A town of 30,000 people in the Great Masurian Lakes District, Ketrzyn has several historic sights and other traces of its Teutonic past. While the town is worth visiting for its own sake, it is also ideally situated for touring the Great Lakes, the castle in Reszel and the Pilgrimage Sanctuary in Swieta Lipka. The village of Gierloz, lying just 8 km east of Ketrzyn, was the location of Hitler’s wartime headquarters known as the Wolf’s Lair.
Arguably the biggest attraction in Ketrzyn is the Teutonic castle, now housing the municipal library and the Wojciech Ketrzynski Museum (named after a local patriot). The museum collects and exhibits documents and scientific artefacts from the area. It also features historical and modern art exhibitions.
Upwards of 200,000 people visit Ketrzyn annually, exploring the several mediaeval churches and other interesting historical buildings, including the Freemasons Lodge, the Town Hall and the remnants of the fortifications. What is more, this town set amidst beautiful countryside enables you to combine sightseeing with relaxation, and helps you to get in touch with nature.
Not far from the town are several must-see places to visit: the former wartime headquarters of Hitler in Gierloz (9 km from Ketrzyn), the Baroque Jesuit Monastery in Swieta Lipka (12 km) as well as the medieval town of Reszel (18 km). The two lakes closest to Ketrzyn are the Moj and the Siercze. A flight by balloon over Ketrzyn and its neighbourhood is an opportunity that should definitely be considered.
A town in northeastern Poland, in the northern part of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship, Ketrzyn has a total urban and rural area of 1034 ha. It is conveniently located at the crossroads of several routes leading to other towns of the region, including Wegorzewo, Mragowo, Bartoszyce and Gizycko. From here, the Polish-Russian border crossing in Bezledy can be reached by driving 60 km north.
Ketrzyn is situated on the river Guber. In and around the town the ground surface is greatly diversified as a result of the last glaciation period. The region abounds with lakes and forests.
The foundation of the town of Ketrzyn, or Rastenburg as it was once called, goes back to the 14th century. It was established by the Order of Teutonic Knights, after they had captured a local Prussian settlement known as Rast. At that time, on the site of the future brick-built castle was a timber watchtower. Around it, a settlement developed, which received urban rights in 1357. Shortly after that began the building of St George’s Church, the castle and the battlements.
In the 15th century, the inhabitants of Ketrzyn rose up against oppression of the Teutonic Order and in 1444 they united with some other Prussian towns, thus forming the Prussian Union. In 1454 the rebels seized the castle of the Teutonic Knights and paid homage to the king of Poland, Wladyslaw Jagiellonczyk. Yet within a year Ketrzyn was ceded back to the Order as a result of the second Peace Treaty of Torun, signed by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and the Polish King.
During the 16th and early 17th century – between the secularisation of the Order in 1525 and the outbreak of the Polish-Swedish war in 1628 – the town enjoyed a period of great prosperity. The war, followed by contributions, plagues and fires, ravaged Ketrzyn. A second golden era began at the end of the 19th century with the opening up of new road and rail links. In addition, the town’s crafts and industries started to develop very dynamically at this time. Damaged during bombing in 1942 (Hitler’s headquarters was nearby), in January 1945 Ketrzyn was captured and ruined by the Red Army. Sadly, the Old Town has never been fully restored to its former grandeur.