Polands great battle field: The meadow of bloody history

in Pinmapple3 months ago

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We are in Poland, a country near and far away at the same time. What adventures are waiting there? Today we are starting our tour on the Krutynia, the most beautiful paddling river in Europe. Today we're visiting the battle field of Tannenberg, also known as Grunwald.

You can read the first part here, second here3 here and 4 here and the 5 here, 6 here and more here and here and here and here and here

The comeback of the knightsThe comeback of the knights

They flock from all over the country to the middle of nowhere near Olsztynek, a small town in the middle of Poland. Some wear knight's armor, many have flags with them. Women have put on medieval dresses, men leather vests and breeches. It's summer and it's another anniversary when all of Poland is celebrating.

The field camp of the modern knightsThe field camp of the modern knights

Here on this meadow in the nothingness, in the middle of a gentle hilly landscape, lies the historic battlefield where a Polish-Lithuanian army led by King Władysław II and Grand Duke Witold devastatingly defeated the Teutonic Knights led by Ulrich von Jungingen on July 15, 1410. The lost battle, the loss of image and the financial consequences eventually led to the downfall of the Order's state. What is Poland today was created on the ruins of the Knights' Empire.

The knight on the left, the spears on the rightThe knight on the left, the spears on the right

A hill in the middle

It is not too impressive a terrain. A wide meadow, a hill in the middle, a tower and large steel poles reaching into the sky. But every year "knights" gather here, traveling from all over Europe to re-enact the events of yesteryear on the anniversary of one of the greatest battles of the Middle Ages.

The spears from the groundThe spears from the ground

They fill the meadows, gathering under standards of their armies. There is a carnival and parades, tent cities and shopping streets where you can buy "Grunwald kitsch" in every imaginable form, and a small "village" with craftsmen, musicians and medieval cuisine. When the spectacle was broadcast live on television in 2010, over 30,000 visitors and 1500 "knights" gathered for the largest festival of its kind in Europe.

The chief of the heroesThe chief of the heroes

This year, the sun shines over the place that has seen so much blood. Not only the battle 600 years ago took place here, but in 1914 another battle that set everything straight again from the German point of view. The German commander Paul von Hindenburg's army achieved a military coup. In a high-risk maneuver, the Germans had surrounded and destroyed the army of the Russian commander Smasonov. Afterwards, they counted 5,000 German casualties, but over 140,000 prisoners and dead among the Russians.

The mythical dimensions

Hindenburg was now considered a genius and it was he who gave the name of the battle won to the one lost in the Middle Ages. The military man, who always demonstrated a keen sense of the political and mythical dimensions of history, thus erased the crushing defeat of the Knights of the Teutonic Order.

The flags of the brothers in arms.The flags of the brothers in arms. 

Tannenberg now stood for the revenge: the extermination of the historical opponent. However, the battle at the end of August 1914, which had been exaggerated to mythical proportions, did not take place at Tannenberg at all, but south of Allenstein. Tannenberg, which today is called Stebark in Polish, was located on the edge of the main battlefield. To commemorate the victories in the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, the German Reich had the Tannenberg Monument erected near Hohenstein (today: Olsztynek, Poland) in 1927.

Under a clear blue skyUnder a clear blue sky

The "Hero of Tannenberg"

The two victories had created an unprecedented war cult around Hindenburg as the "Hero of Tannenberg." In 1925 he was elected president of the Weimar Republic. The purpose of the falsification of history, General Ludendorff wrote in his memoirs, was a response to the Polish Grunwald myth.

Spears, not BritneySpears, not Britney

No reason not to cultivate the myth. In 1934, Hindenburg was buried here, a huge memorial building was erected, along with the "Mauzoleum Hindenburga," as the Poles call it, and the green meadow thus became a place of pilgrimage.

Swords, not made of steelSwords, not made of steel

Architecturally, this largest German war memorial was a mixture of the Celtic Stonehenge in England and the medieval castle Castel del Monte of Emperor Frederick II in Italy. Built on an octagonal plan, one tower emphasized the center of each long side. The towers were intended to serve various functions, including a church consecration hall, an East Prussian museum of local history and a youth hostel.

Have a break, knightHave a break, knight

The battle over the battle field

The Nazi regime used the Tannenberg Monument for its propaganda and the glorification of war. After extensive reconstruction work and at enormous propaganda expense, the funeral of Reich President Hindenburg, who had died shortly before, took place there on August 7, 1934. It was a battle over the battle filed: The germans call it "Tannenberg", the polish side named it "Grunwald". First the one side builds statues. Later the other side killed them and build their own. 

The remains of two great battlesThe remains of two great battles

On this occasion, Adolf Hitler had the site renamed the "Reichsehrenmal Tannenberg". But in 1945 the next victors came. German sappers blew up the memorial in front of the advancing Russian troops to protect it from their revenge on Hitler's orders.

Take a knight with youTake a knight with you

When Poland ruled over Grunwald again, stones of the Grunwald monument, erected in 1910 and blown up by the German Nazis in 1939, were brought here from Krakow and partially reassembled at some distance from the new monument. All that remained of the Hindenburg Mausoleum was meadow, and all that can be seen next to it are the foundation walls of a chapel and an obelisk, which supposedly mark the spot where Ulrich von Jungingen was slain.

The polish eagleThe polish eagle

Massive tower with face

These remains are surmounted by a newly built massive tower, which bears the face of a medieval knight and looks wickedly into the area. The giant symbolizes the victors of 1410 and it towers over the remains of the victors of 1914.

Flags of historyFlags of history

Next to the obelisk there is a stele made of connected metal bars symbolizing the lances of the Polish and Lithuanian armies. Poland has now also donated a modern museum building to this chapter of history, on which there is a tribune for viewing the battle array recreated three-dimensionally in stone.

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A few more pictures for you:

Wide angleWide angle The place to beThe place to be Flag of knifesFlag of knifes
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I find your pictures very exciting and they give an insight into the story. The dramatic sky also fits wonderfully.

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Thank you. It seems like a shodow of this cruel history to me.

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I had the opportunity a few years ago to visit Poland, I loved this country, especially its history, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp remained in my heart.

Congratulations @koenau! You received the biggest smile and some love from TravelFeed! Keep up the amazing blog. 😍 Your post was also chosen as top pick of the day and is now featured on the TravelFeed.io front page.

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Thank you for sharing.This is so nice virtual tour to this historic placd.Very informative.

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That's for sure a great place to come to learn about history of the country. I love the idea that people turn it into a camping place.

It was an interesting place with interesting history.. Thanks for the tour 😊

Thank you all for reading my thoughts about this place. It's a pleasure to be here.