We were delighted with our visit to Danzig. Here was a city of vision that got its act together when it rebuilt from the ashes of war. Of course, the process is continuing as there remains much to do, but the city core is splendid and unified.

View toward the main square

View toward the main square

But let’s back up in time a little bit as we start our five hour drive from Stettin on the German border. By and large the roads were similar to eastern Germany, well paved but slow. Speed limits are usually 30 mph through villages, which seemed to come every couple of miles. Then there were incessant 40 and 60 mph stretches without end. So we had to be very observant. Speed cameras were quite common and we got caught by at least one. We’ll probably be charged automatically on our Visa bill through our rental agency.

After a few hours of driving we stopped for breakfast at a roadside restaurant well away from any villages. It looked pretty nice on the outside so we went in. This was to be our first taste of Polish food, not considering the pizza the night before. Were we ever in for a great surprise. The place was beautifully designed and appointed like a first class restaurant. Our young attractive waitress spoke English and was as friendly as could be.

We ordered pancakes. Couldn’t go wrong there, could we? Eva ordered hers filled with fresh strawberries. I stabbed at the menu where it said Hungarian style. I was willing to risk it. Here’s what we got.

Our breakfast

Our breakfast

Eva' pancake. A fine selection, indeed.

Eva’ sweet pancake. A fine selection, indeed.

My Hungarian style pancake, a whole meal with a side of grated beets and spicy cabbage. So good.

My Hungarian style potato pancake, a whole meal with a side of spicy cabbages. So good.

What a good start. We paid in zloty, which was an easy and close enough four-to-one conversion rate with the dollar. No more Euros for a while. The dollar goes a long way in Poland.

Our small apartment in Gdansk was right in the heart of the Old Town with restricted car access. This meant that we couldn’t follow our car navigation right to the front door, or even find out exactly where to go. We parked blocks away and walked in after asking directions.Our ancient street was squeezed in beside the brick
Gothic church.

Our little street starts here.

Our little street starts here. You can almost see our apartment.

We found our address, which seemed to be the location of a dress shop. The folks there had no interest in helping us at all, an attitude we met time and again in the coming days. Guess they carry on the Communist tradition of dealing only with what will fill their quotas.

Our apartment is above the red doorway.

Our apartment is above the red doorway.

The route to our apartment was guarded by these mannequins.

Mannequin guards, and a cannon, too

Mannequin guards

The yellow door is ours, not the one to the right that led to a store.

Inauspicious door leads to our apartment.

Inauspicious door leads to our apartment.

The door was locked. The doorbell brought no reply. We went across the street to a jewelry store and asked for help from a most pleasant young lady. She called our landlord, who arrived within ten minutes and let us in.

Up the stairs we went. Don’t be put off by the creepy stairwell. It’s like judging a book by its cover.

Our dreary stairwell

Our dreary stairwell

Our dubious back entry from the dusty unpaved parking lot

Our dubious back entry from the dusty unpaved parking lot

What a delightful place it was – a bright comfortable living room, two good size bedrooms and an adequate kitchen. We walked to his car a few blocks away and he guided us back to our parking space behind the building via a rather tricky route. As nice as he was, we didn’t see him again.

Living room with a view and the two standard Ikea chairs

Living room with a view and the two standard Ikea chairs

View from the front window toward the church

View from the front window toward the church

The nice lady and jewelry shop directly across the street

The nice lady and jewelry shop directly across the street

We were well situated – a block to the right and through one of the old gates was the river and the upper end of the harbor. Behind us a block was the main square, hub of city life, at least tourist life. Three blocks to the left was the daily outdoor market for fresh food. Our street was known to tourists as Amber Street, where nearly every building contained an amber jewelry store, with booths right on the street. Tourists and tour groups jammed this street every day. Let’s take a tour.

Our street by early morning before the amber jewelers had set up their booths.

Our street by early morning before the amber jewelers had set up their booths.

The harbor

The harbor

Harbor with old crane

Harbor with old crane

View from unrestored ruins toward the city spires

View from unrestored ruins toward the city spires

Gateway from the harbor to the market

Gateway from the harbor to the market

Just inside the large gates we stopped by the city information office. With map in hand we were on our way.

City tourist office

City tourist office

At least the desk was nice

The desk was elegant

Gdansk was pretty much wiped out in the war so almost everything we saw had been rebuilt in a unified fashion, partly reflecting Dutch Renaissance design. The unity was very appealing. Germanic touches had been removed.

