Reszel as we know it first took shape in 1241 when the Teutonic Knights bludgeoned their way into what was then the town of Resl, thereby sparking a bloody feud with a Prussian tribe called the Barts. It was the reapeated attacks of the Barts that prompted the invaders to build a fort, though in 1300 the knights were finally vanquished and slinked out of Reszel with their tail firmly between their legs. Herman of Prague awarded the city its Magdeburg Rights in 1337, and eleven years later work started on the Church of St. Peter and Paul. Today the church boasts a classical interior dating from the first half of the 19th century, and a 51 metre tower open to the paying public; bring a head for heights and a fearless attitude to rickety wooden stairwells.
The 14th century proved a busy time for Reszel. Work on a brick castle commenced in 1350, and it was also around this time that the Gothic bridge was added. Rebuilt and embellished over the course of history the bridge only regained its original look in 2000 – prior to that the high arches you now see were filled with brick, and the inside used as a prison; yup, that Swiss-cheese style hole above one of the arches once functioned as a medieval jail cell. Below the bridge check out the 18th century granary buildings, and don’t miss out on the baroque glories found in the Przemienienia Pańskiego Church.
Reszel escaped comparatively lightly during WWII, losing just 20% of its buildings, though the locals are by no means strangers to calamity. The early 19th century saw the town hit by a spate of arson attacks, and the Great Fire of 1806 left much of the town a smouldering pile of ruins. The people demanded justice, and they found their scapegoat in the comely shape of Barbara Zdunk. Before the fire the 40something lass had attracted attention on account of her fondness for teenage lads and black arts. That was all the evidence the locals needed, and Zdunk was promptly torched at the stake. Later evidence suggests the mob toasted the wrong person, and nowadays you’ll find the whining spectre of banshee Basia clunking round the corridors of the castle. Downtown Reszel rebuilt itself in classical style, though it’s still possible to glimpse Reszel through a medieval lens – take for example the building right outside the castle. Completed in 1444 it might look like a derelict mess, but this is actually the oldest surviving house in Reszel, and a former home for serving priests. Resist the temptation to break in, this place is ready to fall into the river behind.