Elbląg – Elbing…

Elbląg has always been present in my family history. At least since the 17th century.

Now it is present in my life even more. I do not live there but I visit the place very often,  with my groups, or just for pleasure, myself.

Unfortunately the tour operators still do not understand that it is a good place to start any tour around in the former East Prussia region, and they still do not see anything interesting here.

Fortunately I myself organize trips and tailor the tours to the needs of my clients. 🙂

Medieval Elbląg was the most important place in the Teutonic State. It also was among the richest towns of the region at that time. Therefore also had a very high intellectual potential.  This is still visible in the remaining (by miracle saved) pieces of art.

I wrote “by miracle saved”, because the time border for Elbląg as well as for towns in today’s north east Poland – was January 1945 (the Red Army attack on the German positions, the so called East Prussian Offensive). And therefore the town structure was nearly completely destroyed. Germans destroyed the water gates and dikes to stop the Soviets approach. This did not help. The Soviets preceded in their deadly march, destroying everything on their way. 

So, this is the fate: somebody starts the war, the other one marches to victory leaving ruins behind… The victims are always the civilians, architecture and art. 😦

After the war destruction and silly communist decisiveness, Elbląg stayed empty for until some 20 years ago. That was the moment, when some wise decisions were made: we shall rebuild Elbląg in its historical shape, within the historical range of the Old Town. But before this could start, the city turned into a huge archaeological site, biggest in Europe.

The city, I called it ? Well, I remember cows grazing around St. Nicholas church (today a cathedral), and the high grass made it impossible to imagine that once here was a proud and rich Hanseatic city. Most of the brick from this ruined once mighty trade center – went to rebuild other towns, among the others – Gdańsk, and Warsaw to rebuild Warsaw, (4000 historical sites lost their brick, only to rebuild Warsaw!).

After the archaeological research the decision was made to rebuild the old town area in a new way. Save the shape of the buildings, but make them in a new way. And this new way was called Retro-Version.

It took a long time, but today Elbląg’s Old (New) Town looks good. It still needs investing, and all the quarters are built-up yet, but now at least the place starts to have an “old” shape.

One thing which should be changed is the mentality of the locals. They still do not feel “local”. They are the children or the grand children of the post-war settlers. Not all had the opportunity to grow roots here. A high unemployment rate does not help the locals to identify with a place that is slowly becoming the “bedroom” of the Tri-City. Because most of the residents go to work there. The liquidation of local workplaces after political changes has badly influenced identification with the place associated with the so-called Poland B.

Fortunately, a few years ago something “twitched” in Elbląg. The local Historical and Archaeological Museum began to popularize the history of these areas in an interesting way, very different from other traditional museum centers. Elbląg museum exhibitions have been arranged in a memorable manner. And the “Memories” project of the former residents of the city is very touching and allows the present residents to understand the feelings for the place of childhood. Also great is the initiative of local guides, organizing free historical walks around the city.

So, when planning a stay in Gdańsk, which is now only about an hour’s drive away, do consider visiting Elbląg too. Besides, from there it is much easier, and nearer to visit FromborkElbląg Canal, Olsztyn, and of course – Malbork.

And HERE are some pictures of Elbląg. Past and present. Enjoy 🙂

My Scottish trip

Some time ago, in 2012, I went to Scotland.

To be exact, I drove do Scotland. A friend of mine proposed he’d take me there on his way to his son. Well, I have always flown by plane, I have never taken Europe in a car. Well, not true – I have – but never that far. I decided to give it a try. I had some business to attend to in Edinburgh, so I had to go anyway. I got into the car and off we went. Travelling through Europe is great – now as the borders do not exist anymore, it is open for touring.

The first stop was at the Channel Tunnel. It was an experience for me – as I am claustrophobic, so I feared a bit – especially having in mind what happened in 2009. But the trip took about 20 minutes or so, so I managed, I survived. And here I was on the British Isles. The route “up the map” was quite easy. And finally we crossed the “border”, and drove into Scotland.

I went back in my memories, and remembered how many times in my life, still in Nigeria, I had heard about Robert the Bruce, Sir William Wallace, Arthur’s Seat, the Scottish mountains, and heather, and the Scotch broom (which also grows here in the north of Poland even more yellow, and which by the way, gave the name to the House of Plantagenet – from “planta genista”).

