Often when I sat at the desk in my charming guesthouse in Gdansk while enjoying my room-with-a-view overlooking a small river, impressions of Gdansk flooded my mind. So I wrote them down.
Poland’s historic port city of Gdansk straddles the Motlawa River, which eventually empties into the Baltic Sea.
Impressions of Gdansk….
A monument depicting children with suitcases in front of the train station was my first thought-provoking image of Gdansk as I departed from the train station on arrival from Warsaw. The Monument to the Evacuated Children is in memory of the Jewish children of Gdansk who were evacuated from Gdansk to Britian (1938-1939) in what became known as “kindertransport” The man responsible for this monument, sculptor Frank Meisler, was one of those children.
Neptune Fountain on the promenade of the old Royal Way in the Main Town demanded my attention every time I passed it. This road with its centuries-old architecture, was resurrected from the ruins of World War II. The Royal Way stretched for 500 meters from the commanding Green Gate on the waterfront to the equally grand Upland Gate at the other end. I tried never to miss a daily stroll here. Old Town, without defenses, was the poorer part of town over the centuries and was occupied mainly by the Polish people. The richer part of town was the Main Town with its defenses and was more “German”
The history of Gdansk diverted from the path of the rest of Poland periodically. Gdansk has been an international trading center for centuries with a local German-Polish population. 1920-1939 (Inter-war period) the city was a semi-independent state known as the Free City of Danzig with a German majority. In 1945 Gdansk was a battle ground between Germany and Russia, leaving much of the city in ruin. After the war Gdansk became part of Poland again. German civilians fled and the city was then occupied by Poles mostly coming from territories eastward that had been lost to the Soviet Union.
The Gdansk Crane (Zuraw), a massive medieval structure looms high over a section of the Moltawa River in the Main Town. The views of the riverfront and beyond were captivating from the top (no elevator!). Built in 1442, it was used to transfer cargo, hoist up masts on ships, and also served as a fortified gate to the city.
Whenever I found myself disoriented in the waterfront area, the sight of the Zuraw helped orient me. Invariably I would then make a detour down a narrow, picturesque street nearby with its rows of porches and assorted display cases of amber jewelry and shops.
The waterfront promenade along the Motlawa River was usually full of local families and tourists enjoying the cafes, restaurants, and shops. Sailing and ocean-going vessels, old and new straddled the river. I visited the National Maritime Museum on the promenade then took the small, historic Motlawa ferry to the rest of the museum (one minute ride to an island). It is believed that since 1687 there has been a ferry plying the waters between the city and the island. The ride on this unique boat alone was worth the ticket of admission to the museum.
(Move your cursor over each photo for caption/description. iPad users – hold a finger on each photo for a few seconds for caption/description)