After two, pleasant nights in Warsaw, I was heading off to Gdańsk, a city located way up in the north of Poland, right along the Baltic Sea. I would be spending another two nights there, enjoying myself while away on April vacation.
Perhaps Gdańsk rings a bell for you, but in the chances that it doesn’t, it’s essentially a port city which also used to be a nice beach resort until WWII, when the Germans decided to seize the harbor as means of controlling as much of Europe as possible. Unfortunately, ust like with other cities in Poland, it succumbed to German rule.
Why did I decide to visit Gdańsk, you might ask? Essentially, I’d come across some photos of it on Tumblr months back (I follow lots of travel blogs), and I absolutely fell in love with them. The city proper itself lies on the Motława river, and along it features plenty of cute, colorful houses which remind me of those in Bruges or Amsterdam. From those photos, I knew that I had to go to Gdańsk!
That said, I caught the 13h20 train from Warsaw, and I arrived at the Gdańsk train station about two-and-a-half hours later. Once again, like in Warsaw, I got a bit lost trying to find my hostel, which was also situated about 15 to 20 minutes away from the station. Eventually, I re-oriented myself, and successfully found my way over, checking in around 17h30 before dropping my stuff in my room and hurrying to the harbor (about 2 minutes away on foot) to enjoy the rest of the afternoon sun…and yes, it was fortunately sunny that day, too! Also helps that it’s springtime and that days are getting longer. Seriously, things don’t get dark until 20h00, almost 21h00!
Any case, I took a stroll along the quai, passing by plenty of tourist-trap restaurants and souvenir shops. Saw the famous medieval port crane jutting out among the colorful houses, which represents the city’s trading age with the Hanseatic League back in the 14th century. Otherwise, just strolling along the quay, admiring the pretty buildings, and taking in the late afternoon sun was paradise.
I decided to go under the city gate and enter the square that started off the Long Market, as well as its appropriately-named street, Long Lane where more tourist-trap restaurants and shops were. Aside from that, there were a few historic monuments, including Neptune’s Fountain (with the titular Greek good looking fierce brandishing his trident) and Artus Court, a building formerly used as a meeting place for merchants. The architecture was admirable, especially in the light of the soon-to-be-setting sun.
I headed into one of the smaller streets behind the Artus Court, passing by St. Mary’s Church, which is said to be the tallest brick church in Europe, if not the entire world. I didn’t go inside, for I would be doing so the next day. Feeling hungry, I was ready for some dinner.
Again, just like in Warsaw, I just popped into the first restaurant that looked decently priced with a decent selection food: granted, still in the tourist-trap area, but I didn’t really care, just because things were inexpensive in Poland, anyway. Of course, I got pierogis again, but also ordered kielbasa, aka Polish sausage. It was smoked and deliciously paired with the super-strong mustard that came along with it. Admittedly, I’d ordered too much food, to the point that I couldn’t finish my pierogis. Fortunately, the waitress said she could box up the leftovers and I could take it to-go, which surprised me, because I’d never encountered that in Europe! Perhaps it was a touristy thing to do, but otherwise, it was good not to waste food, and they still tasted great the following day!
Making my way back to my hostel, the lights along the river were just about to come on, giving the city a somewhat enchanting atmosphere to it. Very lovely, and I returned to my hostel where I simply freshened up and turned in for bed, after a tiring day of traveling and exploring in my new destination.
Woke up the following morning around 8h00, enjoying some of the complimentary breakfast provided by the hostel before making my way out to enjoy a bit more of Gdańsk in the proper daytime. It was also great weather that day, if not warmer: cloudless blue skies and warm sunshine that made it feel like summer- in Poland, of all places! Walked along the quai once more, taking photo after photo of the waterfront and asking a couple to take some photos of me with it.
