens, as it is for us today. The Gate is associated with a certain surname of a master builder and artist at the same time – Abraham van den Block.

The figures on the gable were made by Peter Ringering in 1648. But in the 19th century were taken away. So when after the Second World War destructions of the city – the decision to bring them back was made – there were no originals. There were only the copies from 1878… Speaking of the WW II destructions – I mean – we all mean – the destruction caused in March 1945 by the victorious Red Army. The town was then systematically destroyed by them while chasing the Germans out from it. House by house, street by street it was burned down. There was such a heat, that many of the bricks melted, and altogether after the fire ceased, the Town was filled with 3 million cubic meters of rubble.

So when looking at the splendidly rebuild and in places fully reconstructed town, it is worth to remember that tragic time to. The Polish restorers indeed have done their job perfectly. No wonder that they are known in the World, and often called to work abroad.

But going back to the Golden Gate (I don’t like this name as the historical name of the Gate is: Long Street Gate, but most of the guide books use this popular one)…Looking at it now – we see the effect of the last renovation – which was not a perfect one. But nevertheless we admire it and concentrate on the load of meaning it has, not noticing the shortcomings.

So I stood there, gazing at the nicely illuminated Gate in admiration. I was trying to fit the figures in my camera lens and reflected on the depth of content of the ideological meaning of the decoration. Whole town is full of ideology, and the Gate is like a short description of how to understand it.

So here we have – (looking from the west) – figures depicting Peace with palm twig and a stick entwined with olive twigs. This means triumph and victory. Next is the allegory of Freedom – holding a hat (pileus) and a statute book. Pileus was a sign of freedom, as it was placed upon a shaved head of the newly freed slave in ancient Roman times. Next we have an allegory of Abundance – and it does not need any explanation – the Horn of Plenty is all too visible. And the fourth figure on the western gable of the Gate is Fame (Pheme). Here it holds the horn of Fame and the sun (symbol of eternal eminence) and tramples down Envy (Invidia).

From the east – the figures depict: Prudence with a telescope and a clock. This means – far-sightedness and the abstemious regular rhythm of life.  So it might be rather Temperance. Next to it looping to the sky – is Religiousness holding the Holy Bible. Next is Justice with scales and a measuring rod in one hand and an olive branch and a sword in other hand. This measuring rod appears also on the plafond in the Summer Hall (Red Room) of the Town Hall. And it means (from the Gospel of St. Luke 6:38) “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. Closest to the Manor of St. George Brotherhood is Concord (Harmony). She holds a bundle of tightly linked arrows and in the other hand – she has one broken arrow. It is a depiction of the story of Skiluros, the Scythian king of Crimea. When on his death bed – he called his 80 sins, and told each of them to break a bunch of spears. None of them could. Then he gave each of them one spear, and then they easily broke each one.  This means “strength in unity”. Or rather – according to the inscription on the Gate, the maxim which says that “the small states grow in consent, the big ones collapse in disagreement (discord).”

And yet it is not the end of “reading” the Golden Gate (Long Street Gate). It is best to stand in front of it, either from the west, or from the side of the Długa (Long) Street and listen to what it tries to say about the ambitions of citizens. And about the then position of the City.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus is currently a fashionable topic … Especially that this May his remains will be buried in Frombork. After nearly 5 years of investigation – there is a very big probability that the remains found in the Frombork Cathedral – are the ones of the famous astronomer.

The first version of this text was written on the St. Valentine’s Day. I felt deeply disgusted by the press announcements about Dr. Nicolaus and his supposed love affair with his distant cousin and cook – Anne Schilling.

So – please read this as an opening explanation and warning:

In the Valentine’s Day context it is a great abuse (and very much distasteful) – to call Gdansk a city  of the Love Affair of … Nicolaus Copernicus and Anne Schilling.

It is better to carefully read the story of loves and love in the city on the Motława River! So as no to depart from the historical truth, and so that the knowledge of the city is not build if only … rumors.

It would be best to go through the archives – to find the historical truth (which is not at all so obvious) but it would be enough to read some biographical books (but not the most recent ones… being more sensational than true).

Who wants to learn about Cupid in Gdansk, can read the life story of Maurice Ferber, who later in his life became the Bishop of Warmia… and therefore Copernicus’ boss. But before this he was a hero of a real love scandal of his times. I mean the affair with Anna Pilemann. It was a real scandal!

And for those who enjoy love stories I strongly recommend “listening” to the stories told by the epitaphs in Gdansk’s St. Mary’s Church.

For years now I have been developing a “Love Gossip Tour” around Gdansk…  as well as around the former East Prussia. And I assure – there are a lot more spicy stories to hear 😉

* * *

The rest of the article was rewritten and amended after the re-burial.

But back to Dr. Nicholas … Now – suddenly he became fashionable … And especially his private life. As if it was something new! A lot has been written about him. The list of better or worse books (including foreign ones), is quite long.

Let me remind everyone, that on 22nd May – this year (2010) Copernicus was re-buried in Frombork. After 2005 when his remains were found in Frombork Cathedral and after years of research and debate (whether it is him or not) … finally the re-burial was decided…

As I feared, as usually, unfortunately, this ceremony too remained mostly local. Just like the lost race for the tourists – right after the excavation in the cathedral. And yet the findings were at least interesting.

It was a pity therefore that the whole ceremony was not at full blast.

There has been a lot of time to blaze abroad about this exceptional opportunity to participate in the reburial of SUCH a famous person.

