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krisek Gdansk - A travel report by Krys
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Gdansk,  Poland - flag Poland -  Pomorskie
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krisek's travel reports

Will Gdansk ever make it onto the UNESCO list?

  11 votes
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This magical city has been on the Tentative UNESCO List, a waiting room to become a World Heritage Site, for a number of years. Over a 1000 years old with mystical spots, picturesque old town, sights that's changed the course of the world, Gdansk awaits.


The Neptune Fountain and the Town Hall, the two iconic symbols of this thousand years old city
The Neptune Fountain and the Town Hall, the two iconic symbols of this thousand years old city
Coincidentally, two of the sights - Westerplatte and Gdansk Shipyard - had their 'round' anniversaries, 70th and 20th, respectively. The first was the spot where the World War II started in 1939, and the other is where origins of the events found their culmination in 1989, leading to the eradication of communism in Europe and unification of Germany. And the fall of the Iron Curtain. These arguments, however have not convinced the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to inscribe Gdansk as the Town of Memory and Freedom.

The following justification, although valid, seems not to be sufficient: "The first historical information about the town comes from the Vita Sancti Adalberti written in 997 r. Archaeological discoveries confirm that the stronghold and town of Gdansk contained a series of individual urban components which later became distinct districts within which there are valuable examples of urban, sacral and defensive architecture. These include the Main Town (Glowne Miasto), Old Town (Stare Miasto), the Lower Town (Dolne Miasto), the Old Suburbs (Stare Prdedmiejscie), Granary Island (Wyspa Spichrzow), Olowianka (Lead Isle), Long Gardens (Dlugie Ogrody), Bishpop's Hill (Biskupia Gorka) and Grodzisko. The historical heart of the city is formed by the Main Town and the Royal Route (between the High Gate and Green Gate) by which are sited the most valuable examples of municipal architecture: the Town Hall of the Main Town, Arthur's Court, the Court of the Brotherhood of St.George, the Arsenal and burghers houses. In the Main town there are also to be seen examples of richly decorated medieval sacral architecture: the churches of the Holy Virgin, St John, St Nicholas, as well as many towers and gates of the medieval fortifications."

The issue is that much of the city had to be rebuilt after the devastating effects of the WWII. And UNESCO would prefer these sights were original. Just as they are in other World Heritage Sites in Poland - Torun, Krakow, Zamosc.

Favourite spots:
Mariacka Street at night, and the Mariacka Gate in the background
Mariacka Street at night, and the Mariacka Gate in the background
My absolutely most favourite spot in Gdansk is not necessarily an original one. It is the Mariacka Street, one of the most magical spots of the Old Town. And in my opinion, one of the most charming and lovely streets in the world. It is not very long, which adds to its magnetism, its captivating seductiveness. The architecture of the mansions is gripping and the stairways complete with the decorative wrought iron balustrades create a wonderful mix and allure. The street is packed with jewelers' shops specialising in amber and silver, probably the finest in the world, which add even more glitter. Furthermore, the quality of the Mariacka Street is augmented by the presence of the small Mariacka Gate, sealing it from the riverfront, or the Dlugie Nabrzeze. The street looks magnificent at night. There are few street lights on it, and the fairy-tale phenomenal ambiance. It is dark, looking secretive, mysterious and incredible.

What's really great:
Dlugi Targ with the Town Hall in the background
Dlugi Targ with the Town Hall in the background
Gdansk has a wonderful, unique character. There is something in the air. Something rather hard to describe. It must be its ambiance, its pride to be still here after what had happened to it after the Red Army (with the help from the Allied) bombarded it and turned it to rubble. The city had stood for centuries, beautiful, stunning and important. And now, although not completely original, it shines again. It is looking ahead into the future. Persistently!

What I really love about Gdansk also is its population. The people, their cosmopolitan nature, relaxed attitude but exceptional determination and refreshing pragmatism, have always set themselves apart from the rest of Poland's nation. This is perhaps why it was in Gdansk, where the pursuit of freedom spread around Europe and farther in the world. And it is definitely why the preparation for the 2012 UEFA Championships make the speediest headway of all host cities in Poland and Ukraine.

