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November 27th 2018
Published: December 2nd 2018
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We awoke to a bright blue sky. The low clouds of yesterday blown away in the sudden downpour after returning from Stadion Energa. The breakfast in the Hotel Farenheit was top rate. The only minor drawback was the speed at which the coffee machine dispensed it’s latte. We sent the Main in the Middle off in an advance party to prepare the beverages. The other two are always keen on a boat trip, so when I suggested a gentle meander along the river towards the sea they were both up for it. The target was the peninsula at Westerplatte. Westerplatte was the site of minor Polish military fortifications in 1939 that had been sanctioned in the Free City by the Treaty of Versailles, as the world stumbled to another major conflict. It was here that the first hostilities took place, just after the Luftwaffe had launched strikes elsewhere. The German battleship, Shleswig Holstein, which happened to be on a visit to the port opened fire on the Polish garrison at 4.48 am. The defenders held out for 7 days against a superior force before surrendering when the ammunition ran out. The Westerplatte plan was foiled for us by the lack of a sailing vessel. A crew of maintenance men were stripping down the said vessel in what looked like an annual refit, so it wasn’t going anywhere during our visit. The other water option was the municipal ferry – a fraction of the cost – which had ceased sailing for the winter season. We wandered up to the railway station in search of a bus, which seemed irregular. The Westerplatte plan was abandoned.

Gdansk is part of an area they now call Tri-City. The linked, but independent cities of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia, stretch out along the coast. They are conveniently linked by the SKM suburban train. It runs every 10 minutes during the day, so the timetable was unnecessary. As a major carrier of commuters, the ticket machines in the underground passage beneath the platforms were in short supply. They were also the slowest tickets machines on the planet. Fortunately, we were in no hurry and helped by the English translation button. It would be tempting not to bother with a ticket, but I had read that ticket inspectors are on permanent patrol on the line so the risk was great. We would meet them later. The journey took about 20-25 minutes, passing the scene of our arrival at Wrzeszcz railway station. The railway station at Sopot had undergone a major transformation since our visit all those years ago and was now a small shopping centre with a promenade of bars and restaurants leading off towards the city centre. The Hotel Reszeydent looked a bit more splendid than it used to and had acquired 5 stars.

After a brief wander in the Catholic Church, we set off in the direction of the sea. The main street is Monte Cassino or Monciak - a pedestrianised area that leads towards the Baltic. The usual mix of shops is mixed with restaurants. The most prominent building is the Crooked House - another one of these Gaudi inspired buildings like our hotel in Gdansk. I had vague memories of it being a theatre, but a Costa Coffee concession now boasts its wares on the signage. Sopot is big on the arts and a theatre is further back up the road. It also boats an International Song Festival - billed incidentally as second to the Eurovision Song Contest. The actual event seems a cross between competition with some "big" name acts thrown in for measure. I noted that the North East Premier Seaside's own James Arthur appeared in 2018. I wonder what he thought of the beach - which is definitely on a par in Sopot. There were posters advertising Mark Knopfler and his "band", playing in July 2019. It was billed as Gdansk, but was really Sopot. I guess he doesn't associate with the Dire Straits these days. We crossed a large square that led to the formal gardens either side of the pier. Sopot came to prominence as an early spa resort in the 1820s.The visitors came to take the waters and for the sweep of golden sands that fan out towards both Gdansk and Gdynia. A pier was built in 1827. It has been much extended over the years and now ranks as the longest pier in the Baltic area, as well as holding the distinction of being the longest wooden pier in the world. It extends 511 metres out to a yacht marina perched on the end. The popularity is summed up by the fact that an admission price is payable between April and September. The 2018 prices were 8 Zlotys for an adult. There were no barriers today. The resort got a boost at the turn of the century when the German aristocracy came to play at the seaside. good transport links from Berlin helped the cause.

The sun was shining bright and many were taking advantage of the rays. Sunglasses on, they gazed skywards. We joined the masses and walked along to the yacht marina at the end. The large freighters and tankers waited out in the bay for their turn to enter the ports of Gdynia and Gdansk. The cafe restaurant was doing brisk business and undeterred by the high prices for a latte we joined the beautiful people at leisure. The most prominent position on the shoreline was once occupied by the Casino Hotel. It generated funds in the good old days, before being replaced by the Grand Hotel in 1927. The Grand is today a Sofitel and ranks as one of the more expensive hotels in Poland. We wandered in to examine the grandeur. A friendly doorman gave us an impromptu guided tour of the entrance and bar area. In was winter season and he was probably a bit bored. I doubt he would have been quite so accommodating at the height of the season. A series of photographs adorn the walls. A visitor book sat protected under a glass lid away from sticky figures of the guests. It details the rich and famous who have stayed over the years. De Gaulle dropped by in the 1960s and has a suite named after him. Fidel Castro. Putin. A multitude of stars from stage and screen are too numerous to mention, although. The Spain national football team stayed in Euro 2012, although Shakira in amongst the WAGs got her own mention. I dread to think what other guests might have though if Liam Gallagher wasn't on his best behaviour. There is one missing photograph, which is probably bad for business. A certain man with a small moustache from a nearby country dropped in in 1939 to watch at close quarters the start of hostilities. He apparently occupied a suite with a first floor balcony from where he observe as his navy subdued any marine resistance to his invasion. The hotel occupancy was not high we were advised, so if we were feeling like pushing the boat out a non-seaview room was a bargain at this time of the year. In the summer months, it is out of our league.

