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Published: July 10th 2014
Always Need to Look Out for Fishing Nets
that are marked by these poles with colored flags
Next stop in Poland was the city of Gdańsk, a city that has been fought over since its beginning in the year 997. It developed as a port over the centuries with the Germans arrived from Lübeck in the early 13th
century, the first of many to come. The Teutonic Order (a group of warrior monks, similar to the Templar order in many ways came to this part of Europe to spread the teaching of the Catholic Church often resorting to the sword as the primary means of education) in 1308 seized the city and turned it into a major trade center joining the Hanseatic League in 1361. After losing a significant battle in 1410 the Teutonic Order began to lose its hold on this part of Poland. The local population in 1454 decided that they would prefer to pledge allegiance to the Polish monarchy and razed the Teutonic Knights castle. By the mid-16th
century Gdańsk was Poland’s largest city with a population of 40,000 and was a major trading center in central Europe. They were able to stave off the Swedes in the 1650s, but by 1793 Prussia had annexed the city. A mere 14 years later in 1807 the Napoleonic
While Sailing to Gdańsk
A few of the lighthouses and the shoreline as we were sailed by
army ousted the Prussians with its Polish allies. In 1805 it went back under Prussian control and eventually became part of Germany.
After Germany’s defeat in WWI, the Treaty of Versailles gave the newly formed country of Poland a strip of land stretching to Gdańsk to give it an outlet to the sea. However, Gdańsk itself was not included and was designated as the Free City of Danzig with protection from the League of Nations. The majority of the population at this time was German and once Hitler came to power it was effectively a German port although surrounded by Poland.
The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fired the first shots on the Polish military post in Gdańsk thus starting the invasion of Poland and triggering the beginning of World War II. Nazi Germany used the local shipyards for building warships using Poles as forced labor. The Red Army arrived in March 1945 liberating Poland from Nazi Germany. Unfortunately the Russians saw the city of Gdańsk as a German city which resulted in the total destruction of the city and the fleeing of the German residents. As you can see by some of the photos the Russian army did its
best to level the city. After years of having the Nazis do their best to destroy the leadership of Poland upon the arrival of the Russians, Stalin did his best to deport most of the intelligentsia of Poland to Siberia. Political leaders, teachers and religious leaders were rounded up and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. Stalin then encouraged large numbers of Russian citizens to move into the major cities of Poland (and other satellite countries they took over after World War II) to work in the factories established by the Russian government. The problems currently plaguing the Ukraine are a direct result of Stalin’s policies after World War II.
What you now see in the city is the result of major reconstruction on the main town over a 20 year period starting in 1949 with additional work continuing until the 1990s. It is hard to believe what they were able to accomplish but it is obvious that they took great pride in their city and their heritage. As you walk through the city many of the buildings have been carefully reconstructed using photographs and historical documents. There are some parts of the city where you see new construction
We dipped our ensign as a sign of respect
when passing this monument that commemorates the men who died when first shots of WWII were fired.
which has a similar look to the old buildings but we were told these sections could not be authentically returned to their original form because of lack of documentation.
Many of you may know the city of Gdańsk as a result of the Solidarity movement led by Lech Walesa in 1980. Walesa later became the first freely elected president in postwar Poland. He still is very active in the workings of the city and maintains an office in the impressive historic Green Gate.
To enter Gdańsk you must travel down a channel past the shipyards and a monument commemorating the men who died when the first shots of WWII were fired. Tradition calls for all ships passing to dip their ensign when passing the memorial which of course we did as a matter of respect. With this being a large port for Poland we passed numerous large ships, but the one that definitely got our attention was one that was making it around a curve in the river with the aid of two tugboats. We caught some of it on video which hopefully will show you how the one in the rear “skated sideways”to pull the stern of
Huge cranes are located here
for working on the large ships that come in to this port
the ship around the curve. We knew that tugboats were powerful but seeing it working up this close and personal gave us a real respect for what they can do.
It was great to be greeted by numerous OCC members that are part of the rally when we arrived at the marina which is located right in town. We gratefully accepted help with our lines in getting into the marina slip and it was especially helpful that the marina knew we were coming as part of the rally. The marina was quite full so having a place to land was great. One more of the benefits of being a part of the rally! The first night there we went to dinner with the others that were on the OCC Baltic rally. We enjoyed getting to meet the others that will be traveling on and off around the Baltic with us this season. It is always nice to have a chance to meet others that are plying the waters with you. Some have been in the Baltic before so we enjoy picking their brains for various places to go while others are here for the first time like us.
