August 14, 2019
There are some cities that lend themselves to wandering. Gdansk’s old town is one of those places, particularly when St. Dominic’s Fair or any of the number of other festivals it has is taking place.
I started out the morning, with a visit to one of the food vendors for a Hungarian twisty dough thing. Think of a string of dough wrapped around a cylinder making a tube ‘o dough, then baked, brushed with butter, and sprinkled heavily with cinnamon sugar. It’s like I’d died and gone to sweetness heaven – all for 13 zloty (a bit over $3.00). I walked up and down lanes of merchants looking at their wares while snacking on pieces of steaming hot sugary baked goodness. Life is sweet.
I decided to go back to St. Mary’s Church to spend a bit more time looking at the icons and artwork. There are a couple of lovely stained glass windows and the statuary is quite phenomenal.
It is unfortunate that the organ is inoperable and the clock broke down, but I guess I’ll just have to come back another time when they are working. Hopefully, all the other renovation work will be completed as well.
I spent a lot my time walking the main streets of the old center marveling at the architecture. It’s amazing to me that the entire city was recreated post-war. It looks as if it all belongs and has been in place for centuries. I love the colors of the buildings, the details on the facades, and the way everything just looks like it belongs.
On yesterday’s tour, I hadn’t been able to spend too much time down by the river. I walked past where we’d stood on the bridge and went over to the other side. The antique merchants of the St. Dominic’s Fair were situated on this side of the river, so I meandered not looking to buy anything. I eventually walked around the marina, past a bunch of new construction and found a spot that had great views of the famous harbor crane and the river.
Not too much further down, I passed a tall ship used for training and the Soldek (still mired in controversy).
Around the corner, I came upon the GDANSK sign – every city has to have one these days. I waited for ages to get a clear photo of the sign without anyone else near it, but eventually gave up.
The sign is in a little park with lots of benches, low-slung chairs, and beanbags for lounging. I got an ice cream cone (after all, I’d walked a long way), pulled up a beanbag sofa and people/ship watched.
The people-watching took so much out of me that I napped in the sun in my bright yellow beanbag. Life is good.
When I told him that I was going to Gdansk, one of the guides in Warsaw told me that his favorite museum is The Museum of the Second World War. He told me it was a must-do, but that I’d need to set aside several hours. Since I had several hours available this afternoon, I headed over to the iconic structure. Most of the museum is underground – the part of the building above ground, called “the Prism,” is mostly administration and educational spaces.
What the guide failed to tell me is that the museum is ultra-popular and would be packed except at the beginning and the end of the day. When I arrived at 2:00 p.m., there were approximately 200 people in line in front of me to buy tickets.
Once tickets were purchased, I had to get my headphones for the audio guide and then get in another line to get into the museum. The exhibition starts with a movie, so they only allow a certain number of people in at a time. It took an hour before I went through the turnstile into the museum. As I made my way through the permanent exhibit, the crowds thinned. By the time I got to the end, there were only a few diehards remaining. But then again, I was in the museum for more than four hours.
Was it worth my entire afternoon? Most definitely. The exhibition was educational, enlightening, disheartening, disturbing, thought-provoking, and humbling. I’ve learned so much about WWII on this trip that I hadn’t known before. If you come to Gdansk, do yourself a favor and spend part of the day learning about what we never want to happen again. Just make sure you go early or a bit later in the day.