The Hendersons Surprising Gdansk
2010 Trip to Eastern Europe and the Baltics
Back to Poland, avoiding Kaliningrad – to a town we didn’t think we’d enjoy – Gdansk – and how wrong we were. The old town is probably the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Dubrovnik. It was absolutely enchanting. The town has been totally destroyed a couple of times – Germans and Russians being the dirty doers – and the people have rebuilt it from photos and paintings. The buildings are like those in Amsterdam (when Amsterdam was beautiful) because they were both part of the Hanseatic League.
We had a nice dinner in a waterfront restaurant and then made our way back to the hotel, which was an interesting – and convenient – location. The particular part of town where it was located has not been reconstructed fully after WWII, so there are bombed out buildings right next to reconstructed ones.
Men 'climbed' in twin wheels to operate a crane. You can see a loop of the heavy rope in the center of the image. Gdansk is a huge port and these cranes were part of the everyday workings, circa 1600 when the city was part of the Hanseatic League.
We had no idea that Gdansk would be so fascinating – the Amber Museum, the old town and the Solidarity Museum. The Amber Museum is located in one of the old city gates, so it is a very vertical museum – each floor is devoted to different parts of the history of the amber trade and has specimens, both natural and carved, of amber.
The Solidarity Museum was an amazing experience. As you enter the museum, you walk down a long, dark corridor. There is a recording of a stern voice (ZOMO - the much feared police) demanding your ‘dokumenti’. Once you arrive in the museum, you first see a Soviet era store – the meat and cheese are blocks of wood painted to look like the real thing.
There is a public toilet with newspaper cut into squares for toilet paper. There is a prison cell from the Soviet era. Also, there are films about the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, which began in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk and ultimately resulted in the expulsion of the Soviets from Poland.
In retrospect, we should have allowed more time for Gdansk - many of the old buildings along the main square of the town are museums open to the public, so you can go in and see how people lived when this was such an important port. There are also a lot of churches and a lot of tourists! The weather at this time of year is very pleasant, not oppressively hot. I think in our minds we had pictured a gritty industrial town and there are many parts that are, but we didn't realize that there are so many beautiful buildings, that the food would be so good and that there were opportunities to go to various resorts and spas nearby. Well, God willing, someday we may be back.