"GDANSK WELCOMES YOU"
When in Poland, visiting Warszawa (Warsaw) and Kraków (Cracow) usually jump to mind, but there is a whole other plain of beauty up north, along our 528 km Baltic coastline. The city is the largest in the Pomerania region of Northern Poland, and holds the status of one of Poland’s economic, political, social and historical centres. During a patriotic holiday around Poland, I’ve taken a few shots of Gdańsk and Sopot. Some may know the city by its former WWII textbook name - Danzig (Ger), but in all of its red-brick beauty, the city is now as Polish as the current name. Gdańsk welcomes you.
The city is situated at the mouth of the Motława River in the delta of Poland’s greatest Vistula River, connecting Gdańsk to the capital - Warsaw. Along with the nearby port of Gdynia, it is no wonder the city became central to the country's industrial production, shipbuilding and sea trade with other Baltic nations. On the photograph below, at the far left, the bulky brown building is the antique crane used to unload ships brining goods to the city.
Neptune’s Fountain on the shot below is a masterpiece from 1617, by a Dutch architect Abraham van den Blocke, situated in the center of the Long Market.
We wander down to the “local market” (one of many which are open most weekends in the larger cities to share the classic tastes with visitors) and inevitably stumble upon bread. Bread is very big in Poland (both literally and colloquially). It’s celebrated in roll, bun and loaf forms, with white and dark flour, as well as a selection of additives, for example: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and salty crust.
An equal attraction are highland cheeses, which really make their way to the Baltic lowlands too - the so called “oscypek”, which is a salty, smoked sheep milk cheese, hand made and molded into tradition barrel-like shapes and long braids. Great when served warm off the grill with cranberries fried in sugar.
The city has countless other fine architectural and historical specimens, located along 17th century reconstructed pedestrian paradise - Ulica Długa (Long Street) and Długi Targ (Long Market), bound by embellished city gates.
Waling along the “Royal Way”, named after the touring path for vsiting Kings, we come across: the upland Gate (Brama Wyżynna), Torture House (Katownia), Golden Gate (Złota Brama), Main Town Hall (Ratusz Głównego Miasta), Golden House (Złota kamienica), Green Gate (Zielona Brama) and many churches.
As for romance, in the 16th century, Gdańsk hosted Shakespearean theatre troupes on foreign tours, and is currently reigniting the tradition with the rebuilding of the historical Shakespeare theatre. Till then, above you’ll find a shot of the Bridge of Love, where couples fasten signed locks and throw the keys into the river.
This would not however be a culinary blog without a taste of Gdansk. For lunch, we recommend soup for starters - traditional żurek - sour rye soup cooked with Polish sausage, smoked bacon, carrots, potatoes, spices and served in a crispy edible bread bowl.
For the main course - necessarily fish (freshly fished Baltic cod) with salad (Coleslaw, carrot and leek, or sauerkraut) - the essence of a day by the coast.
I wouldn’t be a true Pole if I didn’t mention that the city is also the birthplace of the Solidarity movement leader, political activist, and first President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, who played a key role in bringing down the European Communist regimes of the XX century.
Still living in the light of the Euro 2012 Football tournament, Gdansk is an all year round travel stop on the must-see-list.