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:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.