Sights:
Dluga Street in the Old Town
Dluga Street in the Old Town
Apart from the aforementioned sights, Gdansk offers a few more. The main town, where the old town is situated, has a number of very interesting features. One, the most prominent, is the St Mary's Church. It is the largest red brick church in Europe. Its size is truly amazing. The vertical lines of the architecture and the chunky bell tower make the structure stand out proudly. It is possible to climb the tower and see the layout of the old town from above.

The old town has the so called Royal Way, part of which is pedestrianised allows a visit to the following sights: the Green Gate; Golden House; Arthur's Court; Neptune Fountain; Townhall; Uphagen House; Golden Gate; Prisoner's Tower; Torture House; and Upland Gate. The main town also boasts the Armoury (or Arsenal); Royal Chapel of John III Sobieski, the King of Poland; and a number of churches.

The Oliwa district has also a few interesting sights, the main one being the Oliwa Cathedral with its Great Organ.

Accommodations:
Part of the Dlugie Nabrzeze with the side view of the Crane (Zuraw) and the Motlawa River
Part of the Dlugie Nabrzeze with the side view of the Crane (Zuraw) and the Motlawa River
Never did I have to stay at a hotel or a hostel in Gdansk. A number of new hotels have sprung like mushrooms recently. Including very comfortable ones indeed. One of the good options is the modern Holiday Inn right by the old city walls. Other places to stay in the heart of the city include: Hotel Wolne Miasto; Hotel Aureus; Hotel Krolewski, Hotel Hanza; Hotel Podewils; Hotel Gdansk; Dom Schumannow; Holland House Residence; Radisson Blue Hotel; VNS Apartamenty; Biala Lilia Willa; Pica Paca; and a few more. The obvious highrise hotel - the Hevelius (Mercure chain), is not immediately in the very centre of the old town, but a room from at the top floor must offer incredible views.

Hotel Gdansk, where I often go, is equipped with an excellent restaurant and a minibrewery serving their very own golden drinks - the weizen beer; lager; and a dark beer. All are great, but the hefe weizen is superb. The staff are very professional and friendly.

Nightlife:
The restored part of the Granary Island, the other part has been standing ruined since WWII
The restored part of the Granary Island, the other part has been standing ruined since WWII
The pub and club scene in Gdansk has had its own revolution for a number of years now. It is going ever stronger. New places open up all the time, and those that have operated for some time, have kept enhancing their reputation. The pity is that smoking in bars is still allowed in Poland.

It would be a heresy on my part not to recommend the Cafe Mariacka (Mariacka St. no.21/22). It serves a magnificent number of drinks of all sorts, but it also has some great Polish food on its menu. It has been frequented by a number of celebrities (and I am not surprised!).

Along Piwna Street (Piwna means Beer) there are a number of very atmospheric, places for a night out. One of them is the tongue-twisting Szksypcze Rock Inn Pub. It is almost a living-room-substitute for locals, and if chatting with the fascinating clientelle is not enough, they have fusball tables and pinball machines.

And let me not forget to mention the Brovarnia again - the minibrewery bar attached to the Hotel Gdansk.

Hangouts:
The Dlugie Nabrzeze with the magnificent medieval crane (Zuraw) at the Motlawa riverfront
The Dlugie Nabrzeze with the magnificent medieval crane (Zuraw) at the Motlawa riverfront
Places to hang out in Gdansk are plentiful, and that is only in the old town. Let's start with the cafes and tea houses offering coffees, aperitifs and pastries. They are on every corner of every street and alley. If one stopped at every one of them for a cup of mocha, latte or hot chocolate and piece of cheese cake, the Earth gravity would shift.

In the winter, these spots are great energy filling stations dotted along the many strolling routes, perfect for warming up and catching up breath.

