Gdansk Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Thursday 13th March
We had to wake up early, for one of those inhumanely early flights to Poland again, but the plus side is by the time you get there it is basically lunch time. We had our beans on toast and headed out to the airport on the shuttle bus, where it was surprisingly busy for the weekend before Easter. The flight was 2.5 hours, and fairly uneventful, but we landed safe and sound in Gdansk at about 11.50 in the morning. Gdansk was a bustling seaport in its past, and now though a sleepy town maintains its harbour side beauty. The first shots of world war two were fired at this harbour and over the course of history Gdansk passed from Polish to German rule a number of times. More than 90% of the city was demolished in these take over’s, and the people of Poland rebuilt their homes and businesses using the stone rubble rather than replacing them with concrete blocks to maintain the history contained within Gdansk Old Town. Gdansk is the largest town in the Tri-city which also includes the idyllic Sopot and industrial young town Gdynia. The airport in Gdansk was small enough and with some help managed to find our way to central station without too much hassle (at least the central station in Gdansk looked like a central station unlike the one in Krakow which was hidden within a shopping centre). We decided to grab a bite before making our way to the hotel, though we were starving the giant kebab they brought out for me was just a little bit too much for my appetite (have a look at the picture of it).
We managed to find a bus that would take us to the Angela Hotel, but we couldn’t quite figure out how to buy a ticket though no one seemed to notice. Transport tickets in Gdansk last for a time limit of 15, 30 or 60 minutes, and basically none of the bus drivers could interpret what we meant when we tried to say the street name, so lucky for us the system also seemed to be based on an honesty policy else they are more lenient to ignorant tourists! Nevertheless we got to the hotel which lived up to the standards we have been lucky with so far, and dropped off our bag (which I think I should mention was like 6kgs!) and headed back into town, on the way back the bus ended at Old Town and thus solved the question of what to do first. We took a stroll down the royal route which begins at the Upland gate which was constructed in the 16th century as part of the fortification of the city. Just beyond the gate is the impressive prison tower, which served as a torture house from the 14th ��" 17th centuries, after which it was used as the town prison. The Upland Gate and Prison Tower now house part of the National History Museum of Gdansk. Behind the Upland Gate is the ornamental Renaissance Golden Gate, which is the entrance to Long Street which has been the main street in Gdansk since the 1300’s. The walk is lined with coloured town houses which have been owned by historic families of Gdansk since its origin, each house has a different facade and and gables, a few of them have maintained their original interiors. The stand out structure in Delugi Targ is the Town Hall Clock tower, which overlooks the whole town and the clock bells toll at every hour, beyond the clock tower is the Artus Court which features Neptune’s Fountain, legend has it that Neptune was sick of people throwing coins into his fountain so he struck it with his triton creating the gold flakes in the native drink Goldwasser. The Royal Route ends at the Green Gate which was built to be a royal residence but was only used once for this purpose, and now is an exhibition hall. We had found ourselves at the waterfront; we walked along past the restraints and cafes and past Zuraw (the Great Crane), we had walked past it twice before we realised which structure it was!
We wandered back toward the Royal Route finding lots of quaint little walks along the way. We headed towards St Mary’s Basilica, along the way we passed The Great Armoury, constructed in the early 1600’s to store armour and until the end of WWI was a military depot. St. Mary’s Basilica is the largest brick church in Europe; the present gothic structure was built on top of the 12th century wooden church. The large brick church measures 105m in length, 66m in width, 33m in height with a an 82m tower and can hold 25,000 people. The inside is quite spectacular with white walls and statues all around the vault, but most impressive sight was the huge coloured stained glass windows. From the church we ventured to find our way to the monument for the fallen postal workers, we along the way we found a large indoor market, which housed some very promising shopping as well as a produce market and a large religious monument, which I thought was what we were looking for, but by the time we had figured out we were not going the right way it was getting quite dark so we decided to leave the monument for another day. We found Galleria Madison which was much like the Galleria’s we explored in Krakow, except for the impressive water-wheel featured between the escalators, we got a coffee and then set out for some dinner. We found our way back to the royal route and settled in for some pizza and pasta and a few drinks before calling it a night.
Friday 14th March 2008
We started the day with an impressive breakfast, which was a good enough reason to get out and walking around, we caught the bus back into the city, having figured out the ticketing system and walked up to the National museum, we got there before the museum opened but there was a school group going in so we decided to try our luck, the museum is housed in a 15th century historic monastery, but to our disappointment most of the museum had an exhibition to Ruben van Dyke, although we did get to see Han’s Memling’s tryptich ‘The Last Judgement’ it was intercepted enroute to Bruges in the Baltic sea and placed in the Basilica of Assumption in Gdansk. We escaped the school kids and made our way back to the Royal Route where we went into Uphagen house, which was the home of Jan Uphagen a councillor and assessor, in his will he wanted the house to maintain its period shape, it now houses the museum for town house interiors, which gives an idea of what burgher houses looked like at the time. Each room had a different theme which carried through from its furnishing, to artwork and wall paper. After the step back in time we decided it was time for some maritime knowledge so we walked through the other side of town to get to the Polish Maritime Museum. The museum consisted of three parts; the Granaries, the Soldek and Zuwar. The Granaries are the headquarters of the Polish maritime Museum, we saw an exhibition of ‘The Poles on the worlds oceans’ which included parts of vessels, armoury, clothing and navigational instruments from ship wrecks as old as 5 thousand years, after which we went into the museum ship ‘Soldek’ which has been anchored at the museum since 1985, it was the first ship to be built at a polish ship yard, but now is explored by visitors. Included in our ticket was a ferry ride across the river to Zuraw (but after waiting 10 minutes the 30 second boat ride seemed hardly worth it) the great crane, the crane was used to lift heavy goods to and from ships as well as place masts. We climbed up the crane and got a great view of the other side of town. By this time we were getting quite tired so we stopped for a coffee at one of the waterside cafes and then decided to stay for lunch.
I was getting exhausted of walking around by then and Cam decided he needed some retail therapy so we went back to Ulica Wielkie Mlyny and the indoor market we discovered the day before. It wasn’t too long before we decided to get back into tourist mode and find the monument to the fallen ship yard workers. The huge monument was towards a part of town we hadn’t been before and in our confusion we got lost in a residential area on our way back towards central. When we rediscovered where we were I think we had covered most of central Gdansk by foot, so we settled in for some drinks and food. I tried the infamous Goldwasser, an herbal infusion with liqueur that tasted a bit like Ouzo, and is speckled with gold flakes. We had plans to paint the town red, but after the busy day and a few drinks we decided to call it quits.