We headed off the main street in search of a lunchtime Perogi snack at a non-tourist price. The value went up in an outdoor seating area with only a patio burner for company and with only the car park for a view. The only other customer was feeling the chill. If it had been possible, she would have surely climbed inside the patio burner. We returned to the railway station and set off for Gdynia. The Other Half has already had the thrill of an Arka Gdynia match on our last visit to Tri-City. The opposition were ironically Wisla Krakow, as indeed they were today. At that time, Arka played in the old Miejski Stadion. The basic ground had one stand of seats and the rest of the uncovered terraces were wedged in by the railway line. The view of the pitch was obscured by some sizeable fences that were a replica of those at Oxford United’s old Manor Ground. The Other Half was more concerned by the amount of snow lying around and whether the game would continue to be played so she could return to a warm bar again. We alighted from our Sopot train 2 stations before the city centre at Gdynia Redlowo and headed over to the very different Miejski Stadion of today. It had been completely rebuilt on the same site and a modern 15,000 seat all seater. It was very functional in appearance and lacked the major splash of colour that would associate it with Arka. There were a number of ticket offices built into the side of 3 of the stands, all of which were extremely quiet. The staff sat waiting patiently waiting for interested spectators to purchase. Wisla were deemed a Category A draw, which basically meant that the prices of all tickets across the board were inflated by 5 Zlotys. We conducted a reconnaissance to ensure we were making the right seat selection and opted for the 30 Zloty seats in the Tribuna Tory. Labour or the Liberal Democrats hadn’t been bestowed with the honour of their own stand. The club shop was all out of sensibly sized pin badges, so we decided to retreat to a warm bar. The Other Half pointed out that the miles had been clicking up on the fitbit and that her foot was playing up a bit. Time for a sit down. The only snag is that suitable bars are not in big supply anywhere nearby. We surveyed the industrial estate landscape and concluded that we would be better off on the other side of the railway, where there where some brutal looking blocks of flats. They appear to populated by good folk who don’t go out, because there weren’t any bars there either. We settled for the only option – the Park Café – a newly opened sort of cafeteria with bar facilities at one end. Pivo please. No. We gestured towards the pump on the bar at the other end. An English speaker duly arrived to save the day. The Other Half was content with her seat and her latte and cake. We set off for the game, which transpired to have Arka’s lowest home attendance of the season so far. The combination of a Category A game live on the TV at 1800 hours on a Monday night had failed to capture local imagination. It had similarly not been welcomed in Krakow either. The Wisla crew were short in number. It seemed each individual had been detailed to take a banner or a flag. The huge Wisla Sharks banner was erected at the front of the sector, but the numbers suggested that it was more Goldfish than Great White. The locals gave them a Polish rendition of "you should have come in a taxi". After a promising start when Wisla hit a post, it was largely one way traffic with the comfortable scoreline of 4-1. The low attendance who had bothered to turn up had been vindicated in their decision by the performance. As for Wisla, it was only 600 kilometres home!

We scurried for the return train, which turned just after we’d secured our tickets from another ultra-slow machine on the platform. The train was packed – not with football fans who largely go anywhere other than the direction of the detested Gdansk – but with people just returning from work or college. We couldn’t find seats together and split up. As we approached central Gdansk, the carriage came to life as plain clothes ticket inspectors swooped. They approached the Other Half from behind her seat. She was just about to brush them off as unwanted Big Issue sellers – No Thanks. Not Today – when I arrived from the other direction armed with the tickets. Fortunately, they were confirmed as all present and correct. We made our way for more Perogis at the place where we had previously failed to gain a table the previous day. The baked versions proved to be a monster portion and resembled tiny Cornish pasties.

Poland Ekstraklassa League

Arka Gdynia 4 Wisla Krakow 1

Date: Monday 26th November 2018 @1800 Hours

Venue: Stadion Miejski, Gdynia, Poland

Attendance : 5,776

Scorers : 1-0 Aankour (Arka) Penalty 15 Mins, 1-1 Ondrášek (Wisla) 20 Mins, 2-1 Zarandia (Arka) 27 Mins, 3-1 Jankowski (Arka) 75 Mins, 4-1 Zarandia (Arka) 89 Mins.

Additional photos below
Photos: 62, Displayed: 30


4th December 2018
Crooked House, Sopot

Crooked Coffee
I always enjoy your eye for photography. But for this one I had to take a double-take. A folly that someone had the money to mix the bricks and mortar to actually make. Brilliant. Definitely a candidate for the Architectural Details thread in the Photography Forum. But was the coffee as good as it should have been?

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