Finally I reached Edinburgh. As a great fan of history – I had it now all at my fingertips…

Especially I was concerned about St. Giles” Cathedral (particularly it’s Thistle Chapel), John Knox, Sir Archibald Campbell, and of course the Ramsays… To find out why Ramsays – read HERE.  Everyday I was starting my methodical sightseeing in the early morning, so as to see as much as I could…

I know now, I shall definitely return to Edinburgh. And the next time I will make sure to tak the Cities of the Underworld tour in the Mary King’s Close. I went there during my stay, but it was too late. 😦

So next time, I know what to see, what and where to visit, what to focus on in the city. And next time I shall take a train to Glasgow, to visit the Hunterian Museum too.

HERE and HERE are some pictures I have taken during my two days’ stay in this Grey Stone Town.

The only pity is that it is not allowed to take photos of the Stone of Scone. By the way – if anybody says again I am enthusiastic about Polish history – go and listen to a guide in the Edinburgh Castle! The way SHE talked about Scottish history made me feel not a patriot at all. 😉

Well, this is all I had to say about Edinburgh.

For now 🙂

Plauten (Pluty) – the reminiscence of holidays

I often go back to the memories of our November East-Prussian escapade.

Not only because it was finally that dream vacation, so very well deserved after a frantic season. Also, because we visited some important places along the way… Those were places important to the history of Europe, and now often forgotten and neglected. Deliberately forgotten, I am tempted to say…

The majority of the Warmia-Mazury Voivodship is today still almost Terra Incognita.

Tourists rather go to Masuria, and the travel agencies (except for absolutely a few, which understand the place) still do not see anything interesting in the off-roads of the former East Prussia. In schools, teachers continue to avoid the subject as sensitive, moreover, they know little about it. Warmia is being discussed in isolation from reality. And thus it still is not very clear what is this phenomenon called: Warmia (Ermland).

Meanwhile, near the border between Warmia with Natangia, on the road from Pieniężno (Mehlsack) to Górowo Iławeckie (Landsberg) there is a small village Pluty (Plauten).

I do not know whether it was important for the Great History, but it is certainly important for those who appreciate the beautiful views.

The village was founded near the old Prussian settlement of Pelten. It is known that around the year 1325 the Warmia chapter in the person of the provost Jordan built a castle here. Jordan managed the chapter, in place of Bishop Eberhard of Neisse who was seriously ill at that time. Soon he himself was elected Bishop of Warmia.

Parish in Pluty was established in the first half of 14th century. In 1326 the parish endowment appeared.

In 1410 during the Great War the village was destroyed. We know that more than a century later (in 1583) a parish school operated in the village.

Parish Church of St. Lawrence dates from the mid-fourteenth century. It was several times adapted, , first in the sixteenth century and then in 1801, it was extended in a westerly direction, and the tower was added. Barely visible today date “1521” in one of the top blind arches of the sacristy can be a certificate of completion of a phase of the temple’s construction. Church was consecrated by Bishop Martin Kromer in 1581.

The church was built on a rectangular plan, and it was built of fieldstone (in the basement) and brick (the walls). It was plastered recently (except the tower). It has two extensions: the north is the vestry and the south is the porch.The interior is baroque. And I have to trust the descriptions here, for when we got there during our peregrinations – the church was closed. It was raining cats and dogs, and the wind was quite bitter. Therefore neither of us at all had in mind to look for the Reverend, to ask him to open the temple for us.

From the descriptions I just know that the main altar dates from 1694, and that it was made ​​in Königsberg. The maker of the altar was probably Isaac Riga, or his workshop. Side altars are from the same (more or less) period. In one of the side altars there is a painting o “The Last Supper” by Peter Kolberg (a prominent East Prussian artist – 1702), the pulpit dates from 1732, the choir was made in the 19th century and organ – in the  early twentieth century The only medieval part of equipment are the granite font and stoup.In the Tower there is an original clock mechanism as well as two bells. And beneath the church floor there is a crypt with coffins.

“The old Prussian settlement is situated east of the village, on a hill 30 meters high (ca. 98 feet), overlooking the Wałsza River. The remains of walls and moats can be seen.” I had no opportunity to check this as it was raining 😉 …

Last year a fair amount of money was acquired from the EU for renovation of the cultural heritage of the village. And the result of the works could be seen in some places around the church… Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient, and the enthusiasm of the locals will not fade away.

 

The church seen from the road.It is situated on a hill. Whole Warmia is hilly…

it can be seen that some work has been done..

It is a shame that the tombstone serves as a step to the church !!!!! It is a shame and a scandal!

Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient

Still there is a lot to do around the church... after years of negligence

Elisabet Boehm and Village Women

The former East Prussia still amazes…

Some time ago I was captured by a marvelous portrait of Agnes von der Groeben, and now – I have “stumbled” upon another remarkable woman from this land.

And everything – as usual – by accident …

Well, during our short holiday in Galiny (Galingen) – we went to Kętrzyn (Rastenburg), as I wanted very much to see the tomb banner of Botho Zu Eulenburg. The tomb banners were popular in the 17th century and later. Not many of them survived – as the material is not resistant to time and… wars (and those were numerous here throughout the history).

En route we dropped to Łabędnik (Groß Schwansfeld) – well, not everything has to match our imagination… And then we drove through Garbno. Just drove… not even giving the place a bit of interest…

What a pity we did not stop there!

Why?

To answer this – I have to start from the beginning 😉

Once upon a time…

In the Prussian times Garbno had a different name… In the 14th century it was called Laumygarbis, and in the next – 15th century the place was called Lamegarben. The name of the settlement may derive from Prussian language. “Lamem”, “lama” – meant marshes, swamps, wet place, and “garbis” – meant the hill. And so it was a “Hill among the marshes.” Also it sometimes can be read that the name derives from the word “Lauma” – witch. And the translation of the name as “Hill of Witches.” Probably the will-o’-the-wisps were mistaken for witches. 😉

And then, a standard history of these areas swept through here.  Namely: the Teutonic Knights and their new orders. Castles, manors and firstly the fortified churches were built in these lands. The newly built churches were often placed on the former (pagan) worship sites.

And so it was with the church in Garbno. It was built on a hill, probably on an ancient place of Bartian worship. See the map of the Prussian tribes (clans) in the 13th century.

The castle is not preserved – as it was destroyed during the Thirteen Year’s War .

Of course the new propaganda wanted and had to tame the place, so they made a legend about the lamb appearing at the same time and in the same place. Whenever it was caught – it escaped miraculously just to appear again in harvest time… So the church was built in the place of the lamb’s appearance.

We must however remember that the place was give to the free Prussians. Contrary to the popular belief, the Prussians were not exterminated by the Teutons. The were assimilated probably more or less in the 16th or 17th century. In the 13th century a village was founded – today’s Garbno –  based on the Kulm Law. And then, as it often happened here – the history changed its course.

In the beginning of 1521 the then Teutonic Grand Master – Albert handed ca. 14 włóka (włóka means today’s 17,955 ha, or ca.44,4 acres) of land in Garbno to Heinrich von Egloffstein. And the village stayed in the hands of this family until 1832.

However – probably the village was leased to a von Buddenbrock family while the Egloffsteins lived in their palace in Arklity (Arklitten). Here at the beginning of 1810 Gustav von Buddenbrock was born. Later he became a Prussian army officer and a Knight of the Order Pour La Merite (for participation in the Franco-Prussian War).

In 1832 Garbno gets a new owner, a Christian Bierfreund. After a few years – the property goes into the hands of Lieutenant Konrad von Redecker, who in 1856 sold it to Edward Krause.

(The Redeckers are connected with the wonderful palace in Nakomiady – formerly Eichmedien. 

In 1880 the property was handed to Otto Boehm of Głowbity (d. Glaubitten). And this is where I “stumbled upon” the aforementioned remarkable woman. Otto received the property from his father on the occasion of his wedding with Miss Elisabet  Steppuhn of Łękajny (Landkeim).

Elisabet founded the first in Germany Village Women’s Union (22.02.1898r.). The main goal of this Union was primarily education of village women and enabling them to exchange experiences. This was not all, as the Union also dealt with distribution of preserves.

Elisabeth was the organizer of the school network for women throughout Germany. These schools were aimed at preparing women to conduct household.  The idea was adopted both in Europe and overseas. Polish Village Housewives’ Circles also rose from this movement.

In 1911 the Boehms were forced to sell the property and moved to Konigsberg. The reason for the decision was Otto’s illness. However, this did not slow Elisabet’s activity. With her own funds she set up a foundation, which opened a school for housewives and village women in one of the districts of Königsberg (Princess Cecilia School in Koenigsberg-Metgethen).

The times in which Mrs. Boehm worked were quite difficult for women. In the social sense they were in fact just an addition to the man. All that was expected from them (simplifying of course) was diligence, good manners and the ability to give birth to the successor/heir.

The Village Women’s Union made a bee their sign. It was not only that it was a symbol of what was required of a village woman to be like (work like a busy honey bee). Also because the Union systematically tried to change the mentality of women. So that from the docile and passive (not to say even mindless) robots working on farms, they would become conscious companions of their husbands.

