A solo & cultural weekend
Gdansk is the former capital of Poland. Until Warsaw pushed it off it’s throne. And tourists seem to follow that pattern. It goes Krakow, Warsaw and then maybe Gdansk. Compared to its big brothers, Gdansk is a tiny, cosy city and perfect for an easy, walkable weekend trip. Gdansk is – like other Hanseatic cities such as Lubeck and Riga – rich in medieval history with small streets and old trade houses and canals. In fact, it’s one of the oldest cities in Poland. And you know I love old stuff! On top of that: It’s cheap, there’s great food and fantastic museums. Perfect for a rainy weekend. For 1.
The airport in Gdansk is named after Lech Walesa. We will come back to him later.
Getting from the airport
Arrive in the evening or save money and arrive Saturday morning. To get from the airport, the bus is cheapest option, but I don’t like buses and it was dark. Normally, I would take the train when possible.
But being on my first real solo trip. Arriving by night in an unknown city, I booked a hotel transfer. The advantage is that the price is already agreed on, so he will not drive in circles. The nice older gentlemen driver who came to get me didn’t speak a word of English, so another advantage of the transfer is no misunderstandings about the destination. His meter was running and I checked: my transfer fare was actually cheaper than a taxi.
Hotel in Gdansk
This was one of the most pleasant hotels, I’ve stayed at in a long time, so I will definitely recommend it here: Puro Hotel. I chose a more upscale hotel, since I wanted to be close to the sights and making sure staff was available 24/7. But I guess you can also find a hostel with other travellers – if you’re more outgoing than me.
Because I booked a least minute deal, I got 40% off the room. 67 euro pr night for a double room. A great bargain – if you are 2 people sharing the cost. No single rooms available at the time. Problem of solo travelling.
I always start by visiting what I like most to see. In tGdansk, it was the most important landmark: the medieval crane. If you are staying at Puro hotel, it’s just around the corner.
The old crane
Museum of WWII
150.000 Polish people died during the war. I almost felt sick. There’s a room for Hitler and Germany, one for Stalin and Russia and one for Mussolini and Italy. It’s like the worlds worst travel brochure. The story behind WWII is long and horrible and in the museum it begins with WWI and ends with the bomb on Hiroshima. It’s too much terror. To help visitors like me out, the museum is actually designed so the large high corridor is a space for contemplation – and a break from the horrors.
The museum is relatively new and a good museum (like most of the museums, I’ve seen in Poland). But it should also almost come with a warning. It’s definitely one of the toughest to go through.
Poland is without a doubt the hero of the story. A curator at another museum told me the Polish government has a problematic history of influencing museum exhibitions to fit political aims.
By now, you probably need some air. I know I did. Going back into the old town heading for a lunch place I had seen. The weather was too grey for great pictures, so will postpone climbing the viewing point until tomorrow.
Museum of Solidarity
The solidarity Centre is not really a museum, but an education or learning centre, a library and more. You enter into a lush green room. Especially, when it was raining cats and dogs outside, this was heaven.
The absolute main character is the figure Lech Walesa. The guy whom the airport is named after. Again, you get a free audio-guide. I recommend using it unless you already know a lot about Polish politics in the 1980’s.
Because the place is so huge and staged lake a movie almost, that you are overwhelmed. In this way the guide help you focus, but you can also skip chapters, when you ears start bleeding.
One of the most important objects (and not a copy) is the 21 demands publizised on gate #2 (like Luther?) Because of all the above historical weight of the demands, this wooden manifest is one of the most important documents of the 20th century and a UNESCO memory of the world. My Polish is bad, but apparently one of the demands is “We have the right to strike!”
If you are not a hard core cultural traveller like me, you can spread out the two museum in two days. But I wanted to see as much as possible, so I got up early Sunday morning for a small trip outside of the city.
I got a taxi to Malbork Castle – a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 1 hour outside the city.
Gdansk is named Danzig in German.
The city has a population of around 500.000
Gdansk is Poland’s main seaport
Poland was the 1. country to be invaded in WWII due to the Versailles-treaty and because it was a free city.
Just like Warsaw has its mermaid, Gdansk has its Neptune. Neptune’s Fountain challenges the crane as the symbol of the city. Built in the 1700s as a Rococo artwork on top of an old well, you can’t miss it.
Panorama view of Gdansk
Luckily, the weather was great and it was time for a panoramic view of the city. Climb and get a great view of the city from the top of St. Mary’s church 82 meters and 409 steps above.
Climbing the tower is not for people scared of heights. It’s not in mint condition. The Cathedral is often referred to as the largest brick church in the world. Working in the largest one in Denmark myself, this is a fun fact. Another one is that the recently deceased Polish president is buried here.
Evening stroll in Gdansk
For your evening stroll, head back to the canal and the crane. I found evenings are the hardest time to be a solo traveller. But I saw the sunset from a bench – and luckily I don’t mind drinking alone.
And then your hotel is just around the corner. Perfect planning.