Taplacken Castle in Taplaki (Gwardiejsk
Centuries ago, all around the village of Taplacken (formerly
called Dablak), swampy marshes stretched as far as an eye
could see. The marshes gave home to cranes, herons, frogs
and billions of mosquitoes. Up above in the sky, seagulls
and hawks, kings of the air, flew in circles. In winter, dense
fog hovered above the swamps. One could think than the whole
area was covered with a eiderdown, which preserved the warmth
of the earth. This may have been the reason why Baltic Prussians
named their tiny village at the edge of the marshes 'taplaken',
which meant 'warmth' or 'a warm place'.
Fighting endless wars with Lithuanians, the Teutonic Knights
decided to raise a fortress some 56 kilometres off Königberg,
which would separate the towns of Tapiau, Norkitten and Wehlau
from foreign attacks. In 1336, most probably ordered by the
then Grand Marshall of the Teutonic army, Heinrich Dusemer
von Arfberg, a 'regular manor' with a watchtower at the main
gate and an outer ward was constructed at the mouth of the
The stronghold had a regular geometrical shape, which was
in accord with the then existing fortification principles.
The location of Taplacken was advantageous in many ways. First
of all, the town was crossed by the main route from Königsberg,
which forked here into two branches: one leading to Tilsit
and the other one - to Insterburg. It was also here, in Taplacken,
that the shortest route to Labiau and Wehlau had its beginning.
In 1376, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Kęstutis, captured
and completely demolished the fortress. After that event,
the reconstructed fortress was 'dressed in stone', which made
it much stronger and safer. Under the Grand Master of the
Teutonic Order, Albrecht Hohenzollern, the fort was rebuilt
to appear more like a small castle. As the time went on, the
castle began to resemble a country house. Some twenty-four
cottages were built around the castle before 1820. The number
of the local population was about 250.
After World War Two, the village of Taplacken was populated
by new settlers from the Soviet Union. Its name was then changed
to Talpaki, which slightly resembled the original Baltic Prussian
name. At present, the remains of Taplacken Castle are visible
from the main road leading to the village.