The Polish Pearl of the North
The Tri-City is an urban complex extending along the Bay of Gdańsk and is one of Poland’s largest tourist attractions. Each of the cities making up the Tri-city offers a very different atmosphere. It`s also my favourite place. I like Kraków but I dislike anything situated out of The Old Town. Even in Warsaw, my home town I don`t like a few districts. But I love Tri-City unconditionally. It is where my heart belongs to and where you will fall in love with its unique character.
First let me show you a thousand years of history and picturesque seaside location which makes Gdańsk …
… one of the most beautiful cities both in Poland and Europe.
Located in the north of Poland, at The Baltic Sea coast, at The Motlawa and The Vistula river estuary and the Bay of Gdańsk, it is a lively cultural, scientific and economic centre, with a large commercial port – an important point of marine industry. Gdańsk is the capital of Gdańsk Pomerania and the largest city of Kashubia. The city’s history is complex, with periods of Polish rule, periods of Prusso-German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a “free city”. Between the world wars, the Free City of Danzig was in a customs union with Poland and was located between German East Prussia and the so-called Polish Corridor. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also an important industrial center. In the late Middle Ages it was an important seaport and shipbuilding town, and in the 14th and 15th centuries a member of the Hanseatic League. Five centuries later, Gdańsk has become the city of freedom, where the ideas of Polish companionship and solidarity were born. Formed in 1980, the Solidarity movement played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and helped precipitate the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Gdańsk has also been a birthplace of many notable personalities, one of them was Gunter Grass.
Günter Wilhelm Grass – splendid Gdańszczanin (inhabitant of Gdańsk)
Born in 1927, in what was then the German Danzig, Gunter Grass became the voice for the generation of Germans who grew up during the reign of Nazism. He was a novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, sculptor, and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature. His stated goal, the goal of all writers, was to provide „mouth-to-ear” resuscitation for a humanity that would be lost without it.
He was born in the Free City of Danzig (German name for Gdańsk). Grass’ father was German, while his mother was Kashubian (a distinct Slavic ethnic group from the region around Gdańsk). As a young man, he was a member of the Hitler Youth, he served as a drafted soldier from late 1944 in the Waffen-SS and he was wounded in WWII. Next he was taken prisoner of war by U.S. forces at the end of the war in May 1945. After being released from an American POW camp, he worked in a potash mine and as a stonemason, before enrolling in art schools in Berlin and Dusseldorf. Grass began writing in the 1950s, in his fiction, he frequently returned to the Danzig of his childhood.
Grass is best known for his first novel, „The Tin Drum” (1959), a key text in European magic realism. To this day it remains his defining work. It was the first part of the „Danzig Trilogy” which was completed with „Cat and Mouse” (1961) and „Dog Years” (1963). Due to his personal experience and its historic legacy, Gdańsk was the setting for these novels and his works are celebrated by Germans and Poles alike despite the tension and bitterness that may still exist as a result of a debated history.
„The Tin Drum” tells the story of a young boy born in Danzig named Oskar, who, at the age of three, refuses to grow in protest of the adult world. Oskar communicates only through a tin drum, but through his eyes the reader becomes a part of the tumultuous world of Danzig/Gdańsk in the 1940’s.
Grass` works are frequently considered to have a left-wing political dimension, and he was an active supporter of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). He became a ghostwriter for the Social Democrats and Willy Brandt. A collection of his political works entitled „The Citizen and His Voice” is available for purchase. Grass made huge waves during the revolutions in 1989 and 1990 by opposing the unification of East and West Germany, maintaining that a unified Germany would become militant and threatening to world peace.
As a justification of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy was praising Gunter Grass as a writer “whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”.
The first historical reference dates back to 997 …
.. and the first written record thought to refer to Gdańsk is the vita of Saint Adalbert. Written in 999, it describes how in 997 Saint Adalbert of Prague baptised the inhabitants of urbs Gyddannyzc, “which separated the great realm of the duke (i.e. Boleslaw the Brave of Poland) from the sea.” No further written sources exist for the 10th and 11th centuries. Based on the date in Adalbert’s vita, the city celebrated its millennial anniversary in 1997.
