The city of Gizycko (Ger. Lötzen) was founded as a village surrounding the Teutonic Order's castle, built around 1340. The castle was built during the reign of Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode, located in a strategic position - on the isthmus between Lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. It was a dwelling with a rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a wall, and functioned as a residence of the Teutonic Order's prosecutor. The castle was destroyed during the attacks of Lithuanians led by Prince Kiejstut, but was rebuilt by the Teutonic Knights soon after. The Thirteen Years' War caused much damage to both the castle and the settlement. After the secularisation in 1525, the castle became the princely administrator's seat and was reconstructed in Renaissance style, during 1613-1614.
In the 17th century the castle became private property. The new owner added two wings (destroyed by fire in the same century) for administrative purposes, and a building with a small cylindrical tower, which was destroyed in 1945. In the 19th century, part of the castle was pulled down, and only one four-storey dwelling wing with a saddle roof and a cellar with cruciform vault were left. The castle has remained in this form until today. It hosted, among others, general Dabrowski and his officers in 1807. It was temporarily used to house the builders of the Gizycki Canal, and served also as the Fortress Boyen Commandant's quarters. Today the remnants of the castle are in bad condition and are not being restored.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.