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Tuesday, 20 April 2021   weather



Giżycko’s most interesting monument of exceptional historic value and tourist appeal is the Boyen Fortress. It is a rare example of a 19th century Prussian-school fortification and is one of the best preserved monuments of defensive architecture of the 19th century in Poland. The foundation stone for the construction was laid on 4 September 1844. In honour of the services of the contemporary Prussian minister of war general Hermana von Boyen, who promoted the idea of the fortress, on 24 December 1846, the fortress was named “Feste Boyen”. The estate covers an area of nearly 100 hectares. It is in the shape of an irregular hexagram with a courtyard in the centre. The shape is determined by a five-metre 3.3 km long brick-and-stone wall, called Carnot’s Wall, a dry moat and inner and outer embankments. Each of the six corners of the star is a bastion. Three of them are named after the given names of General Boyen, i.e. Leopold, Ludwig and Herman, the others being the features of his coat of arms: Schwert (Sword), Recht (Law) and Licht (Light). The entrance to it is secured by two-element gates with neo-gothic details. The main gate, called The Giżycka Gate, is the most prominent. The water entrance from the side of Lake Niegocin was once secured by The Water Gate, which has been out of use since the railway line was opened and the canal was buried. Inside there was an arsenal, exercise buildings, stables, a blacksmith’s shop, workshops, two granaries and a carrier pigeon station capable of keeping up to 700 pigeons. The year 1855 is officially recognised as the date when the fortress was completed. The Boyen Fortress, which was never conquered, now serves as a summer entertainment centre, where, in the picturesque scenery of the amphitheatre, various concerts and festivals are held, such as the already renowned “Shanties in Giżycko” Sailing and Maritime Song Festival. There is also a youth hostel, a museum, a vintage motorcycle club, a diving club and a radio station. The fortress is best visited with a tour guide.

The Teutonic Castle was erected in the first half of the 14th century along the strategic canal which divides the town in two. It was inhabited by the Order’s local official, and after the secularisation of Prussia in 1525 and the establishment of a secular state called The Duchy of Prussia, it was the seat of the starost. In the 17th century, two lower wings (consumed by fire in the 18th century) were added for utility purposes and a low cylindrical tower, which survived until 1945. In 1807, it served as the headquarters for General Dąbrowski and his staff. Until the end of WWII, the castle formed one defensive complex together with the fortress. After the war, the castle served as a hotel. The castle as can be seen today is a four-storey rectangular building.

The turning bridge, built in 1860, is a unique structure of this kind in Poland and just one of two in Europe. It is situated on the Łuczański Canal and was designed to facilitate the communication of the Boyen Fortress with the town. The bridge’s moving span, which is 20 m long, 8 m wide and weighs over 100 tons, turns to the side, rather than upwards. It has always been operated manually by just one person.

In Giżycko’s urban development plan, churches of various religions play a special role. What is worth seeing is the neo-classical Evangelical Church, typical of Mazurian architecture. It was designed by the Berlin-based architect Karol Frederic Schinkel, who also designed numerous other churches and palaces. The Evangelical Church is the venue for international organ concerts which are held there every Sunday in the summer.

The oldest Catholic church is St Bruno’s Church at Pionierska Street, consecrated in 1938. It was designed for the military by Martin Weber. Its military character is emphasized by some elements of the interior and the tower clock, in which the time face system and the hands are made with bayonets. The peak of the frontage is decorated with a mosaic featuring St Bruno surrounded by Prussian troops. The church stands on a small elevation reinforced with an erratic boulder wall. 

In what now serves as a hospital in Warszawska Street, opened for use in September 1910 as The Diakonis “Bethanien” Mazurian House, there is a hospital chapel. Until the end of WWII, the building was maintained by evangelical nuns and served patients. All that was left from the original interior is the pulpit, the decorative floor, the choir stalls, the remains of its stained glass windows and the roof bonding. The chapel also used to extend over what is now the hospital television room for patients confined to wheelchairs. Its interior is still decorated with mouldings and subtly sculpted wooden panels. In the windows, one can still see the stained glass windows featuring the date 1910 and the author.  

Apart from six Catholic churches, the hospital chapel and the Evangelical church, Giżycko also has a Baptist church, a Pentecostal church, an Orthodox church and a Uniate church, the last of which serves as the venue for annual concerts of The Orthodox Music Festival and The Ukrainian Culture Days.   

In Giżycko, one can still admire traditional 19th century municipal tenement houses, some of which are situated in Pionierska and Dąbrowskiego Streets. They form a densely built-up row of red-brick terraced houses with neo-gothic decorations.

While in Warszawska Street, one should see the mid-19th century building of the present day “Mała Galeria”, the court house dated 1865 and The Social Welfare House (formerly an orphanage) dated 1867. In 1 Maja Street there is a school building dated from 1891 and a former hospital, i.e. the tenement house (with a cross) dated 1897 in Konarskiego Street.

The Water Tower was built in 1900 entirely of red unplastered bricks in the neo-gothic style with interesting external vaulting around its crown and two coats of arms over the entrance: one Mazurian and one municipal to emphasise its being part of the region. The water reservoir in the tower distributed water to all the dwellings for 97 years. Nowadays, following the great reconstruction of the interior and adding a dome and three additional floors and extending the viewing platform with telescopes, the tower has become Giżycko’s most unique tourist attraction. To reach the top, one has to climb 129 steps (or use the lift). The highest floor of the tower is 162 m above sea level and it houses a café. From this height, one can truly appreciate the panorama of the town and the surrounding areas with lakes and forests – a typical Mazurian landscape. The inside the tower houses the local museum with exhibits that illustrate the past life of the local people.

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