Impressions of Poland’s Port City of Gdansk – Part I

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.


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4 thoughts on “Impressions of Poland’s Port City of Gdansk – Part I

  1. Thank you for sharing those wonderful descriptions of Warsaw and Gdank Merrilee, fascinating! The walking tours sound very informative. Someone told me the Poles have a menu system of low priced lunches of hot soup and a main course — what sort of fuel (food) has been keeping you going in these wonderful but chilly towns? (I assume you are not going to KFC, as I noticed from one of your lovely photos that they have a presence in the historic cities of Poland). Also, everything looks very clean and the people look well clothed, and enjoying a reasonable standard of living, so I am wondering why so many patriotic Polish people feel the need to leave their homes and families and go overseas for work.

    1. Thank you for your comments.

      I have been frequenting the traditional milk bars, which is probably what you are referring to about low priced lunches of soup and main course. I just changed a photo in my posting titled: Warsaw: The Former Jewish District and the Right Bank, to show what the understated exterior of a typical milk bar looks like. They are a bit tricky to find sometimes because the name of a milk bar has the word “bar” incorporated into it (milk bars don’t serve alcohol). So one might overlook a milk bar thinking it is a typical bar. I frequented these places almost everyday because the food is great and the prices can’t be beat. I typically get their traditional food of pierogi (Polish dumplings) and a typical kind of soup made from beet roots.

      Regarding your comment about Polish people feeling the need to go overseas for work…the income of the people still drags behind countries in the West. One of my Servas Hosts in Poland told me that his son is working in Norway as an electronic engineer because he can earn three times as much as in Poland.

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