National Geographic : 1938 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE © Douglas Chandler FOR SIX CENTURIES MARIENBURG CASTLE HAS FROWNED ACROSS THE NOGAT The footbridge, surmounted by a high barbed-wire barricade, separates Polish soil from East Prussia. The sign warns against carrying goods across the boundary. Once the fortress was the headquarters of the Knights of the Teutonic Order (page 769), which had undertaken the conquest and conversion of the pagan Prussians. Late in the fourteenth century the Knights attained great power, but their influence declined after the Poles defeated them in 1410 at the Battle of Tannenberg. Aside from the two municipalities of Zoppot and Danzig, the territory of the Free City of Danzig includes two other sizable towns and 254 villages and ham lets-a total population of 407,000. FRONT PORCH AN INDEX OF WEALTH The farmhouses of Danzig and East Prussia, constructed with the barn as an integral part, have columns at the front, their number giving a clue to the owner's acreage. Danzig, once among the wealthiest of the Hansa cities, still is a place of unspoiled medieval beauty (page 773). The Stock Exchange meets daily in the Artushof, a magnificent 15th-century build ing. Within the great chamber of the Bourse are mural paintings used in the olden days as a test for wandering appren tices. To prove "back home" that he had really worked at his trade in Danzig, an appren tice had to be able to mention certain phe nomena among these murals, such as the maiden with the glass globe encircling her lovely head. The newcomer was required to measure with his arms the base of the huge white-tile stove which rises 20 feet toward the ceiling. Like the medieval apprentices, I stooped and spread out my arms to measure. Above my head a bell clanged as of old, to signal that I had unwittingly performed an act of obeisance before the rear end of Till Eu lenspiegel, a whimsical, moon-struck fel low of ancient German folk stories! BIRTHPLACE OF SCHOPENHAUER AND FAHRENHEIT During one of the interminable Hansa wars, a ship was captured and brought into Danzig. One item of its rich cargo was "The Last Judgment," painted by Mem ling in Brugge (Bruges) and destined for Florence. Except for the years 1807 to 1815 when Napoleon "borrowed" it and installed it in the Louvre, this canvas has remained, the greatest treasure of the Free City, in Dan zig's Church of St. Mary. I roamed the city's cobbled streets, 768 4.