Balga was a medieval castle of the Teutonic Knights. The hill of Balga had been the site of an Old Prussian (Warmian) fortress called Honeda, that had been unsuccessfully besieged by the Wettin margrave Henry III of Meissen on his 1237 Prussian Crusade. It was conquered in 1239 by the forces of the Teutonic Order, led by Grand Marshal Dietrich von Bernheim.
The oldest Ordensburg constructed by the Teutonic Order was built from 1239 to control naval traffic on the Vistula Lagoon. With the assistance of Duke Otto I of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the Knights defeated the Old Prussians along the coastline of Warmia and Natangia. The subjugation of these pagans led Duke Świętopełk II of Pomerania to declare war against the Order during the 1242 Prussian uprising, although he was forced to acquiesce. From 1250 Balga was the administrative centre of Kommende Balga and the seat of a Komtur of the Teutonic Knights. Many Komturs at Balga like Winrich von Kniprode or Ulrich von Jungingen later rose to the office of the Grand Master.
In 1499 Grand Master Friedrich von Sachsen had the commandery dissolved. Upon the Prussian Homage, Balga was part of the Polish Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and the castle became the residence of George of Polentz, Bishop of Samland. From 1627, parts of the castle were broken down at the behest of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the Polish–Swedish War in order to gain building material for the construction of the Baltiysk (Pillau) fortress.
Balga was also the name of the nearby village, after 1945 renamed Vesyoloye, which is now abandoned. Until the end of World War II Balga was in the former German Province of East Prussia; it was the site of one of the final battles of the Wehrmacht with advancing Red Army forces during the East Prussian Offensive, which devastated the castle remains.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.