The Boyen Fortress in Giżycko was built between 1843 and 1855 as a point of strategic importance as it blocked the pass between lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. In early April 1843, King Frederick Wilhelm IV gave the order to start construction of the fortress. A plan was developed according to which an earth-and-brick fort was to be erected on the plan of a hexagon. The fort was to be connected with the mainland by four access roads, and the entire structure was to be surrounded by a 2303m long wall. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone, which took place on 4 September 1844, was the beginning of the proper construction of the fortress.
In 1846, a decision was made to honour one of the supporters and initiators of the fortress, General von Boyen, by naming the fortress after him. Its bastions were named Hermann, Ludwig, Leopold (all of which were the General’s given names) as well as Schwert, Recht and Licht (which stood for the symbols that could be found in the General’s coat of arms, i.e. Sword, Law and Light).
The Fortress was designed for a garrison of approximately 3000 soldiers. The Giżycko Garrison was formed in 1859. From 1889 on, Giżycko served as the Commander’s Post, and in 1902, the Fortress Boyen came to house an artillery arsenal.
On the brink of World War I, the natural ground formations combined with the battlements erected near the fortress were to fend off the Russian Army, which was about to enter Eastern Prussia, until the situation was decided on the western front. At that point, the fort in Giżycko also played a key role in the military mobilisation in Mazuria, and once the mobilisation was complete and most of the forces marched out of Giżycko, the town was left with a party of about 4000 soldiers commanded by Colonel Busse. The party carried out numerous raids on the units of the approaching Russian Army, and later, in August 1914, effectively defended the Boyen Fortress against the Russian offensive.
After World War I, the function of the fortress was changed to include, for instance, a hospital within its walls. Just before World War 2, the Boyen Fortress was one of the gathering points of the German Army, which later invaded the territory of Poland from Eastern Prussia. The crew of the Lötzen Fortress was part of the Nord Army pushing towards Mława and Modlin and fought in numerous battles, including that on The Wizna River. During the war, the fort served as a training centre for soldiers from General Vlasov’s army, who had defected to the German side. When the town was attacked in January 1945, the Fortress was abandoned without resistance.
In 1945, the Boyen Fortress was taken over by the Polish Army, which used it to a limited extent. In the 1950s, a decision was made to use the fort as a location for a number of food companies, which resulted in much transformation and a lot of damage, and, most importantly, the construction of new buildings which differed greatly from the fort’s original architecture. This situation continued until the early 1990s, when most of the companies were closed down. It is since than that the Boyen Fortress has been a popular tourist destination.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.