From today’s point of view – nothing extraordinary. But then it was almost a revolution!

And this “revolution” was recognized in 1913. Elisabeth was awarded  silver medal by Her Imperial Majesty – Augusta Victoria during the imperial visit in Königsberg ( Her Imperial Majesty came to visit one of the Boehm schools).

The “work at the foundations” done by the former owner of Garbno was acknowledged and appreciated. In 1920 Departments for Practical Training of Village Women were established within the Governmental Boards of Agriculture .

In 1929 Elisabet Boehm received Honorary Doctorate from the University of Königsberg and an honorary citizenship of the city.

She died in 1943 in Halle.

At the end of the twentieth century – in 1993, Elisabet image was shown on one of the German post stamps in the series “Famous Women.”

In 1998 a plaque dedicated to his exceptional woman was placed on the wall of the Garbno manor.

Elisabet Boehm was not only clever and wise but also beautiful.

What about Garbno?

Well … In 1911, it was acquired by Erich Schultz-Fademrecht. He was a famous breeder of military and agriculture horses. He ran the farm until January 1945, being also the last mayor of the village.

And then in 1945 the Russian front came, or rather hailed down on this land,  and… again new times stroke. Is this the last curve of the history for this place?

And I would have never learned about this all, if I had not found a “Newspaper in Kętrzyn” from 2006 with an interesting article about this remarkable woman…

*  /   *  

And… I thought it was all, that I could not find anything more. I was wrong 🙂 Internet is a wonderful device – and a splendid way of contacting. Recently I received a note on this article. A VERY precious note, as it comes from a member of the Boehm Family… In fact there were two notes (they can be found in the comments to this article). I put them together – and here I am pasting them as one. A very interesting supplement enriching my notes on Elisabeth. Now, she became even more familiar to me. I like her (I also had a great grand mother wearing breeches, and smoking a pipe, helping the poor in her domain, riding a horse, and… gambling…) 🙂

Dear Madam,

Otto Boehm, was a brother of my grandfather (Julius Boehm), born May 14th, 1855 Glaubitten. He died April 1st 1921 Königsberg i. Pr.

Elisabet (his wife) died at Halle/river Saale May 5th, 1943. Her urn was burried at Glaubitten (Globitty/Poland)

Otto Boehm was a quiet retired military man and his wife Elisabet was an extremely active woman more interested in ruling and working for her women association than in family matters. (She did wear the breeches)

The mother of Elisabet Boehm (Steppuhn) was Emilie Dorothea Caroline Roggerath. She was born at Gardelegen, November 6th, 1826. She died at Liekeim , May 8th, 1896

Her Husband was (acc. my resources) Hermann Julius Steppuhn. He was born at Lackmedien, May 14th 1827 and died at Liekeim May 5th, 1907

I am a member of the Boehm family.

With best regards, Gerhard Boehm, Hamburg/Germany

Juditten / Judyty

I have just returned from another trip to East Prussia … And once again I realized how much this land was harmed. First, by the “winners” in 1945, then by communist politics. New people were settled there. And they were settled against their will. The politics did everything to disable them to love the new land… The communist propaganda did that by spreading the shadows of the recent past….  So, the people still do not feel the land, they do not feel the history nor understand it…

As it often happens during our short holidays – this time also we were provided with not very accurate map. So we had to move a bit according to our senses, and according to our notes.

Reconciled with the fact that we will not get to the famous Juditten, we decided to visit a familiar-sounding … Judyty.

Judyty is a village situated about 6, maybe 7 kilometers (4,35 miles) from the border with the formation, known as Kaliningrad. After World War II the border interrupted the duration of this land’s old history and culture. Heartless policies condemned it to a place in class B, and maybe even C or D…

Judyty as a property belonged to the von Kunheim family since the 16th century. Among the more and less known of that name – a man called Georg appears to us in the 16th century (he was son of Georg and Margaretha von Truchsess Wetzhausen from Łankiejmy). He was born in Wehlau (known  for the treaties).

In later life he found himself among the courtiers of Duke Albert of Königsberg. He was among his favorite courtiers, a trusted and valuable one. So much so, that when he fell ill, the Duke brought him a famous doctor – “particularly dear” doctor Nicholas Copernicus from Frombork.

Georg was the son in law of Dr. Martin Luther. How he won the hand of his youngest daughter, I do not know (yet), but I sense the influence of Katharina von Bora.

