It is almost impossible to describe Malbork. Saying that it the biggest Teutonic castle in Europe and one of the UNESCO heritage sites, does not do justice to this amazing place. The castle is situated by the river Vistula and started life in the middle of the 13th century as a monastry. Further expansion took place and following the expulsion of the knights from Palestine, they finally moved to Malbork in 1309 and made it their headquarters. Further building took place, but in the middle of the 15th century when the Polish people started to rebel against the knights oppression, the castle was eventually taken over and used as the seat of Polish government. The castle fell into disrepair and by 1772 was being used as barracks for the army of Frederick II. The building also became the source for building material for local builders. Things got worse but in 1804 under the pressure of public opinion, renovation work was begun.
Much of the early building was completely lost, but old documents were found and preservation and redecoration continued. But the recurring thread of this journey, the 2nd world war, played a big part in the castles history. During this time many of the treasures went missing, although much of it had been sent to Canada before the war.
Towards the end of the war, the castle was almost totally destroyed. At this time the German troops were using the castle for its original purpose and the Russian armies almost destroyed the castle in their attempt to rid the country of the enemy.
Immediately after the war Poland set up a commission to preserve the castle. The first steps were to stabilise what was there and then to start on its renovation. Work has continued and although about 50% of the building was destroyed during the war, the castle is back to its pre-war condition. The restoration work has been carried out so well that it is quite difficult to see where the original meets the new. The most obvious difference is that the patterns built into the original castle are missing in some of the new parts.
We stayed in the hotel, which is part of the original castle buildings, and after dinner we were able to walk round the outside of the castle. Itís impossible to describe the size but it will leave a lasting impression on us.
Our holiday ended in Gdansk, which is about an hours drive from Malbork. No more castles here but a lovely city to visit.
I have mentioned what started us off on this tour and Iíd like to expand on my hobby.
Poland and the Czech republic have a history of producing card models, there are many reasons why this hobby established itís self here. For many years the plastic models of the west and Japan would have been too expensive for most people. Thankfully for people like me the companies who publish these models continue to bring out new kits and have improved the printing and paper quality over the years.
A company called GPM produce a series of books, they contain the pages of the kit and the construction instructions. There is also a history of the subject. Unfortunately the pages are in Polish so I have to rely on guidebooks for the history.
Building these kits is a matter of cutting out the various pieces, folding them to shape and gluing them together. It sounds quite simple but, in the case of Malbork, there are hundreds of pieces and the final model took over 150 hours to complete. GPM make kits of many castles and the models were the incentive for the holiday and now act as an unusual reminder of an interesting holiday.
GPM have their own web site at www.gpm.pl. Their kits can be found in most shops that sell card models, and the best place to start looking is to use your favourite search engine and type in card models.
Card makes an ideal medium for architectural models and there are many other publishers, especially in Germany and France who create kits of their countries mansions and castles.
Have you visited a castle?