The thousand-year-old Gdańsk is considered to be …
… the most monument-packed city of “Baltic Europe”…
… and no wonder it is very popular with tourists, both from Poland and abroad, who are curious about the city’s history and explore its monuments, absorbing its marine nature.
Most of the monuments in Gdańsk are located near the most representative passage of Main Town District – the Royal Route and the streets parallel to it, along with the promenade, the Motlawa Long Embankment (Długie Pobrzeże). The best place to start sightseeing of the historic part of Gdańsk would be the Upland Gate (Brama Wyżynna) and the the Royal Route stretching beyond it through Long Street (Ulica Długa) and Long Market (Długi Targ) towards The Green Gate (Zielona Brama). Having crossed The Green Gate, you’ll find the Prison Tower (Wieża Więzienna) and Torture Chamber (Katownia), called the Barbican of Gdańsk.
Just behind it, there is the Golden Gate (Złota Brama) and, next to it, The Court of the Society of St. George (Dwór Bractwa Świętego Jerzego). Within the area bordering on one side with Wybrzeże Theatre and the Barbican on the other, there is a square called Targ Węglowy, a venue of numerous concerts and other cultural events. Just behind The Golden Gate there is a magnificant view on the Royal Route. The Route is lined with charming, restored houses, whose original construction dates back to the 16th and 17th century. We can see Gothic references here as well. The houses used to belong to the most prominent patricians, merchants and senior city officials and spacious apartments were rented to Polish kings. One of the most beautiful houses at Długa Street is undoubtedly The Uphagen’s House (Dom Uphagena) – which houses one of the branches of the Museum of the History of Gdańsk. All these magnificent buildings are overshadowed by the beautiful and monumental Main Town Hall (Ratusz Głównego Miasta), the most impressive and most valuable secular building of old Gdańsk, the seat of the city authorities. The dome of the tower, measuring 80 metres, is decorated at the top with the metal, gilded statue of the King Zygmunt August.
The largest port crane in medieval Europe
The majestic medieval port crane, called Żuraw over Motława river. Built in the first half of the 15th century between the pylons of Brama Szeroka (the Wide Gate), became the city’s symbol. In the Middle Ages it was the largest port crane in Europe, used for moving goods and raising ship masts. It was able to lift 4 tons to an altitude of 36 feet. Inside there is a reconstructed and fully-operating drive mechanism – an enormous wooden wheel, in the past powered by the strength of men’s legs.
The crane also served as the city gate. It is currently part of the National Maritime Museum.
The first seagoing ship built in Gdańsk Shipyard after WWII
The main seat of National Maritime Museum is situated on the opposite side of the Motława river on Lead Island in three granaries of historical heritage: “Panna” “Miedź” and “Oliwski”. Another part of Maritime Museum is ‘Sołdek’ – the ship berthed at the Motława river bank, the first seagoing ship built in Gdańsk Shipyard after WWII and one of the main attractions of the city. On the opposite river bank there is Granary Island (Wyspa Spichrzów), the city marina with sailing boats and, along the port canal, Polish Baltic Philharmonic located in the building of the former 19th century power plant.
Walking along the Long Embankment it is worth to head towards the gothic St. Mary’s Gate (Brama Mariacka) leading to one of the most scenic streets of Europe – St. Mary’s Street. Its old Gdańsk-style architecture is manifested by rows of terraced houses decorated with gargoyles and narrow, richly ornamented facades. The houses once belonged to wealthy merchants and goldsmiths.
St. Mary’s Church (Polish: Bazylika Mariacka, German: St. Marienkirche), or formally the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Bazylika Mariacka Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Gdańsku), is believed to be …
… one of the largest brick church in the world
With its volume of 155,000 m³ is currently the fourth largest brick church in the world, and the third largest north of the Alps. Only San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, comprising 258,000 m³, Munich Frauenkirche with 217,000 m³ and Ulm Minster (190,000 m³) are larger.
