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 🙂

Wisdom has built her house

Well, what better could we await of THIS Castle.

This particular Polish Museum is unique. It is unique both in quality, and spirit. It is unique in history and people. Therefore, no wonder that again we can participate in something very special, namely – in an excellent exhibition.

In this Castle everything is seen, and felt in a different dimension, even the stumble on the pavement of the courtyard is different than on the ordinary, some kind of urban one. So on the 14th of September (it is a special day for the Teutonic Knights, because it is the Day of the Exaltation of the Cross), I had the great honor and incredible pleasure of participating in this other dimension, in something special. It was the vernissage of the newest exhibition “Wisdom has built her house…” The State of Teutonic Order in Prussia.

For quite a while, in the past years, nothing was happening here. The last big exhibitions were held in 2007 (Imagines Potestatis), 2009 (About Johann Carl Schultz) and 2010 (Artistic Foundations in the Teutonic state in Prussia).

So nothing for a long time … Until today.

The vernissage was honored by the Grand Master himself. A little reminder: on August 22, 2018, Frank Bayard, the former General Steward of the Order, was elected the Grand Master.

Over 700 objects and artifacts were brought to the exhibition, including the candle holder of Queen Sofia (this artifact had already visited our castle, during the Amber Contexts exhibition in 2011). But there is also a completely unique “guest” – “A story about the beginnings of the Teutonic Order”, borrowed from the Vatican Library. And another  splendid piece of art – unique, because it is the only such – the epitaph of Bartholomeus Boreschow. The “Cabinet” Madonna from the Pelplin collection came too.

The exhibition presents numerous documents. Among them there is a document about the release of the office by the Grand Master Paul von Russdorf, or the document of April 1525, in which Albrecht the Margrave of Brandenburg, Prince in Prussia, in the presence of Commissioner Jerzy Bażyński assures that the Prussian States have accepted the terms of the peace he has made with the Polish king Zygmunt (The Old).

We will also find a huge collection of liturgical books, such as a beautiful missal from the mid Fifteenth century, or the Life of St. Dorothy from Mątowy Wielkie (Groß Montau).

There are sculptures, like my beloved Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia, or Madonna from Mątowy Wielkie (Groß Montau), or the famous Pietà from Nowe Miasto Lubawskie (Neumark in Westpreußen), or Madonna as Sedes Sapientiae from the Gdańsk National Museum (which unfortunately does not deserve this name), there is also the famous Christ in Ogrójec (Gethsemane).

There are militaria that I haven’t even had the opportunity to see. So I can’t even write anything about the grand master’s armor. It is the one about which rumors circulate that it could be a witness to the Krakow homage from 1525.

There are also wax tablets, and many, many other artifacts from archeological research.

However, I have two comments. Only two. What for the Chief Critic of All Projects is simply nothing.

One note applies to lighting creators: there is now some irrational fashion for spot lighting. Dear “lighting technicians”, visitors are supposed to SEE, NOTICE the exhibitions. So the artifacts are supposed to be “obvious to the eye”. The objects on exhibitions are to be legible. Details are to be visible for contemplation. Unfortunately, instead, they are literally killed and flattened by light at all exhibitions (also here), and therefore their significance has often been offset by light points. And by “blinding” some of the objects (as it does not apply to all exhibits here), at the same time – you darkened the descriptions. Not all visitors recognize the object, so it is worth allowing read the description. This applies to all (unfortunately) exhibitions in Poland.

And the second remark concerns the arrangement of the exhibition itself: the platform in the second dormitory. Invisible, dark, very low. But high enough that a person with sight problems would stumble over.

Below are some pictures of nasty quality, because cell photos … But next time they will be camera!

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…

 

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 😀

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

Thanksgiving Day in Gothic Cafe – in Malbork Castle

I know, I know, it still is some time to the celebration of the Thanksgiving Day …

But as the time tends to run soooooooooooo fast – I just thought to post the wonderful invitation from Gothic Cafe now… Unfortunaltely I could not post in the lovely ornamentation… But well, it is nothing comparing to the rich desscription of the forthcoming feast 🙂

And here it is below:

Dear Distinguished Guests and Friends,

Why spend Thanksgiving Day in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up, when you can savor a stress-free holiday celebration in the elegant Gothic Cafe of the Medieval Castle in Malbork

The beautiful Castle presents its 3rdThanksgiving Day feast that promises to delight your palate and make the occasion a memorable one for the entire family.

