I’ve been looking forward to today’s visit to Gdańsk. Having studied East European Studies, a visit to the European Solidarity Centre is my highlight of the trip.
I did not sleep well; yesterday’s pierogi gave me wicked indigestion. But at least the hot water is back so I can have a bath. Suitably refreshed, we set off on the 7/S7/E77/DK7 ‘sometimes I’m a road sometimes I’m a motorway’ combo.
It takes 4 hours to reach Gdańsk – we have now driven the length of Poland, from the Tatras to the Baltic. Today the old man refuses to stop en route, so by the time we arrive, I am so thirsty I feel like I’m going to shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Gdańsk holds a pivotal place in European history. As the German city of Danzig it was a major port and shipbuilder. After WW1, it became part of Poland. In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, Gdańsk was at the top of his ‘to do’ list. In fact, the first shots of WWII were fired here. Then in the 1980s, Lech Walesa’s Solidarność Movement was the catalyst to ending Communism in Eastern Europe.
head straight to the European Solidarity Centre; a museum charting the Polish Solidarity Movement which was so pivotal in the overthrow of Communism and the shaping of today’s political landscape. Admission includes headsets which provide a 2 hour guided tour through the exhibition, giving details about the history of Solidarity. I find it fascinating. The old man opts for a whistle stop tour, then plays Candy Crush in the lobby until I’m ready to leave.
There’s plenty of memorabilia; items from the shipyard, Lech Walesa’s Solidarity membership card, the crane he stood on to speak to workers, the shipyard gates crushed by the militia, the popemobile Pope John Paul used on his visit, etc. I spend hours wandering around, taking it all in.
Once I’m finally done, it’s time to check in to our hotel. We have received a message from them saying that it is a ‘very new’ hotel and they ‘hope we are up to the challenge’. Sounds ominous. I suspect it translates to ‘you’re sleeping in a building site.’ ‘We did warn you.’ But it’s actually really nice. We’re on an island in the river which consists mainly of derelict warehouses, obviously just starting to
We buy some picnic stuff and have lunch on our balcony before walking to the old town. It’s really pretty. The waterfront is lined with original Hanseatic merchant buildings and modern conversions which add to the charm. There’s even the Zuraw, a 15th Century crane and lots of old ships. Inland there are more beautiful buildings including the town hall and St Mary’s Church. To be honest, all the buildings are beautiful, (and tall) so I wander around with my camera in the air taking hundreds of photos, wishing we’d arranged to stay more than one night here. But we have to move on tomorrow so that we’re in a town beginning with Z by Saturday.
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