It was August, and I was on board for not more than a week. I was quite thrilled for the new experience that I was going to have, as this was the first time that I ever took a ship
to dry dock, even thow it’s been ten years since I started working as a seaman. More than that was my first time sailing into the Baltic Sea. And what marvelous piece of engineering entrance it has, the Oresund Bridge, which is so long that it connects Sweden to Denmark, and at the same time it is so tall that it allows even the largest ships in the world to pass safely under.
For the next two weeks I was not to be anymore afloat and trotting, but in the shipyard of Gdansk, a beautiful Polish city on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. Entering the shipyard was quite a challenge, as it seemed that our ship was of the maximum size that they can accommodate here. The turn on the entrance channel was so tight, that it
felt like scratching the edge of the channel, but with the help of two tug boats, we were safely taken in. The funny part, was that the dock itself was shorter than the ship,
so her bow was just hanging over the water, until they brought some floating barge. It wouldn’t be much of a problem, but we actually needed to take out the anchors, and not into the water.
For the first days I was quite happy about the new challenges and the slightly different environment, and way of seeing things around. But the amount of work involved was exhausting, especially when having to go up and down the stairs to the bottom of the dock, several times a day. Worst part when I was forgetting something up and had to climb all the way up the stairs to take it, hmm…
Even thou the days were long and working hard, I was quite happy to be there, and eager to go out and visit the city in the evening.
So, by 18:00, together with some of my colleagues, we were ready by the end of the dock. Asked locals for a taxi company, and some ten minutes later it was picking us up from
there. The trip to downtown was only about 15 minutes, and very cheap, few euros only. On the way to the old town, we were passing by the European Solidarity Centre, a museum about the modern history of Poland as I understand. Unfortunately, due to my daily work schedule, could not visit the museums, as they were closing about 4 or 5 pm. In front of this museum stands the Monument of the Fallen Shipyard Workers, three tower steel crosses with anchors that were built to commemorate the workers who died in the 1970 anti-communist riots.
We get off in front of the marvelous Golden Gate, from where the old town starts. Everyday there are some free walking tours that will give a good sense of the historical landmarks. The Golden Gate itself, was built in 1612-14, replacing a 13th century old gothic gate. Both sides of the gate have attiques with figures symbolizing the
qualities of the ideal citizen: Peace, Freedom, Wealth, Fame, Agreement, Justice, Piety and Prudence.
Passing through the Gate, the Long Lane street (Dluga Ulica) stretches in front of me towards the Long Market to reach the Green Gate and then the Waterfront. It is surrounded by old buildings and packed with restaurants, shops, pubs, amber art and clubs. The historic architecture of the buildings is really amazing and beautiful coloured, making me feel like in a different age of time.
Even if without a guide, it is a pleasure to have a relaxing walk around. Going towards the waterfront, at about half way, and just a few steps over a street to the left, is the St. Mary’s Church. Completed in 1502 it has beautiful brick-built Gothic design. The church’s tower is accessible to the public, and will give a panoramic view of Gdansk, but the 408 steps are not really what I had in mind for the evening.
Further ahead in the middle of the Long Market stands the Fountain of Neptune, whom is considered the guardian of Gdansk. Throughout the day and evening, there are many street artists performing around the square, thus making it one of the best places to sit and have some coffee, or enjoy a local crafted beer while listening to the songs.
Indeed, Gdansk, and the north of Poland, is well renowned for its beers, especially craft beer. There are many pubs and restaurants with a wide selection of beer on the menu. I am always going for the drafts, pale ales. But still, so many to choose from.
Just after passing the Green Gate, and then turning right, is a brewery, where not less than 14 kinds of tap beer was served, definitely the place to be. Even now i feel thirsty thinking about those tasteful beers after a long hot day.
And forgot to say what is the Green Gate about. Well, first of all it gives access to the waterfront from the Long Market, and the space within is so big, with all the rooms, that it actually houses the National Museum in Gdansk. The architecture was inspired by the Antwerp City Hall in Belgium, and in the past centuries was the formal residence of the monarchs of Poland.
So, just on the other side of the gate starts the Long Waterfront. At first, over the river, spans the Green Bridge, from where I could have a very good view of the surroundings. Many historical places, and, as I could see, there are some construction sites, that develop new buildings in the same architecture with old ones. Across the bridge there is
the Amber Sky wheel, which for a decent price will give you a beautiful view of the city, especially the Long Waterfront.
