When you hear about crusaders and orders of knights you might think of the crusaders going to the holy land and eventually conquering Jerusalem and holding the city for a while surrounded by the Arabs on all sides. But you can actually find some crusaders within Europe as well. Particularly around the Baltic coast where there were still several tribes who kept their old traditions up until the first centuries of the second millennium.
The most successful of these orders were the order of the Teutonic knights which ruled a large land area along the southern shore of the Baltic Coast. They built many castle in their area – but one castle was just bigger than all the rest – the Malbork castle.
Malbork castle is actually the largest castle in the world when it is measured by land area. The castle was the world largest castle in the world build by bricks when it was completed in 1406. The castle was a strong hold for the order and became its capital for a while. It had a strong defense and the castle has actually never been conquered in battle – but it has changed hand between different rulers several times.
After the Teutonic order left it became a polish possession and became a residence for the polish king – hence in reality it was the capital of Poland for a while. After Poland was partitioned in three parts by Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary the castle became a Prussian property. During this time the castle was neglected for many years and it fell into disrepair – right up until the 1930s when the castle became an important symbol for the Nazi party and restoration were undertaken until the onset of the Second World War.
During the latter part of world war II there were fighting’s in the area around the castle and the Malbork castle was partly destroyed. Fortunately the Polish government decided to restore the castle and it has become a UNESCO world heritage. The castle is the major tourist destination of this part of Poland just second to Gdansk from where you can easily do a daytrip to the castle.
The entrance to the castle if pretty high for polish standard at 60 zloty – or about 13,5€. The price of admission includes a free audio guide which is actually pretty good and gives you a lot of stories about the castle as you go through the many large buildings.
The castle is huge so you should expect to spend at least 3 hours at the castle if you want to see everything. There are several smaller museums inside the castle. The most interesting of these museums is the amber museum which is a pretty high quality museum which would be an interesting destination in its own right if it wasn’t inside the walls of the castle.
The entrance to the castle is organized in slots so you need to buy a ticket for a certain hour and then show up at the beginning of the hour. The castle is pretty busy so you might have to wait for a while. There is a little old area where they have set up an eating area in an old style where you can buy some traditional polish food – supposedly it is fast-food but it takes very long for them to serve the food.