After I saw a single beautiful picture of the city on the web and found out where it was, I decided in an instant to check out about flights from Nice and actually booked one immediately. And so I went to Gdansk, Poland, over the first weekend of February 2018.
Gdansk is located by the Baltic Sea in Poland, Northern Eastern Europe. It is a small town known for its shipyard, but it is also known as being the city where World War II began, when the 1st of September 1939 the Germans initiated the very first attack on this territory called the Dantzig corridor.
The site is located in the area of Westerplatte, which can be accessed from Gdansk by taking the bus #106 or the #138 from the station behind the Golden Gate, where the Tourist Information Center is. The two main points of interest in Westerplatte are the remains of the last military building where the Polish army resisted the Nazis, and the monument that honors the fallen soldiers.
Nowadays, Gdansk mostly is made alive by tourism, with lots of restaurants in the Old Town, and beautiful buildings that have been re-painted in graceful colors, especially in the main street called Dluga Street (ulica Dluga).
I loved these colors and the architecture of that street’s buildings. By day or by night, it gives a delightful feeling of light joy to the old town, which in my opinion is a very good move from the decision-makers at the Direction of Tourism (if such an organization exists there), because truth be told the rest of the city looks rather stark.
That street runs towards the Motlawa river and becomes Dlugi Targ (Long Market Street) by the Neptune Fountain, the statue that is standing just in front of the City Hall.
I especially liked two other parallel streets to Dluga. One of them was Piwna street, full of vibrant restaurants and coffee shops, always hosted in beautifully painted buildings again. One can really feel the effort from the city to revive those old buildings and give them back a clean appearance.
Just as an example, here is a line of buildings along the Motlawa river that is less attractive to tourists at the moment, and I’m pretty sure that has to do with the fact this side of the river hasn’t been rehabilitated yet. It looks nice and “local” though, and I can’t say I don’t like it in fact.
The other street I liked was Mariacka street, named after the Basilica Mariacka. That street looks a bit different in terms of architecture, and hosts several tiny souvenir shops as well as Amber shops run by Polish and Russian people alike. A lot of jewels and decoration accessories made out of amber stone are exhibited in the street, but this business industry hardly attracts any tourist at all for actual purchase during low season.
Then I had to feed myself! And although lots of places are fixing tourists with traditional tourist foods, I decided to go local as I always do when I am in a foreign place, it is so much part of the travel and experience! Indeed, travelling to this area of the world, I wanted to live a full Polish experience, and there were a few dishes I needed to tick off my must-try list.
Among the good foods I wanted to eat in Gdansk, there were Baltic salmon roe, Eastern European cheesecake, sour pickles, and pierogis (local dumplings). On the picture above, this is one of the meals I had, and it’s typical from there apparently. Poles eat lots of potatoes, and here it was a plate of roasted potatoes with salmon roe and Icelandic yogurt sauce with dill and lemon. Delicious and filling!
I have spent an excellent time strolling about along the Motlawa river, several times actually. Polish people are not at all morning people, and neither seem to be the tourists over there. I was surprised to visit touristic sites and walk down the river with nobody around in the morning, but then people would come out around 11am, and the city restaurants would be serving beers, coffee and Prosecco at full speed around 5pm onward until probably late at night.
Along the Motlawa, there are plenty of beautiful restaurants serving fresh fish and all sorts of Polish and international foods. But beside that, there is one of the most remarkable monuments of Gdansk, the Zuraw Crane. This giant construction is made of bricks and hard wood, and is the oldest medieval crane of Europe, that was used to load and unload merchandise from the ships. It was built back in the 15th Century, was destroyed during WW2, and rebuilt between 1955 and 1962.
Beside big colorful or interesting constructions, the town of Gdansk is just a regular and pretty austere East European city. Which I also found very interesting to see by the way, as a part of my local experience again. Lots of buildings have not been renovated since the war time, others still bears the marks of communist times. Here above, inside the dilapidated house there’s a dentist’s practice on the second floor. And below, there is a public park, just like I imagined them from the cold war period.
Finally, I strolled around the Hala Targowa where I had hoped to find a nice local indoor market, but again it was pretty austere and after a quick look around, I rapidly changed plans when I saw there would be more interesting local streets to walk in. Like this one below, where these nice houses face a public primary school in a quiet district of the city. A good and quiet atmosphere to finish off my last day in Gdansk.
I loved my short weekend in Gdansk; it really was an experience that I would qualify as completely different from everything I knew before. It made me want to see more of Eastern Europe too. Then I took my flight back to Western Europe, and stopped for a few hours in Amsterdam before heading to Nice…
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved.