My week in Gdansk, or my first Polish adventure

As first month of the year was coming to an end, it was time for my first trip of 2018. What originally started as desire to see a concert that was held by the Baltic sea, turned into a week of vacation by the coast of Poland.

snow at Gdansk's airport
As I arrived in Gdansk in morning from London, my first feeling at landing was pretty much shock of seeing all the snow outside of my window, which was followed by some 'severe' cold. Or at least so it felt, comparing -4°C to almost 9°C we had in UK's capital at 4 am when I left.
I was lucky to right away catch the bus, that for only 3,80 plz (less than 1€) got me directly to city center. As I was still relatively early for check in, I took a walk around historical part of Gdansk. Cold aside, I was immediately stunned by northern inspired architecture that rules all the old buildings in town.

From simple 3 window wide river side houses, to city manors with incredible facades, positioned around main city squares, the center blends into historical village, that breathes of enriched history.
Neptune fountain and Artus court

main town hall

Long street
Mariacka street with basillica of st. Mary in background

Grand armoury
But since I still had really hard time getting used to the cold, I found myself admiring exhibition of art graduates held in the grand armoury, one of the most impressive buildings in town, and later reminiscing at colourful items in Old toy gallery. And to fully get in touch with this to me new culture, trying some Polish snacks, starting with sweets.

I was staying at the La Guitarra, very central and affordable hostel, all based around thematic of music, from rooms named by different artists, to amazing common room with different instruments to play on.

To get my knowledge and facts of city straight, I joined free walking tour in the morning. Beside giving me feeling of basic orientation, I was able to learned a lot of cities history trough different periods of times, that dates all the way back to 10th century.
Green gate palace

Golden gates

After enlightening tour, that took us trough traditions, culture and major events of history, I found myself on a train, travelling north to city of Sopot.

What must be an incredible and crowded summer destination, still stays a vivid place in other seasons. After a walk trough the central old part, where you mustn't miss a look at incredible Krzywy Domek (crooked house) and it's incredible architecture, I headed to the sandy beach and one of the Europe's longest pier's Molo. While fighting windy conditions and enjoying great sight of the city, I definitely, like many other tourists, had great fun mingling with friendly swans at the beach, ready to follow you in hope of getting a treat.

crooked house
When night fell, there was finally time for the big moment, and main reason of my trip: The Lord of The Rings in Concert performance, where first part of the trilogy The fellowship of the Ring was screened accompanied with live music of orchestra and choir. It was definitely an unique and unforgettable experience, especially since I've never seen movie on a big screen before.

But it wasn't until after that my adventure actually started. I took the tram that was supposed to return me back to center, but apparently it's final destination is changed at night, and instead of getting out next to the main train station, I ended up in industrial zone close to the sea, or in other words, almost 8 km from my hostel. Since it was already midnight and there was no more buss or trams coming, I've accepted my faith and started my long way home. Inspired by Frodo and Sam, who walked all the way to Mordor, I followed my GPS instructions, that suggested me to take shortcut over some river island. As I had no problem getting there, problems started as soon as I reached the other side, where I was supposed to cross bridge back to the main land, but it was gated behind wired fence. Even more, I ended up in a private shipyard with restricted access, and thought nobody noticed me walking in, there were some people on the watch as I walked out. What bothered them the most was the fact they had no idea when or how I got there, and even thought they let me go at first, they later decided to follow me and catch me up with the car, to check my documents and clarify what I was really up to. Despite being dressed up in leather black head to toe, I have to thank my accent clear speech and EU citizenship that I wasn't once again mistaken for Russian spy.
If we forget the fact that I also couldn't get unnoticed by the police, I relatively luckily returned back to the hostel somewhere after 2 in the morning.

Muzeum 1939

To relax after the unforgettable night, I decided to spent my day visiting WWII museum, that was just across the channel of my hostel. Incredible modern building, that was actually a multi million architectural project, has basement filled with facts and stories of life from first half of 20th century. From beginnings of different political movements, replicas of places, video clips and testimonials, different objects, to a full sized tank; the whole place takes you to several hours emotional journey. As everything is so well presented and thought trough, museum is a must visit for all generations.