Dinner guests can enjoy a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings, plus a glass of sparkling champagne to ring in the start of the Holiday season.  Begin with an incredible jumbo shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce. Next, delight your taste buds with a seasonal butternut squash and green apple soup, and a bread station including assorted fresh breads and rolls from The Grand Master’s bakery.

Salad selections include a toasted barley, wild mushroom and asparagus salad, Autumn vegetable slaw with apple truffle vinaigrette or chipotle potato and egg salad with sun-dried cherries, sweet corn and scallions.

Next, a wide array of delectable entrees features carved roast turkey with gravy and apple sage stuffing; maple glazed country ham, or baked salmon with artichokes, leeks and figs.  The GOTHIC CAFE adds a delicious new twist to the traditional Thanksgiving trimmings with pumpkin pierogi and Gorgonzola cream sauce, smashed parsnips with turnips, bourbon glazed yams, herbed green beans with braised garlic, and cranberry lime compote.

Don’t forget to save room for some scrumptious desserts, featuring a seasonal selection of apple, pecan and pumpkin pies and assorted mini-Holiday treats.

The Gothic Thanksgiving Day will be served from noon to 5 p.m.  Make your reservations now at 783 464 828, and enjoy a stress-free beginning to the Holiday season.  

Prices are Just 280 PLN per person (including wine, beverages and table decoration)

Kids just 50 PLN per person.

Sincerely

Chef de cuisine

Bogdan Galazka

WWW.gothic.com.pl

bogdangalazka@yahoo.com

Amber Contexts in Malbork Castle

What a shame I didn’t bring my camera with me today!!!

I sprang out from home, to late to think about anything. I overslept, and having quite a drive from Gdansk to Malbork to meet the group I was to guide, I rushed without thinking of anything besides to BE ON TIME…

The road was nearly empty – most of the citizens were in a frenzy of pre-Christmas shopping, probably crowding in some malls…

So, as always – I was much earlier and had some time for myself in the Castle. Therefore I went into the Middle Castle to the basement of the east wing, to see the newly arranged Amber Contexts Exhibition (if the text shows in Polish – just click the EN button on the top right side and it should be visible in English, or refresh the website)

Well, I am known for being a fault-finding person as far as the level of museums in Poland is concerned. And I am known for seldom going into raptures.

But this time I did…

I gasped with admiration. As the young generation would say – my jaw dropped with exaltation.

The exhibition is wonderful. AT LAST it shows the history of this Golden Teardrop of the Sun, as I call Amber.

(BTW – this is how I called Amber several years ago, and now everyone picked that phrase and it lives own life 😉 ).

Coming back to the exhibition – the darkness of the place, and the soft music, together with the detailed yet – interesting way of presentation – makes it AN EVENT. It is a pity that it was not that much voiced, as it should be. (It seems that Poland still does not know how to be proud of herself, and how to show her successes and heritage…)

Among the exhibits – besides the absolutely ravishing chest made by Christoph Maucher, there is the famous Great Amber Goblet. It comes from the collections of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow. It once belonged to Dr. William Hunter, the founder of this oldest museum in Scotland. The goblet was  subjected to preservation in the workshop of the Malbork Museum. It is simply … wonderful.

( BTW – I am thrilled – as I am going to visit the Hunterian Museum early next year 🙂 )

http://www.zamek.malbork.pl/index.php?p=wydarzenia&aid=70 – picture from the official website of the Castle Museum.

So, whoever is planning to come to Gdansk (North Poland) – MALBORK (abt. 1,5 hrs drive south east) is an absolute MUST SEE 🙂

Not only because it is the biggest heap of bricks in the world, but also because it has the richest and most interesting (at least in Poland) Amber exhibition.

🙂