Gdansk (Danzig) in Five Days
Posted on June 22, 2015
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.
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.
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
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.
The route to our apartment was guarded by these mannequins.
The yellow door is ours, not the one to the right that led to a store.
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.
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.
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.
Just inside the large gates we stopped by the city information office. With map in hand we were on our way.
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.
The city was jammed with tourists and school children on field trips.
Let’s take a short tour of the produce market.
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.
Let’s roam some more streets.
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.
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.
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.
The evenings were long and light faded slowly. We liked to stroll at that time of day.
The main plaza was lively at 10:30 and well lit.
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.
Now we must say goodbye to Gdansk, city of great charm and vigor.