The first thing you'll notice about the old town in Malbork, which can trace its history back to the XIV century, is that it no longer exists. After spending 30 minutes wandering around with a map trying to find it, the fact that you're in it suddenly, somewhat depressingly, dawns on you. Almost completely destroyed during fierce fighting between the retreating Germans and the Red Army towards the end of WWII, the communist town planners set about demolishing what was left of the old town (usable bricks were shipped off to help re-build the old towns of Gdansk and Warsaw) and then rebuilding the area with gay abandon. They put up large modern tenement blocks where the original medieval buildings had stood leaving the few surviving structures to stand amongst these new blocks as if they had been dropped into the landscape from outer space. Because of its tragic modern history there are many towns and cities in Poland whose pre-war beauty was destroyed during WWII to be replaced by functional concrete structures that aged badly. However in all our time writing guides in Poland we have never seen the damage caused by WWII so clearly demonstrated. Particularly poignant are old photographs of the bustling pre-war town centre (which was set around what is now Trakt Jana Pawla II (A-2) which can be seen inside the Old Town Hall (Ratusz Staromieskie) and then to compare them to the deserted streets you’ll find today on what is now an old, but cleaned-up, housing development with communist-era shopping arcade. That said, what little that did survive WWII is worth hunting down.