The Warmia and Masuria province of Poland have a wealth of historical attractions to look at but not all of them are suitable for young children. How many kids like to be dragged around churches looking at vaulted ceilings and altars? My granddaughter always follows me when I go to photograph churches but she very rarely enters into one as she says that they are scary. On our second day of our family weekend we took a short drive to Kętrzyn so the kids could stretch their legs and have a mooch around.
It was a bit of a drizzly day but not too bad, it didn’t seem to bother them. Kętrzyn isn’t the most beautiful of towns in this area but it is very near to The Wolf’s Lair (Hitler’s Headquarters and bunker) and Święta Lipka which I have already mentioned. Our original plan was to visit Hitler’s place but the moment we arrived at the entrance, the heavens opened and there was a torrential storm. I knew that you had to walk through a forest trail to get to the bunker and as my grandchildren didn’t have rainwear on or with them due to the bright sunshine in Warsaw when we left, I wasn’t going to risk taking them through the forest to get soaked. We aborted this plan and decided to go to Kętrzyn.
As we drove into the town to find the castle I noticed a lot of people walking around in medieval costume. They were walking away from the castle so whether there had been a medieval enactment taking place, I am not sure. It was interesting to look at the gay and colourful costumes that were obviously not suitable for the rainy weather.
The town was founded in the 14th century by the Teutonic Knights and called Rastenburg. It remained Prussian until the Second World War and then became Polish and called .Kętrzyn There is still some trace of the Teutonic legacy in the shape and form of the brick castle which has been rebuilt several times on many occasions. Once into the rough cobbled courtyard you will see that a museum of the castle exists with a small souvenir shop. There are rows of benches which belong to the restaurant situated in the castle walls. My grandson liked running riot in the courtyard but I had to keep a keen eye on him, I didn’t want him to get too close to the barbecue that was alight. People seemed to be preparing for a big feast; there was a large rack to hang a pig or ox on. I think this was in relation to the people wearing costumes and perhaps they would return later to celebrate with food and drink.
The castle walls and tower aren’t in too bad a condition; the bricks look old rather than bright red. I think I prefer this look although I think some repointing needs doing. Ivy and a few trailing weeds seem to have found their way on to some of the iron balconies. It’s a nice castle and seems to be holding up well for its age.
As we came out of the courtyard, my son spied a shop selling local ales so off he wandered to have a look. At the same time I saw a monument outside a building that I liked the look of and asked my husband to mind the children for two minutes while I went across to take a few pictures. He sat both children on the windowsill of the shop which was narrow. He had to keep gently pushing them back so they didn’t roll off. They thought it was a game and enjoyed it. My son got his 4 bottles of local ale and I took the photographs I wanted.
We then strolled back to the car park outside the Gothic structure of St George’s Church. It was a bit of a walk up to the church entrance so I decided to rush on and take some photos by myself. Alicja wasn’t having any of it, she followed me but I didn’t notice until I heard my husband running up the road after her. He said that she wanted to come with me so hand in tow off we went.
The Church of St George is a large building with a Gothic tower. It’s had work done to the main structure and looks like new windows have been installed. It reminds me very much of the main parish church in Słupsk where we visited last year. The entrance is cute with a thick wooden door yet the embellishment on the turrets isn’t as ornate as it is on other Gothic churches in the area. At the back of the building I noticed that there was a mixture of building materials. Part of one of the towers had been started using boulders and stone then finished off with red brick. I only had a quick glimpse inside to look at the Baroque furnishings as my granddaughter didn’t want to venture inside. In front of the church is a small green area with a couple of wooden benches and a flower bed that was filled with pansies.
The bus and train station are both about 10 minutes away from the castle. There are no direct trains to Warsaw. You have to go to Olsztyn and change there. There is an overnight train to Gdansk and daily trains to other towns in Masuria like Giżycko and Węgorzewo. There is an express bus to Warsaw and Suwałki. There is a PKP local bus that goes to The Wolf’s Lair, also.
Times for the Castle Museum are: 10am – 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday and 9am – 4pm on Sunday.
Summary: It’s not the most atmospheric town in Warmia and Masuria but worth a look.