Europe’s Top Cities- #12

Free, Polish, Piast, Teutonic, Polish, Prussian, Free, Prussian, German, Free/ League of Nations, German and now, Polish. Gdansk has had a turbulent history, even by Polish standards. The attack of the Westerplatte peninsular in Gdansk was the first clash of the second world war and the siege of Gdansk is a legend in the country. Before that, during Poland’s golden age of the 16th century, it was a key naval and trade port and marked the end of the Vistula river, the key waterway uniting Poland. Nowadays, it is a beautiful seaside city on the Baltic shore boasting old market squares, one of the world’s biggest churches and a whole lot more to see and do. Its rich history and colourful harbourfront make it as appealing as any other city, not just Poland’s main attractions- Krakow and Warsaw.

The only reason I had driven up to Poland’s Baltic coast was to catch a ferry to Sweden, and I didn’t know anything about the intriguing city, but I am grateful that we had a couple of days there to discover some of its gems. The day before, we had walked around the colossal Malbork castle, the world’s biggest brick building that was built by the Teutonic knights in the 13th century and gained our first insight into the whirlwind history of northern Poland. The next day we sauntered through fields in the van up to Gdansk and set out to learn more.

Gdansk is home to the best museum I have ever been to. The Museum of the Second World War rises strikingly out of the northern harbourfront and under the modern entrance building lies a sprawling complex of 18 sections detailing the horrors Poland faced from the beginning of the second world war through to the end of the cold war. Each area contains rooms filled with artefacts from reconstructed Warsaw streets and tanks down to tiny Nazi Christmas decorations and personal jewellery. Following the chronological route is like wading through half a century of harrowing history and I believe it impossible to leave unmoved. Battles in Russia and the Mediterranean are recounted, detailing not just the struggle of Poland but encasing the theatres of the whole European war. The resistance effort and the astonishing work of the Polish forces after Poland was defeated are also fascinating. The section on the holocaust is truly distressing. It is recommended to spend a minimum of three hours inside but Bani and I got lost inside for most of a day. Each area was as captivating as the last, detailed with personal and countrywide information in well-made displays. If you go to Gdansk, and you really should, dedicate at least half a day to spend here, you will not regret it. Their chicken Caesar salad is to die for.

Walking through the colourful harbourfront back in the real world felt surreal after the dark, sombre museum. The busy streets and cafes by the waterfront were full of life and the brick roads  were full of street performers and people enjoying a summers drink. The massive basilica of St. Mary is another ginormous, Polish brick structure that looks over the hustle and bustle of hectic market squares. If I’d known I’d like Gdansk so much I would have got there sooner, but our ferry limited or time to spend in this great city. We spent the night camping by a white sand beach after washing off in the surprisingly not-freezing Baltic and that was the end of our Polish adventure.

The 2020 Europa league final was due to be held in Gdansk but due to what is going on in the world it has been postponed. I hope it goes ahead and more people get to venture to this amazing place, I would’ve loved to have gone, but I am an Arsenal fan and will avoid it after our shocking final last year and the fact we are already out this year. I’ll have to go back without football as an excuse.

If you want to read my original post from my time in Gdansk, follow this link- https://thecampervanmanblog.com/2018/09/30/europe-2018-15-gdansk/

Parked up in Gdansk

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