Then, we had to turn back over the bridge, as there was more to see along the river.
And what astonishing view there was…really, just before the sunset, the colours of the buildings reflecting in the quiet waters and creating this wonderful like canvas painting scene. For me is one of the most beautiful city scape I had the pleasure to see. So, while sitting on the side of the walkway, on the other side of the river are, the Amber Sky wheel, the Marina (where many private boats are tied) and the Granary Island. There are more museums over there: the National Maritime Museum of Gdansk, the ship-museum “Soldek”, the Royal granary, which is a hotel nowadays, and then, just as the river turns is the Polish Baltic Philharmonic. I was really impressed with all these beautiful old buildings, that are kept in such a good shape, and are still in use, as museums.
Along the waterfront there are more wonderful things to see. One of them was docked along the peer, and waiting for edventure seekers, the Black Pearl. Of course everyone knows Captain’s Sparrow ship. To have a different experience, can take trip through the river, to the Baltic Sea and back, have something to drink and enjoy the scenery, onboard this majestic ship.
Walking a little more there is the Medieval Crane (Zuraw), a building where was the actual first place of the Maritime Museum. I was really amazed to see how well preserved is this building, and understood how much the Polish people take care of their history. Further ahead, on the left bank, there is the Fishermen’s Bastion, with a history of it’s own, and as the river turns, could see this modern pedestrian steel bridge, which makes the access to the island much easier, and can be raised when ships have to pass.
By reaching this point, could hear myself screaming for food, especially since we passed so many restaurants. So, turned back, and chose one of them along the river. I cannot say that one is better then another, as they all look so inviting. Most of them have a displayed menu on the entrance, and while I was peaking to the plates of the people at the tables, the food was looking delicious all around. The polish cuisine is quite tasty, and have so many dishes to select from. Based mainly on pork, the best thing to go along with is, of course a cold beer.
While the city offers so many museums and beautiful architecture all around the old town, I think the main attraction is the social life itself. In the evening, all terraces are full with people, mostly tourists, that enjoy their dinner and drinks. We have actually moved from place to place, just to see what the different restaurants have to offer, and honestly I liked all of them. More than that, I could see some clubs around, and quite a lot of young people, so also the nightlife has its place in the vibrant city of Gdansk.
Parallel to the Long Street are Mariacka Street and Piwna Street, which are also packed with pubs, but have a different vibe, for those that don’t want to be in the middle of the crowds,and enjoy a quieter evening with friends.
It was getting late, but quite early for the party seekers, so we had to turn back to the shipyard. In front of the Golden Gate there were many taxis waiting, but if not carefull, you can end up paying quite a lot for the ride. So I call the same number that I got from the yard.
Coming back to the ship, there is a huge dust cloud around, as the yard is sand blasting in order to remove the old paint. Ever been on the beach when wind blowing? well just the same feeling, with sand everywhere.
For the two weeks spent there, I have managed to go out few evenings, every time enjoying the restaurants and the nice walk around the city.
Now, Gdansk is on my bucket list, as I have some more things to see and experience around. Together with some more North Europe cities, I will probably go on a ferry cruise around.
My to do list in Gdansk:
1) Go on a guided tour around the old town to understand what all those buildings are about.
2) Have a walk through the Long Lane and Long Market from the Golden Gate to the Green Gate, loom through the shops, buy some souvenirs and art, have a coffee break next to Neptune’s Fountain
3) Take a ride on the Amber Sky wheel, to see the waterfront, maybe at sunset.
4) Visit the Maritime Museum, the National Museum and the Ship Museum “Soldek”
5) Enjoy the Long Waterfront and the evening colours of the water, while eating local food at one of the many excellent restaurants.
6) Sail on the Black Pearl, and have a different view at the city, then the shipyard and out in the Baltic Sea, while enjoying a coffee.
7) Visit the Museum of Second World War, then the European Solidarity Centre, and see the Monument of the fallen Shipyard Workers.
8) See the Church of St. Mary, and the Oliwa Cathedral, try to be there when they play the Great Organ
9) Pass by the Great Armoury, then see the Mariacka and Piwna streets, and cool down with a cold local beer.
10) Do a beer tour, especially if with a group of friends. So many craft beers to choose from, and pubs to check out.
11) Have fun in a night club, meet new people and socialize.
12) Take many many pictures and enjoy the history this place has to offer. On every corner of the city is something interesting to shoot.
Escape, Explore, Enjoy!