Another part of the tree-cities is most easterly located Gdynia, in 20th century established port city, standing out with it's modernist architecture.
My main place of interest was a Kamienna gora hill, that you can access with cable car and offers some great views. I've successfully found the spot right away, but unfortunately the cable car wasn't working on that day due to maintenance. I still decided to climb the hill, on foot then, but to be completely honest, this in the city located place is no more then 40m high. Still the sight over the bay is pretty amazing and definitely worth a climb.

I found my way to the sea, where I had chance to once again enjoy the sandy beach and play with the swans. I walked my way trough the marina, past the aquarium, where you have some historical ships parked and are now exposed as museums. Unfortunately closed, I found my luck on the third one, where I was also able to enjoy some pie styled cake with view over the shipyard.
Dar Pomorza tall ship & ORP Blyskawica destroyer
I continued my walk along the beach, following the map to some more touristic sights. As I was walking further, the fog that was in the air started thickening and soon you weren't able to see far in front of you.  I continued my stroll of the road and down the beach, where I soon ended up completely abandoned and on my own.
Someway trough I realised there's supposed to be some interesting monuments up in the forest, so I risked a climb up the slippery hill into the woods. I reached the side of cannons on Morainic hill, firstly finding the one that slid of it's original position and now looked like a crashed space ship among the trees.
As I was exploring around and trough the more then 10 tonnes cannon stations, both the fog and the dark thickened. My original plan to escape the woods down the road failed, as there was a barb wired fence between us. So I had to travel up and down the hill, following slightly visible muddy path, that in the rain that started, became very sleazy and unstable. My GPS failing me again and also ending going in a completely wrong direction, resulted in another unexpected and not very pleasant journey. Sooner or later I managed to escape forest to the pretty abandoned beach's parking lot and instead of more adventuring, decided to leave the city at the nearest train station.


Together with it's diversity, city also offers variety of museums to visit. National maritime museum expends on both banks of the river and features some interesting places, from gallery, to steam ship and crane. Later were unfortunately closed in winter time, but museum still offers a very precise look of cities's bond with the sea and its developments trough years.
Soldek, first ship built in Gdansk after WWII

old prison tower
Another interesting and almost must not miss exhibition is collection of amber located in old prison tower. Since region was very reach  with this precious stone, it was implemented in variety of every day objects for high class society and even today inspires many designers to include it in their collections of clothes, jewellery or other items.

Gora Gradowa
Culture park Centrum Hewelianum of Gdansk's fortress at city's hill is place like no other. Located just behind main railway station is easy accessible to visitors coming from anywhere. It's best part is definitely the extraordinary panorama of the city you can get from the top of the hill.

It's old buildings, a lot of them hidden under dirt and grass like a hobbit houses, are now turned into a museums. So called 'time machine' of man and missile will offer you a look at historical battles that were taking place there for last 4 centuries in hopes of conquering the city. The other buildings offer more scientific exhibition, aimed at the practical learning trough simple explanations and experiments...which is exciting, no matter your age. Be ready to spent the whole day there, since there's always another sight or place you'll just want to discover.

On my last day and after my last walk trough the city, where I also peeked inside few major churches I've skipped before, I also decided to get myself a proper Polish meal. When asking about this, a lot of people will recommend you Bar Turystyczny, a self catering place close to the Grand Armoury, where you can find authentic Polish food for very reasonable prices.
market hall, built aat the end of 19th century
Despite that I did some sniffing around on my own and in Market hall, opposite the St. Hyacinth defensive tower, in the past also called “Kiek in de Kök”.
To this day market hall offers variety of products, from clothes to food, found a very cosy simple place, named Bar Dominikanski (after Dominikanski square, where market hall is located). There you can try variety of Pierogi, polish dumplings, for as little as 12 zloti (3€), and I can assure you, they are delicious!


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