Heart of the main plaza - Neptune spearing a serpent, or is he aiming for a tourist?

Heart of the main plaza – Neptune spearing a serpent, or is he aiming for a tourist?

Neptune in front of the cultural center - Renaissance outside, gothic inside.

Neptune in front of the cultural center – Renaissance outside, gothic inside.

The city was jammed with tourists and school children on field trips.

Always lines of school children on field trips

Always lines of school children on field trips

All day long they filed by, perfectly disciplined.

All day long they filed by, perfectly disciplined.

Let’s take a short tour of the produce market.

Daily outdoor produce with covered market behind

Daily outdoor produce market with covered market behind

Root crops were in season

Root crops were in season

Poland is second in worldwide potato production, behind the US.

Poland is second in worldwide potato production, behind the US.

Asparagus, white and green, are in season

Asparagus, white and green, are in season

Eggs are fresh from the chickens, unwashed and maybe uninspected.

Eggs are fresh from the chickens, but unwashed.

The indoor market was a marvel – original in structure but put to modern use with a glass elevator and mezzanine. On the bottom floor was a well preserved archaeological site.

Covered market

Covered market

Sausages are very popular

Sausages are very popular

Bakeries have an assortment of white breads

Bakeries have an assortment of white breads

Although low fat, non fat and medium fat yogurts and other products were offered in grocery stores, they also do not shy away from full fat products either, to our delight.

Although low fat, non fat and medium fat yogurts and other products are offered in grocery stores, they also do not shy away from full fat products either, to our delight.

Let’s roam some more streets.

A building undergoing restoration

A building undergoing restoration

There's still much work to be done.

There’s still much work to be done.

The main plaza is washed down each night and doorsteps are kept clean.

The main plaza is washed down each night and doorsteps are kept clean.

Dutch Renaissance facade

Dutch Renaissance facade

Full blown Renaissance palatial building

Full blown Renaissance palatial building

The place where Daniel Fahrenheit, the thermometer guy, was born. He lived most of his life in Holland

The place where Daniel Fahrenheit, the thermometer guy, was born. He lived most of his life in Holland

One day we took a tram to the end of the line and walked the beach to the seaside resort town of Sopot. Along the way we passed some old Communist heating lines leading to large tracts of high rise apartments. The buildings look pretty good when they are freshened up, as these are.

Pipes carrying heat for apartment houses

Pipes carrying heat for apartment houses

Ducts crossing a street.

Ducts crossing a street.

Thousands of these apartments are seen all over Poland and eastern Germany.

Thousands of these apartments are seen all over Poland and eastern Germany.

We reach the beautiful Sopot beach.

We reach the beautiful Sopot beach.

Sopot in the background

Sopot in the background

Tourists were everywhere. Is everyone on vacation?

Tourists were everywhere. Is everyone on vacation?

Let's show some levity  in our new buildings .

Let’s show some levity in our new buildings .

Eva never missed a chance to enjoy a lody.

Eva never missed a chance to enjoy a lody.

Back in Gdansk we had lunch at a bar mleczny recommended by our daughter to see what down home cooking is like. We were able to choose our desires by pointing to items on display. This relieved us of the perpetual language challenge. Most Poles we met spoke little or no English, and certainly no German. We dined quite well three times at these milk bars.

Bar mleczny

Bar mleczny

One day Eva took a “pirate ship” out to the end of the Gdansk harbor to where the first shots of WW2 were fired. It was a memorable experience for her.

War memorial where armed Poles were defeated by the first Nazi shots of World War 2.

War memorial where armed Poles were defeated by the first Nazi shots of World War 2.

The evenings were long and light faded slowly. We liked to stroll at that time of day.

The Pirate Ship by night, with ferris wheel across the harbor.

The Pirate Ship by night, with ferris wheel across the harbor.

The main plaza was lively at 10:30 and well lit.

Downtown at night

Downtown at night

Neptune was still busy spearing tourists

Neptune was still busy spearing tourists

On our last morning, Eva got her wish for a bit of amber jewelry. The shop across from us was the best place we had found in town, and we wanted to give some business to the lady who had helped us in a time of need.

Wonderful store for local amber jewelry

Wonderful store for local amber jewelry

A most pleasant moment with a fine young lady

A most pleasant moment with a fine young lady

Now we must say goodbye to Gdansk, city of great charm and vigor.

Advertisements