Our Viking tour had us scheduled for only a half day in Poland. We docked in Gdynia, which just happened to be the departure port for my husband’s grandmother, who was pregnant with his mother when she left Poland in 1923, searching for a better life in the USA. So that was kinda cool.
The tour choices were limited–a free city tour of Gdansk, or the optional tours to Stutthof Concentration Camp or Malbork Castle. Given that we had never been to Poland before, we chose the Gdansk city tour.
I’ll confess that I didn’t expect much. Squished between the two warring superpowers of Germany and Russia, it had been a battleground more times than I cared to count. Here’s what Gdansk looked like in 1945, after the Russians got through with it.
First surprise was the 45 minute ride to Gdansk. The main road was clean and green, with lovely trees, flowers and public buildings along the way. We stopped briefly at the Oliwa Cathedral, (which didn’t much impress me), drove by Lech Walesa’s house (I don’t think he was home), then arrived at the city that for a brief period was known as Danzig. (Until we arrived there I hadn’t made the connection. I really should have paid closer attention in World History, Freshman year.)
“Amazed” doesn’t quite capture what I felt when I saw how this city had been restored to its former glory. It is incredibly beautiful!
It was not too crowded, because it was relatively early on a Sunday morning
I also wasn’t aware that Daniel Farenheit was born in Gdansk– are we starting to see a trend here? In my defense, however, he lived most of his life in the Dutch Republic. Still, Gdansk is where he got his start and the city is rightfully proud of him.
Another of Gdansk’s claims to fame is the 14th century human powered crane that was used to load and unload cargo, and is still in working condition. If you walk along the river, you will come to the brick building that houses the crane and its giant treadmill.
I loved the architecture–the attention to detail. Check out these beautiful buildings.
Everywhere you looked, you saw something beautiful. Even the sewer covers were artistic! If you click on the individual photos you should be able to get it to enlarge.
And if you don’t think all of this is pretty bloody amazing, take another look at the 1945 photo to see the city after the Russians got through bombing it to kingdom come. The Poles have a lot to be proud of. (And I have a lot of Polish friends and relatives!)
Despite being well fed on the ship, we stopped in a little outdoor cafe, where I had the most incredible hot fudge sundae EVER. Now I’m regretting not taking a picture of it — it was so gorgeous, not to mention delicious. Oh well, you’ll just have to trust me on that one–till you can visit Gdansk and experience it for yourself.
One last sight before I end this post. Neptune’s fountain. It is definitely worthy of multiple views.
One thing about the free Viking tours–it truly is the luck of the draw. We drove right by the Solidarity Monument without stopping. Friends that were on a later tour were able to get off the bus for a closer look, something that I would have liked to have done.
The take away? I have a much greater appreciation for Poland and all it has to offer. The great thing about a cruise is it helps you identify the places you want to visit again and linger.