Heading back around into the old town, aka Long Market where I saw more colorful houses in the backdrop of the touristy restaurants and souvenir shops. Passed by Mr. Neptune himself and the Artus Court before going to check out the inside of St. Mary’s Church. I also paid about 3 zloty (<1 euro) to climb the tower to the top for city views: it was a total of perhaps 400 steps, which wasn’t the worst I’ve done since being and traveling in Europe (no sweat, indeed!). Made it to the top, and frankly, it was slightly underwhelming, just because the viewing terrace was small (no more than perhaps 20 people allowed on there and the views were partly obstructed by the rooftops. All the same, it wasn’t bad; after all, I paid for what I got, so it was fine.
Descended the stairs and exited the church, heading next to Mariacka Street, a picturesque place where it’s known for being very quaint, even magical-like with its narrow, alley-like atmosphere, houses seemingly leaning towards each other, and twisting trees along the side of the road. It’s a bit dark in my photos, but all the same, I found Mariacka really gorgeous.
I retraced my footsteps back to the Long Market, strolling down Long Lane before reaching the end of it soon after. At that point, I felt like I saw everything that I’d wanted to see in the historic center, so I decided to walk over to the train station, near which I would catch a bus over to Westerplatte for the afternoon. Took the bus around 12h00, arriving there about 30 minutes later.
Now, Westerplatte is an area of the greater Gdańsk area, situated about 10 kilometers from the city center. It’s a peninsula located directly on the Baltic Sea and it was an important, strategic area for the Polish and German soldiers when they fought each other in the Battle of Westerplatte during WWII (unfortunately, the Polish forces were defeated, as history recalls it). Today, it has an open-air museum with a couple of remaining parts of forts and bunkers from the war, as well as the massive Westerplatte Monument which commemorates the Polish soldiers during the battle. Plus, it has a considerable amount of natural park to wander around in, for a lovely, quiet afternoon outside of the bustling city center.
Getting off at the last stop, I headed over to the Westerplatte monument, passing by and making stops at some of the fort ruins and museum plaques which described the history of the Westerplatte, before and after the war. Made it to the monument, tall and imposing: from the distance, it appears to be one of those Easter Island statues, but upon a closer look, it’s actually detailed carvings of soldiers and defenders from the war. Took a couple of photos before making my way back to the park, where I sat down to rest my feet (again, right foot was killing me with that bunion!) and around 14h30, I took the bus back to Gdańsk city center.
Now, upon returning to the city center, I planned to revisit some of the same places I’d been that morning, just for some more photo opportunities: however, the weather turned cloudy, which didn’t make it ideal for those pristine photos. Plus, I was feeling a bit tired, so I just decided to head back to my hostel and rest for a bit before heading out later in the evening to take photos of the sunset, as well as of Gdańsk at night. As I’d wrote, it didn’t get dark until after 20h00 due to springtime, so I had to wait a bit before it got dark enough to capture that perfect image. Loved the reflections along the water, and while I didn’t stay out long enough to party and drink, I can imagine that Gdańsk must be hopping with nightlife, even though it’s a smaller city than, say, Warsaw or Krakow.
Returned to my hostel, where I relaxed with a nice, huge glass of beer from the bar downstairs. The beer was actually good: not bubbly at all (I don’t like carbonated drinks), and it had a distinctive sweet-sour taste to it, which I enjoyed. Finished the beer and headed to bed right afterwards. Following morning was my last day in Gdańsk, so I checked out after breakfast and headed over to the station to catch my train at 11h00 to the next city in Poland on my itinerary.
In a nutshell, Gdańsk is a very charming city, and while there wasn’t as much things to do there as I’d imagined, it was good just to stroll along the quai, visit the historic center, and have a relaxing time. Again, it’s not as big compared with Warsaw or Krakow, and its medium-sized characteristic makes it a pleasant city. I’m glad to have crossed it off my bucket list- it’s definitely worth a visit!
More coming soon. Stay tuned as we venture onto the next destination in Poland! Cheers. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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