Friday, May 19, 2006

Gdynia to Warsaw via Malbork Castle

We're wrapping up the trip, there was a lot of driving today. We left Gdynia around 8:30, with the sun finally pouring through the sky (after three days of fog and rain). A few hours later, we arrived at Malbork castle, former residence of the Teutonic Knights. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest places we've visited yet. It's one of the most heavily fortified defenses you'll ever see, there are two moats and multiple walls, drawbridges with assault areas, everything. The guide who showed us around started every other sentence with "In case of an attack...", demonstrating all the defense possibilities. The Knights were an interesting bunch — at the time, essentially fighting monks. The place is laid out with so much thought, it's incredible. There's a central heating system, waste control for disease prevention, efficient and beautiful rooms everywhere... and In its modern incarnation, as a museum of sorts, it's really well laid out. There is so much history everywhere, and everything has a little story associated with it. For example, in the main "ballroom", or dining room, there was a cannonball stuck in the wall. Apparently, a few hundred years ago, there was an assassination attempt on the head Knight. They were all having a meeting, and someone tried to hit the single column in the middle of the room, trying to collapse the roof. They missed (obviously), but not by much. I'm sure the would-be-assassins outside the city walls were hunted down and slaughtered. Another one of the rooms was full of amber: the knights, when they were in control of the area, took control of the amber trade and hoarded a ton of it. One of the pieces on display had a huge air bubble inside it, maybe the size of my thumb — think how old the air is inside there. After that visit, we had some great soup and Beef Stroganoff at the nearby Restauracja Zamek.

Random observation of the day: The United States is slowly invading Poland. Normally, everything here costs some full number of złotys (10, 20, 2, etc.) I saw a sign for Pizza Hut, and it's 19,90 for a pizza. That extra 90 grosze are going to kill peoples pockets with change.

Random Polish oddity: All the light switches here are big panels you put pressure on. I have yet to see an American light switch. It's very elegant, but disconcerting.

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