We caught the rickety old tram into the centre of town and found a “Costa” cafe to start us off  for the day.

The old town of Gdansk which is quite large and has so many magnificent buildings, many restored after World War II. We walked for a number of hours around the interesting streets with their striking Hanseatic architecture.   There happened to be a  contemporary art exhibition at the old armoury building which was fun to see.

Food from the market stalls and cafe/restaurant  food could be very cheap in Poland with a warming bowl of chicken noodle soup for only $2.50.  You only had to keep away from the main squares.

The covered market had many separate shops for cheese, meat and sausages and Pierogi as well as the well stocked liquor shop!   The upper
levels were full of clothing and other items but the quality didn’t look very good. We stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables, good rye bread and spinach and potato pierogis to be cooked later.  The outdoor fruit and vegetable market was equally as good.   The nectarines and peaches from Spain with their wonderful aroma and fresh raspberries and strawberries were delicious as well as the Polish fresh produce.

The shipyards in Gdansk where over 20,000 people worked has now been reduced to only 2,200 workers and this may be the reason that we saw a lot of men – young, middle aged and older drinking in the street and many were a sorry sight. The old appartment blocks looked very grey and some had been abandoned. There were however many new appartment blocks with their name and number written down the side of the building and some were painted in pale green/orange or yellow.  They must have made an enormous amount of the same colour as we saw no other colours on  the appartments the city.

We found the  “Road to Freedom exhibition in the city which is located underground near the monument to the shipyard workers who died in the 1970 uprising. The shipyard’s famous gate number 2 is located nearby.  The exhibiton was a  history of the Solidarity movement with many pictures and much footage of Lech Walesa and the struggle over those years against the communist regime.  The displays and photographic and written documentation and film of the Solidarity movement was very
comprehensive and gave a real insight into that era.

We took a small ferry the next day to the opposite side of the canal(which only took  two minutes) to get to the maritime museum. We got to the museum by about 11am but we were the only visitors at the time which we thought was amazing given the excellence of the museum. We both agreed that it was the best museum of it’s kind that we had visited. The exhibits covered three floors and were incredibly interesting with a vast number of models of the old sailing ships and their layouts as well as the history in film of early shipping to explore the rest of the world from Poland.  We could even enter a model of a ship and move an old canon up or down into position and “light” the fuse to fire on the ships shown on the screen in front of you.

There was a young school group in the basement area who had been outfitted with period costumes and were being directed to bow to the king in turn.   The museum included the first ship to be built in the Gdansk shipyards, the “Soldek” which lay in the canal next to the building.

We took Van Mauriceson out the next day to go to see the murals advertised in the guide brochure in the “bedroom suburb” of Zaspa. It was so called because there were so many appartment buildings there and many more were being built.   There were no signs as to the whereabouts of these murals and after driving around for a while we went into a shopping centre to have a  coffee and to ask where we could find them.   Little English was spoken and the one person who did speak some told us that they are dotted around the suburb and hard to find.   A little deflated we set off for another part of Gdansk and we happened to see one mural on our way out so we did an about turn and went into the side streets of the appartments and were lucky enough to find more and more of the murals some quite unusual but all of them brightened up the otherwise block appartments.
We did pass by the longest inhabited appartment building (supposedly in the world) which is nearly one kilometre in length and has over 6,000 inhabitants!  Built in a wave pattern and although not our cup of tea for a dwelling it did look better than some of the matchbox built grey buildings.

We left Zaspa and went over the other side of the city to see the area of “Westerplatte” where the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. There was a large monument to the fallen as well as a three storey building which was left as it was after the bombing.

We were lucky with the day as we had cloud and a bit of sun and it only started pouring with rain when we got back to the camping ground and it continued well into the night.

We spent five days in Gdansk and enjoyed the city immensely. The weather could have been a bit warmer (15-17degrees with cold winds) and we got sick of having to wear our thick coats again. One day was quite warm 22 degrees and it lasted well into the evening but we were back to layers of clothes the next day.

We left Gdansk and stopped in a quaint  little town of  Elblag for coffee and then overnighted in Elk another beautiful town with a pretty lake.  We decided to leave the next day as there was to be a Triathlon and all the roads were to be closed.

We headed north east towards Lithuania and drove through the stunning Mazury lake country with it’s hundreds of  lakes and the wide open plains and undulating hills which were incredibly green with lush crops.

The people we encountered were friendly even if they could not speak English and I learnt enough to ask for one or two of something and wrote down from google translate some food items I wanted. I learnt good morning, goodbye and thank you and this was sometimes not advantageous as people would then reply in Polish. I did find however that if I made an effort with any words the people appreciated me trying and were even more helpful.

Gdansk, Krakow and Torun were our favourite places in Poland and we really did feel that Poland could be promoted more as a tourist destination.  We did see busloads of tourists but they seemed to be mainly from Poland.  We thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks in the country.

The predominance of nationalities in the camping sites were in the main German with a few Dutch,  Finnish and French numberplates.  The few Brits we encountered thought that we were English of course because of our British numberplates but didn’t seem too disappointed when we told them we were from the Antipodes!

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