Published: August 7th 2011July 4th 2011
The old town
The old town was founded in the Middle Ages
A holiday in Gdansk...
In early June there was a national holiday in Sweden which gave us a few days off from work. We then flew to Gdansk in northern Poland and visited a few places.
The first day on this trip we remained in Gdansk itself. We walked around and enjoyed the lovely historical centre or, if you prefer, the old town. The old town was founded in the Middle Ages and was part of the trade union Hanseatic League
which was a very powerful economical alliance in northern Europe from the mid 14th century to the late 16th century. The old town was badly damaged during World War II but was restored to its former splendour in the decades following the war. Today the city centre is lined with cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours and a very good place to start a visit in Gdansk.
One of the buildings in Gdansk used to house a water powered mill for making flour to an adjacent bakery. The mill was taken into service in the year 1350 and was in continuous operation until 1945. The mill was actually in use for 595 years! That is very long
The old town
Gdansk was part of Hanseatic League, a powerful economical alliance in northern Europe from the mid 14th century to the late 16th century
Just outside Gdansk we visited a peninsula called Westerplatte
. At Westerplatte German forces started to bombard Polish forces on September 1, 1939. That action can be said to mark the beginning of World War II. On the peninsula there are memorials over the (Polish) soldiers who died in the battle, remains of a few military barracks bombed into ruins by the Germans, memorial plaques and signs with information on the event that took place there in the end of the 1930-ies.
A funny coincidence that we less than a year ago visited the place
where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and action that can be said to mark the beginning of World War I.
We didn't actually stay in Gdansk proper the days we were in Poland. We stayed in a suburb called Oliwa. But thanks to the good train communications that was not a problem. In fact we really enjoyed it in Oliwa and we can recommend the youth hostel there.
In Oliwa there are a few places worth visiting. There is palace with a park and a nice looking church. Just outside Oliwa there is an old ironworks preserved.
The old town
The old town was badly damaged during World War II but was restored to its former splendour in the decades following the war
visit a few other places too in Gdansk on this visit. The shipyard, a memorial over workers who were killed during political protests in 1970, a museum over the Solidarity Union and the protests against communism in early 1980-ies. But we have decided to keep this blog entry short and will therefore not write more about any of that here.
During the time we were in Poland we also rented a car and travelled around a bit. The rest of this blog entry will be about the places we went to then.
...and outside Gdansk
From Gdansk we drove down to a city called Malbork where we saw the world heritage listed Malbork Castle
. It is a very large castle that was build during the Middle Ages. The castle was built in many different stages. First they built one section, then half a century later they added a new section, and half a century another one. So today the castle is like a big maze. We liked Malbork Castle a lot and we ended up spending several hours there.
After Malbork we drove south to the city Kwidzyn. There we stopped and had
The old town
We walked around and enjoyed the lovely historical centre
a look at another castle. After that we drove back to Gdansk again.
We also visited a few places north of Gdansk. Along the coast there are three cities lying after each other, Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia. Sopot is popular spa and summer resort. When we walked around in Sopot we guessed that it has been a place people have visited for recreation for more than a hundred years. It had that magical feeling that resorts towns from the early 20th century have. We can't really describe what it is that makes them special, but it is something.
Sopot supposedly has the longest wooden pier in Europe. We saw it but never walked out on it. They actually charged an entrance fee to walk out on the pier and that was something we were not willing to pay. Sopot may have the longest wooden pier in Europe, but not the best. A much stronger competitor to that title is Brighton Pier
. Ake visited Brighton many years ago and he loved the pier.
Sopot also has a very odd house in the city centre. It is called Krzywy Domek
or the Crooked House and is very Gaudí-esque in
The old town
Today the city centre is lined with cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours. Trust us, the ice cream is really good
style. It looks a lot like Casa Milá in Barcelona. Follow this link
and you will find a photo of Casa Mila as a comparison.
In Gdynia we didn't find much of interest. But we took one photo there that we would like to add to the blog. People who have never been to Poland often picture hotels there as grey concrete complexes from the communist era. In Gdynia we did actually find such a hotel but we would like to add that it is not what Poland really is like. Poland is a beautiful country with wonderful cities, nice parks, fabulous countryside and great national parks. Big steel works, large suburbs with concrete high-rise buildings exist but are probably more rare in Poland than in your own country.
North of Gdansk there is a strange looking peninsula called Hel Peninsula
. It is well over 30 km long but at some places it not much more than 100 meters wide. The peninsula is made of sand brought to this place by currents in the Baltic Sea. This sand probably originates from Sweden. If the sand really comes from Sweden, couldn't it be argued that the entire peninsula is
Lech Wałęsa's office
Lech Wałęsa, the leader of the trade union Solidarity, used to have an office in this house in the old town
The town at the tip of the peninsula is called Hel. We made a stop at Hel railway station and took a photo. Partly because we on the blog already have a photo of Hell railway station
in Norway. When we visit a town with that name we just had to stop and take a silly photo. Well, you can see the photo for yourself.
When we drove from Hel back to Gdansk we made a short stop at a village named Mochowo. We had heard that there was a cave in that village and we wanted to see that. We found it but it was nothing like we had imagined. It was very small, very narrow and not more than a few meters deep as far as we could see. It didn't really look like a cave so we are not sure that it was a cave at all. We think that it actually might be fake. We think the villagers actually might have dug a hole in the ground, called it a cave and now charge a fee of every sucker who comes around to see it. Well, we had a good laugh at
Lech Wałęsa: Former trade-union organizer, former president of Poland, 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and beer brand
it so we can't really say that we were disappointed. But it really was a tourist trap.
As we said before, we stayed in a suburb named Oliwa. One of the other suburbs is called Wrzeszcz. Try to say that ten times fast.
There are more photos below