06 September 2007

Small City with a Long History

Early on Monday, 27 August we docked in Gdynia, a little more than 30 kilometers from Gdansk.

Since we'd had very early mornings the previous days, we took our time and left the ship at about 9:30 am.

At the port is a very long line of taxi drivers. For around 100 Euros you can arrange for a day long tour with one of the drivers. They will take you wherever you want to go and deliver you back to the ship. Many of them will also provide a bit of commentary, depending upon their inclination.

By the time we got out there, all of the English speaking drivers were already gone. They had been claimed by the early birds. Our driver spoke only Polish. We tried a bit of German and French, just in case. But no go.

But no matter. We had a Michelin Guide to Poland with the attractions listed in English, but also with the Polish names and spellings. We simply pointed at the Polish name of where we wanted to go and off we went. Although occasionally the driver would decide to take a side jaunt to show us something he felt to be vital, such as the church in nearby Oliwa where Lech Walesa still attends services.

At least, I think that's what it was. I cannot be absolutely certain as I only think I may have understood a few words.

For it would be wrong to assume that our driver limited his commentary simply because we spoke not a word of Polish and he spoke nothing but. No indeed, he chattered away as we drove about. Oddly enough I was often able to figure out kinda what he was saying. GLH suspected I had been holding out on him and accused me of secretly speaking Polish. But enough words were similar that I could guess. For instance, at one stage the driver motioned to the terrible traffic jam with much throwing of his hands into the air. I managed to catch a word that sounded something like "fussball" and another word that sounded vaguely like "Romania."

So I translated to GLH: The driver apologizes for the bad traffic. It is because there is a soccer game with Romania today.

Each time something like this would happen, the driver would nod emphatically and smile at me in the rearview mirror. I think we might have bonded. GLH would just stare at both of us and shake his head.

So in this manner we made our way to Gdansk.

Gdansk was founded in 997 and is an important port city in Poland. Approximately 90% of the city was destroyed during World War II. Originally they had thought to leave it as a memorial to the many who died. But instead they rebuilt it. In fact, the buildings are closer to what they were originally since they used the originally plans and pictures and did not include the various additions and upgrades added in the later years before the war.

As we drove into the city, we drove past the shipyard made famous by Lech Walesa and the birth site of the Solidarity Movement. We know this because the driver chattered and pointed at it. Plus we saw the enormous Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers...

Gdansk is best known for the enormous port crane. Built in the 14th century, it has two huge cog wheels inside. Up to 20 men would walk within the wheels (hamster-wheel style) to lift the loads up and down.

We also saw St. Mary's Church, the largest brick church in the world. At least that's what the Michelin guide claims. And I cannot say I've seen one larger.

I was far more interested in the famous crucifix.

Legend has it that the sculptor actually nailed his son-in-law to a cross in order to capture a realistic expression of pain. What do you think? True or not?

After a "walk-about" through the town we stopped at a spot on the main square for lunch. Quite possibly the worst food we have ever had! Cannot remember the name of the place, but the sign had a large bear on it. If ever in Gdansk, avoid this place.

We then headed back to the parking lot where we had left our driver. He shooed away his fellow taxi-driving friends, gave us a big grin and took us back to our ship.

All in all, a pretty good day with the exception of the lunch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i am from danzig, lieved closs to the shipyard only few hundred feet away. i have never gone back, would like to some day soon. getting old.how did you get to danzig?i assum by ship but how? one think i can tell from your travel you mist all of danzig.
p.s.a home sick frind.