In the summer, Gdansk's position at the coast of Baltic Sea, provides yet another option for taking time, relaxing, killing time - the beaches. There are a few of those. Stogi and in Brzeźno are guarded and have been winning awards for best beaches in the country. Jelitkowo and Zabianka in the north-west and Sobieszewo in the south-east are also decent, although the latter is a bit far.

Restaurants:
Dlugie Nabrzeze, also boasting a few good restaurants and eateries, many serving good fish dishes.
Dlugie Nabrzeze, also boasting a few good restaurants and eateries, many serving good fish dishes.
I have eaten out in a few places in Gdansk. One of the more memorable places was Restaurant Masala (Rajska St, no.10), which serves a good number of Indian dishes, which I had not tried, and what the owners call Thai food. I tried their red curry and green curry (of course!) and by looking only at the colour of the sauce, I knew that it was not going to be what I'd expect. They were still tasty dishes, but most definitely they were not Thai curries. On a more positive note, one of the spicy dishes with chili that I also ordered was fantastic. The chicken that came with it was cooked to perfection.

A few years back, I tried the Napoli (Dluga St. no.62/63) for their pizza, but they also serve pasta, grilled meats, salads, salmon (the only fish on the menu - and not the best, but there are a few shellfish options for starters), tortellini and soups. I really liked the pizzas then, and I am told that the place is still very popular and strong, with undiminished quality.

Other recommendations:
Gdansk Glowny, the main train station, a few meters from the old town.
Gdansk Glowny, the main train station, a few meters from the old town.
Gdansk is part of the Tricity (Trojmiasto) aglomeration, complemented by Sopot, a small city famous for its spa character, beach, wooden pier, nightlife, and the Forrest Opera; and Gdynia, a city built from scratch in 1920s and 1930s, famous for its modern port, the seat of Poland's Navy and shopping. Sopot is definitely worth a visit. Its trendiness and social life are sights in their own rights.

Gdansk can be reached by air, rail, road and water. The airport is served by flights connecting Trojmiasto directly with 32 airports in 12 European countries, the majority of which are served by low fares carries, such as Ryanair, Wizzair and Norwegian. Direct trains go to main cities of Poland, including Warsaw, Krakow and Szczecin. The main train station is rather flamboyant, although a bit disorganised, and the platforms need work! Car ferries connect Trojmiasto with Karlskrona and Nynashamn in Sweden. There used to be a connection to Helsinki, but it has been discontinued for now.

Published on Wednesday October 21th, 2009


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Tue, Oct 27 2009 - 06:42 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Another firs class (super ultra class!) report, as you always write. Thank you.

Tue, Oct 27 2009 - 04:15 AM rating by trampi

Great report and pictures! Thank you for writing about one of the most picturesque Polish cities!

Sun, Oct 25 2009 - 12:08 PM rating by gloriajames

Outstanding! the total package, well-written, full-packed info, and great pics.... 5*

Fri, Oct 23 2009 - 12:06 PM rating by louis

One of my closest friends has moved to Gdańsk last year, so from that moment I am there every few months. That is why I read your report with little more personal interpretation. Great job as always. This report makes me want to buy a ticket and go to Gdańsk even today....

Thu, Oct 22 2009 - 07:59 PM rating by eirekay

Krys, this is worth a five star for the pictures alone! Great report with your usual marvelous insights!

Thu, Oct 22 2009 - 04:15 AM rating by mistybleu

Krys, great report. Love the pictures the colours are so rich.

Thu, Oct 22 2009 - 03:47 AM rating by porto

Fine report again, Krys. Gdansk has always been on my travel list so when I eventually get there I can print your report off and have a well informed travel guide.

Thu, Oct 22 2009 - 03:33 AM rating by pesu

Since I have read the 'Tin Drum' many years ago, Gdansk has ever seemed to be a very interesting place to me. Great report as always, Krys, well written with wonderful photos - thanks for returning with your muse. ;-)

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