Compare the size of these cranes
with the large storage facility and you will realize how massive they
We were planning on being in Gdańsk longer, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperating so it appeared that we would only be staying two nights and leaving the next morning. Fortunately the organizer of the rally was able to organize a tour of the city for the next afternoon. This gave us some time to explore some on our own before that. We wandered through the historic area fascinated by the details of the buildings including many unusual downspouts. Many of the buildings were covered in paintings or had elaborate sculptures. There were quite a few of the town gates to the city and one of them, the Foregate had over the years housed the Torture House and the Prison Tower. It now also houses the Amber Museum. Amber is quite prevalent in this area and they had an excellent display of numerous pieces with insects and plant material encapsulated. Amber has also been used in a variety of ways from the making of boxes, used in jewelry and even has been known to have medicinal benefits. The area of the gate that had been used as a prison and torture chamber was open too. Many of the items
used for torture were pictured and the cells were there for you to imagine what it would be like to have been a prisoner. Even what we would call minor offenses seemed to have brutal consequences in their day.
We had heard one of the attractions in the city was the crane. We wondered about this so had to check it out. In fact it was built in the mid-15th
century as the biggest double-towered gate on the waterfront, but it also was used to move heavy cargo from ships onto the docks. It was completely powered by humans. It has two large 15 foot diameter wheels in which people “walked”along the inner circumference like mice in a wheel providing the power to hoist a rope wound around its axle. They were able to hoist loads of up to 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lbs.) making it the largest crane in medieval Europe. In the early 17th
century wheels were added higher up so it could be used for installing masts on the sailing vessels that plied these waters.
St. Mary’s Church is said to be the largest brick church in the world and can seat 25,000 people. It was
One of the many grain storage facilities
along the river that have been used for centuries
started in 1343 but didn’t reach its present size until 1502. Unfortunately half of the vault collapsed and the interior was largely burnt out when Red Army shells in 1945 hit. Fortunately they had enough foresight to hide many of the valuable works before the destruction occurred. Like the other churches we have visited in Europe it has an astronomical clock that was built in the 15th
After two days a weather window opened to move on to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. On our way out of the port Bob noticed that several tugboats were being launched. We then noticed that all the tugboats were powering up and heading off towards the Baltic, some in front of us and some following us. Our first thought was that a very large ship must be coming in, but as we approached the final break wall of the harbor we noticed that the two lead tugboats continued moving into the Baltic and soon all the following tugboats started to sound off. There must have been at least 10 tugboats blowing their whistles as the two tugs made their way into the Baltic. We then noticed that on the back of the
leaving tugs were several men waving and shouting. We finally figured out what was going on - the two tugboats leaving were on their way to Nigeria with their Nigerian crew and were being sent off by the Polish tugboat crews with proper ceremony. Most of this information we got from the Nigerian crew as we were close enough to talk to them. It was an amazing moment that added to our already very positive feelings about the Polish people.
Unfortunately the 15 to 20 knots of wind that was predicted to come out of the southwest turned and started to come out of the northwest very strong. We reefed the main sail and reduced the genoa and were still making 6 1/2 to 7 knots. Unfortunately once we cleared the bay and were in the Baltic the waves started to hit us and very quickly we were in a large choppy sea with winds blowing 25-30 knots against us. We could have continued as it wasn’t unsafe, but we had a 30 hour trip ahead of us. Both Janice and I looked at each other and decided we were not having any fun and we weren’t on that
The marina we stayed at
was centrally located close to the downtown historic area of the city.
tight a time schedule. We turned around, headed back toward Gdansk as we really had a few other places we wanted to see. Unfortunately the marina we had just left was full so we changed course and went to Gdynia which is about an hour sail west. By 5:45PM we were tied up safe and secure and looking forward to exploring a new town in Poland. We had left the dock at 9:25AM and in the end were not too far from where we started, but it turned out to be a very good decision as we enjoyed our few days in Gdynia which we will include in another blog entry.
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