When Margaretha died, Georg married Dorothea von der Oelsnitz.

The goods belonging to von Kunheim – also included Judyty.

The palace remained in the hands of the family until World War II. It was here that in 1928 the later famous Eberhard von Kunheim was born. Today we would say of him that he had a difficult childhood: his father was killed in a car accident in 1935. A quiet gossip spread that it might have been a political accident. As he was not among the supporters of the new politics. Mother – according to all encyclopedias – pershed in one of the Soviet camps after the war. Often it can be read that the fact that his father was against the Nazis – might have helped Eberhard in becoming a student in post-war Germany. After some experience after his studies he joined the BMW. For more than 20 years he was a director and president, and later chaired the board of the company. The times of his “reign” there were called the Kuenheim Era.

In Judyty there also was one of the oldest Trakehner horse breeding stables.

The Trakehner horses are still bred in the nearby Liski. By now it is officially allowed to call this race by its old name … And this happened only in 2005 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development finally authorized the opening of Trakehner herd book in Poland. It is astonishing how much the so called officials are still afraid of the tradition…

Today, Judyty is not half as great as it used to be…

And these words apply to all the old estates in East Prussia. One can only remember family stories, about how once it all looked.

By the way – one can “meet” the Kunheim family here and there, going around the former East Prussia … For example in Ketrzyn (Rastembork) in the castle there is a portrait of John Ernest von Kunheim. Like most of the family – he too rested after his death in the family tomb in Sępopol.

As for the descendants of Georg and Margaretha de domo Luther, one will meet them when reading the history or should I say History… Hunting for genealogy of the von Eulenburgs – one can meet residents of Judyty … Also tracing the ancestry of Paul von Hindenburg we find the Kunheims …

And one more thing – only after I stared at the picture of palace – gloomy and dark – I noticed that the famous lions are still there!!!!! Both were purchased in 1889 and finally returned to the place few years ago. After the new owner of the palace a few years ago gave them to the studs in Liski the locals protested so much, that the lions were brought back where they belong.

At the world’s end – Frombork

A small town (only about 2500 dwellers) in the north east part of Poland. It was founded in the 13th century, but received civic rights in 1310. It belonged to the bishops of Warmia (Ermland) but then was given to the cathedral charter. It was called Civitas Warmiensis (Warmian Town). And so it was – as Frombork had been Warmia’s capital.

Frombork is the town – where Nicolaus Copernicus spent his adult life. From 1510 till his death in May 1543 he lived here and worked to the glory of God and the Warmian bishops. He was an administrator of the Warmian land, and thus settled many villages – of which many exist till today. He also worked on the monetary reform (known today as Copernicus-Gresham law). When Thomas Gresham was born in 1519 – Nicolaus had the outline of his reform ready.
He also reformed the bread recipe, stating how much should there be white how much dark flour, and how big should the loaves be… He also was a doctor, and as such he served his uncle in Lidzbark Warmiński (Heilsberg, in Old Prussian Lēcbargs).

In Frombork Nicolaus wrote his “De Revolutionibus”, a book which changed the outline of the understanding of the World.

Here in Frombork cathedral Nicolaus Copernicus was finally buried.
And few years ago a sensation spread around the scientific world (pity that only around the scientific one) – the grave of Copernicus was found. Now we know how he looked like and thanks to the Central Forensic Laboratory we can look into his eyes (the linked article is unfortunately in Polish only).

Frombork was taken form Poland when the country lost independence in the 18th century. After years of a sleepy existence in the East Prussia – it returned to Poland after the tragic years of the II World War. Very much destroyed in the course of fights between the Soviet and German armies – the town was rebuilt. Unfortunately not exactly as it was before. It lost most of its charming houses. It lost also its continuation – historical continuation. New people came here after the war. New times came too.

Luckily the Cathedral Hill is still above the town, guarding the place as before through the centuries.

It is worth climbing up the Bell Tower to see the splendid view over the Wisła Lagoon, as well as to see and maybe understand the way of work of the Foucault Pendulum (for me it is enough to know that it shows that the earth is turning).

It is easy to stay here – as there are few quite decent places to sleep, and few places to eat.
There is a good bus connection with Elbląg, but unfortunately no train one anymore.

At the world’s end … the title of this note is from the letter of Copernicus to his friend – when he settled here… It seems that the town is still at the world’s end. Sleepy and not advertised well.

I dare say – it is not advertised at all! As a guide – I hope to change it.

Here are some photos of the simple beauty of this place on earth.