Once again – Frombork – from being at the world’s end (as Copernicus wrote about it) did not became the world’s center. At least for a day or two… Maybe then it would have become popular place to stay during summer. It lost its “five minutes” to become famous.

Maybe the so-called infrastructure is not the best yet. Maybe the local authorities cannot handle so much.

But then – Frombork has a splendid location.

It is a charming town on the Vistula Lagoon with a good transport connection – with not only local busses but also boats from Frombork to Krynica. And Frombork has quite a tasty food in its restaurants. Not to mention the delicious cakes and coffee served in the so-called Water Tower…

And it has more… It has this “something”… A unique atmosphere.

In the Museum there is a very interesting – though small department of the history of medicine. It also has the famous “three-cows-on-the gable”…

And it has … a sensational Last Judgment painting!!!

And… it all has just reminded me of the Copernicus Trail.

I have been working on it for several years now, and I call it a Subjective Copernicus Trail. Or – Copernicus Trail by Kasia

Of course, the trail begins far from Frombork – in Torun. It was there that our hero was born as the son of a merchant. Being in Torun it is necessary to see the Saint Johns’ Church, as he was baptized here.

But Torun is a unique city in general. Not only because of Copernicus.

There actually one can really touch gothic…

Going back to the trail – it leads then to Warmia Region – tracing the locations of the “abandoned fields” (it took me some time to develop this route – it is very interesting, and in summer – beautiful).

Also the towns en route are a MUST. The towns connected with the Administrator of the Chapter lands.

So… Driving along the Copernican route Gdańsk should not be forgotten. Doctor Nicolaus visited the town at least twice. Once in 1504 – the occasion was his cousin’s wedding (Kordula von Allen married Reinhold Feldstedt, a Gdansk wealthy merchant). And the second time was a six months’ visit in 1526.

After Reinhold’s death Copernicus was one of the three protectors of the widow and children. Other caregivers were Arendt Schilling and Michael Loitz. Arendt is the alleged husband of Anna. And Anna Schilling (supposed to have been Copernicus’ mistress) was the daughter of Nicolaus’ cousin. And who was Michael Loitz? He was a representative of the well-known family of Szczecin-Gdansk bankers. About Michael we should think, while driving to or from Nowy Dwor Gdanski (an hour’s drive from Gdansk to the east). And it was he, who was riding with his son Johann to Frombork at the news about the sickness of Doctor Nicolaus. All so that Johann could take over his canonry… But this is another story….

Going further along the Copernicus Trail – we also need to visit Malbork. Indeed, he was here few times. One can see an appropriate plaque on one of the castle walls…

It is in Malbork, in May 1528 that a Prussian Diet (Royal Prussia Seym – Council) was held. At the Diet Doctor Nicholas gave the speech “About minting.” He also reformed the Bread Rate.

We also must necessary visit Elblag! Here, walking the so called Church Path one can consider whether Nicolaus has ever walked this way?

He walked for sure! During his numerous visits to the town. We must remember that Elblag  is not far from Frombork, and at Copernicus’ times it was a very rich  town. And therefore it was a very important town too. It is enough to remember that Queen Elisabeth I of England established the branch of the Eastland Company there!!! There are many English names in the history of Elbląg (Elbing).

Unfortunately, our trail does not include Königsberg (today Kaliningrad). Nicholas stayed there too, at the invitation of Prince Albert Hohenzollern. Königsberg is not on the trail map, because after the last war there is nothing left of the known and historical Königsberg.

Deliberately I did not mention Copernicus’ observations of the sky, mainly because this is well-known, and is not the purpose of this article. It is enough to say, that he was definitely not detached from reality, and not only a “researcher of sky” – as we were made believe during years of  boring school lessons. Doctor Copernicus however was an active and excellent administrator. And also a talented strategist. This can be traced – while reading about the preparations of Olsztyn’s defense against the Teutons…. He was also an energetic land governor. The evidence of this can be traced in the documents. For example – once fishermen from the Teutonic territory were arrested for fishing on Pasłęka, the then border river. It was a typical preventive detention and it was ordered by the administrator of the chapter – Dr. Nicolaus. It was fully justified – because it took place in times of war. He twice held the post of the Chancellor of the Chapter.

He was also a consultant for Bernard Wapowski (Polish nobleman and a genius cartographer), when he worked on the map of the Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Consultation related to the topography of Prussia. Copernicus developed a map of the western part of the Vistula Lagoon.

But above all he was a doctor. Although today his prescriptions might be shocking. Well, for example, where to get powdered unicorn horn (I know, I know it could be a narwhal …). Or who would care for collecting frogs’ dung…

Visiting Frombork, a place at the end of the world (as Dr. Nicholas wrote in his letters to friends), we must necessarily climb the so-called Radziejowski Tower. Look around then – and far into the Holy Warmia.

How often must have Copernicus traveled to locate abandoned land. We sometimes drive through a place – a village or small town, which for us is just a point on the map. We do not even realize that it was located by Copernicus.

So much for Nicholas – without the unhealthy sensation.

So… till the next season – to again set off on the Subjective Copernicus Trail…

St. Mary’s church in Gdansk

This church in Gdansk is the biggest brick gothic church in the world…

Brick…

About 4 mln bricks were made to build this Merchant Cathedral, and about 137 thousand roof tiles were made to cover its roofs… And it took 159 years to complete the work. The local story says it was built for 25 thousand people. Some say it’s impossible as Gdansk did not have so many at that time.

Often a question is posed – why would they have built such a huge church. The answer is simple – why not …

Definitely we can say one: Gdansk’s art of showing off was brought to perfection several times. One of the times was when St. Mary’s was built.