Friday, July 18, 2014

When we travel abroad, seldom do we return to the same city more than once unless we have guests. (That’s why we’ve already visited Krakow five times in the past 16 months!)

There are just too many places we want to see and explore in this world.

However, with the August 15th holiday weekend in Poland rapidly approaching, we’re thinking about returning to the Baltic Sea, which is the closest beach by the sea we can reach by car or air. And with the new A1 highway finally finished, we can reach Gdańsk in 3 ½ hours instead of the 5 hours it took us last year.

I absolutely adored the Gothic architecture and the vibe in Gdańsk! Hopefully, my pictures in this post will showcase Gdańsk’s beauty and why we might return soon to this historic city by the sea.

First to get my bearings in Gdańsk last year, I decided to follow the Royal Route Walk as suggested by Rick Steves’ Snapshot guidebook. The walk starts at the white Upland Gate (Brama Wyżynna) and follows the same pathway the Polish kings took during the 16th and 17th centuries when Gdańsk was Poland’s wealthiest city.
After entering the gate, you’ll notice a large red-brick building, the Torture House (Wieża Wiezienna), and the taller, attached red-brick Prison Tower (Katownia). Here, you can explore an amber museum and see medieval torture implements and old prisoner cells.
Next, walk around to the left side of these buildings, and you’ll see a long brick building with four gables, which is the 16th century Armory. This is one of the best examples of Dutch Renaissance architecture in Europe, according to Steves.
Continue past the brick buildings a bit and you’ll encounter the beautiful Golden Gate (Złota Brama), which was originally built in 1612 and then rebuilt following World War II. The four female statues on the west side on top of the gate represent Peace, Freedom, Prosperity and Fame.
As you go through the gate, you’ll be entering Ulica Długa (known as Long Street), which is lined with colorful, ornate, skinny buildings. Approximately, 90 percent of Gdańsk was in ruins following WWII, but the citizens wanted to revive their once beautiful city. Hence, you’ll find an eclectic mix of buildings with elaborate façades here. I loved them!
One of the original 19th century buildings at Ulica Długa #19-20.
Can you believe this is what Gdańsk looked like post WWII?

Soon, you’ll be standing in front of the Main Tower Hall (Ratusz Glównego Miasta), with its striking clock façade. For only 5 pln (about $1.75), you can climb up the hall’s observation tower and look out over the Main Town (Główne Miasto), as the old part is called. It’s well worth all those steps for the fantastic views!
You'll find boisterous entertainers like this guy along Ulica Długa.
Construction for St. Mary’s Basilica, the brick tower on the right, began in 1343 and lasted 159 years. The church is believed to be the largest brick church in the world.
Looking out over Ulica Długa toward the Golden Gate. 
Near the tower hall, you’ll see two more interesting buildings, specifically, Neptun Kina, #57, which was the only movie theater in the city during the 1980s. Secondly, across from the old theater, look for the Ferber House, #29, which is adorned with ornamental heads of Roman emperors, originally built in 1620. The wealthy Ferber family produced six mayors, numerous other city officials and two parish priests of St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk.
 Next, at the center of Długi Targ (Long Square), you’ll encounter Neptune Fountain, one of Gdańsk’s most important landmarks. Neptune represents the god of the sea, an apt symbol for a city that’s had a long history connected to the sea.
Continue wandering down the street and you’ll walk through the Green Gate (Zielona Brama), which originally was built as a residence for the visiting kings. I didn’t find this gate nearly as impressive as the Golden Gate.
Upon exiting through the gate, you’ll be along the River Embankment of the Motława River, a channel of the Vistula River. The river was the source of the city’s wealth with its busy shipping trade. On the far end, look for the wooden Zuraw Crane, which was used to place masts on ships and to load cargo, that dates back to the 15th century.
So now, you’ve learned a bit of history about Gdańsk. Hopefully, you can see why I loved it and cannot wait to return next month!

Have you visited Gdańsk? If so, what did you enjoy best about this Polish port city?

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Lois B said...

Great tour of the city, Joy; thanks! You have some amazing photos. If you haven't seen them, the Solidarity Museum and Westerplatz are also worth seeing.

PS - so true about Krakow; everyone wants to go to Krakow!:-)

jaz@octoberfarm said...

what a fabulous city. i could spend a lot of time exploring it!

Joy said...

@Lois, thanks so much! Yes, we ran out of time to see the Solidarity Museum so hopefully next month!

There's more to Poland than just Kraków! ;-)

Joy said...

@Joyce, Indeed, it is! We plan to explore Gdańsk a bit more too!

Anonymous said...

Wieza wiezienna= prison tower
Katownia= torture house
The other way round :)
I love Your blog, i found out a lot about Poland i dod not know before...and im polish, shame on me :/
Thank You!

Marcello said...

I've been ready your blogs on Poland all morning. I've have thoughts about living in Poland for a short period and it's interesting to read your thoughts, the things you like and dislike. My girlfriend's family is Polish and she can speak it so certainly helps with the language scenario. I also enjoy the challenge of learning the language. I found the smaller cities in Poland more appreciative of foreigners attempting Polish. At the end of the day, who cares if you order a red coffee instead of a black one!?! haha. Gdasnk looks amazing and is right at the top of my "to visit" list in Polska.

Marcello said...

Should have read over my comment before publishing it. Need more coffee!

Joy said...

@Marcello, dzień dobry! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I would agree with your comments. On a recent road trip through Lower Silesia, I found people so much nicer and happy that I could speak a lil Polish. :) A few places didn't speak any English at all...Polish or German and I got along just fine all by myself.

If you have a chance to live where your girlfriend is from, I'm sure they would appreciate it. I guess it all depends on finding work. All the best to you!