Its construction took place in two stages, beginning in 1343 and ending in 1502. The church contains many important works of medieval and baroque art. These includes a stone Pietà (from approximately 1410), a copy of Hans Memling’s „The Last Judgement” and an astronomical clock from the second half of the 15th century constructed by Hans Düringer over a period of 7 years.
Between 1536 and 1572 St. Mary’s Church was used for Roman Catholic and Lutheran services simultaneously. From the 16th century until 1945, when Danzig became Polish Gdańsk, it was the second largest Lutheran church in the world.
The interior vault supports 37 windows, over 300 tombstones and 31 chapels. It can hold up to 25,000 people, which was useful during the period of martial law between 1981 and 1983 when members of the Solidarity movement sought refuge here. The church can be accessed through seven gates with intriguing names like the Purse Maker’s Door. Interestingly, the sculptor who carved the crucifix of Christ nailed his errant son-in-law to a cross so as to add realism to his work. St. Mary’s was seriously damaged during WWII and the original frescoes have since been whitewashed, which far from leaving an impression of stark emptiness bring out the best in the relics throughout and creating a marvellous feeling. Of note is the enormous astronomical clock dating from 1464. Its complex dials show the time and date, phases of the moon, the position of the moon and sun in relation to the Zodiac signs, and the calendar of saints. Adam and Eve ring the bell on the hour. According to legend, the clock’s creator had his eyes gouged out so he’d never make a clock to better than this one. The 78 metre tower, which involves climbing 405 steps, houses a viewing platform with cracking views of old Gdańsk and has benefited from a 3.3 million euro renovation.
The longest church in the world
The Oliwa Cathedral was built in the Romanesque and Gothic styles. It is said to be the longest church in the world. It is best known for its organ, which includes moving angels, stars, and the sun. The interior of the Cathedral includes 23 altars in three architectural styles – Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo.
A peninsula in the Bay of Gdańsk mentioned in every book on the history of WWII
Westerplatte is where was the first clash between Polish and German forces during the Invasion of Poland and thus the first battle of the European theater of WWII. One of the first German attacks took place, on September 1, 1939, at 4.45 AM. To commemorate the heroes of Westerplatte, the Monument to the Coast Defenders was erected here in the 1960s.
Monument to Fallen Shipyard Workers
December 1970 in Gdańsk, Gdynia, Szczecin and Elbląg was a time of labour strikes. A sudden increase in prices was the direct reason. The coastal areas were brutally pacified by the government. Ten years later, to commemorate the victims, a monument was erected – three crosses with anchors attached. Every cross weighs 36 tons and is 138 ft tall. Official delegations visiting Gdańsk usually place flowers at the foot of this monument.
The smallest but the most crowded city in Poland
Situated west of Gdańsk Sopot is the smallest urban administrative unit in terms of population in the whole country but in spite of that in the summer it is one of the most crowded and lively places in Poland. Wide, clean, sandy beaches spreading for as long as 4,5 kilometres, the status of a health spa and the longest pier in Europe are a magnet powerful enough to attract tourists here.
Sopot owes its unique atmosphere to the art nouveau tenement houses, villas surrounded by trees and one of the longest promenades in Poland, commonly known as „Monciak”. The ground floors of tenement houses built at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, as well as other more modern buildings, like Crooked House (Krzywy Domek), are now housing cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Apart from modern venues we can find here other places, going way back, with artistic and club house traditions. Spatif and Sfinks, clubs located at Monciak have always been the popular meeting places of Tri-City artists and celebrities, here the numerous concerts take place and the nightlife flourishes.
The longest wooden pier in Europe
At the lowest point of Monte Casino is located mentioned Pier (Molo), which is 512 metres long. The longest wooden pier in Europe. At its end there is a marina, full of yachts and catamarans in holiday season. During the summertime, there is a small entrance fee charged if you want to go to the pier, however, visitors do not seem to mind paying for a one of a kind opportunity to stroll along this picturesque place. From there, you can admire the sight of The Bay of Gdańsk, Tri-City coastline and the Sopot itself, with its landmark – the legendary Grand Hotel. Supposedly the sea water was delivered to hotel in-suite bathrooms and there was extra tap at each for salty water flowing just from the Baltic.
The only medieval fort in Europe located in the middle of a contemporary city
The places with exceptional charm and magical atmosphere are Atelier Theatre named after Agnieszka Osiecka and Artistic Bay (Zatoka Sztuki), where you can watch a fashion show, see a concert or just sit back and relax with a cup of coffee enjoying the seaview. Apart from the walks in the seaside promenades and boulevards you can go up Castle Mountain (Góra Zamkowa), to see the medieval fort, the oldest historic place in Sopot, the one and only such building in Europe located in the middle of a contemporary city. The renovated Forest Opera is also well worth a visit; famous for its interwar Wagner concerts, and since 1961 – for the International Song Festival (Międzynarodowy Festiwal Piosenki).
If you travel west of Sopot you will find interesting location, the cliffs famous all around Poland…
… the longest seaside boulevard …
… Kościuszko Square, historic ships moored by the quayside, wide municipal beach, port cranes, luxury cruise ships, and yacht harbour with hundreds of masts. All these are the elements of a contemporary port city called The Nautical Capital of Poland.
Less than 90 years old, Gdynia is one of the youngest Polish cities. Described as “The city made of sea and of dreams”, it was a dream come true for the people who created it from a tiny fishing village and turned it into a biggest port at The Baltic Sea.
Gdynia is the only city in Poland and one of the very few in Europe to pride itself on such a long and easily accessible seashore (measuring 12,5 kilometres, not including the port area).
The oldest destroyer in the world
and the most famous tall ship, over a 100 year-old
The Southern Pier is a man-made artificial peninsula – jetty. The Pier was built in the 1920s and quickly gained the reputation of the most picturesque spot of the city. The greatest tourist attraction are the historic vessels moored at the quayside: the only preserved Polish pre-World War II ship, and the oldest destroyer in the world today ORP Błyskawica (the most frequently photographed object in the Pomeranian region) and the most famous tall ship, over a 100 year-old Dar Pomorza, today a museum-ship. The prime example of modernist architecture of Gdynia can be noticed in the building located in the vicinity, formerly functioning as The Polish Seafarer’s House (Dom Żeglarza Polskiego), nowadays the seat of Maritime Academy Faculty of Navigation (Wydział Nawigacyjny Akademii Morskiej). At the end of the square there is The Aquarium, where the mysteries of the ocean depths are revealed to its visitors. Here you will see the most extraordinary species of fish, amphibians and reptiles from all over the world: Africa, North America or Northern Europe.
On the Southern Pier you may walk along the „Alley of Passenger Ships” – the only such place in Poland, where the green granite plaques commemorate the arrivals of all passenger ships in Gdynia. The plaques are assembled on the Southern Pier. Try to spot here the statue of a boy, called the „wave conductor”, who welcomes and bids farewell to sailors in the marina. 2-metre tall statue stands on poles stuck into the sea bottom about 40 metres away from the shore and is best seen from the Southern Pier and from the marina. From Kościuszko Square it is a good idea to walk along the Seaside Boulevard (Bulwar Nadmorski).
Weapons and combat equipment ranging from the 17th century to the present day
Close to the Seaside Boulevard and the beach, there is an attractive outdoor exhibition of weapons and marine armaments. It contains the exhibits of weapons and combat equipment ranging from the 17th century to the present day. There is a particularly rich collection of weapons dating back from the World War II and post-war period, including the the Navy airplanes and helicopters.
The Observatory of changes
The city’s wonderful panoramic view can be admired from the most luxurious districts of Gdynia – the Stone Hill, easily recognizable by the large cross at its top. On your way there, you will pass the famous Musical Theatre (Teatr Muzyczny), and the new seat of the Gdynia City Museum. Back from the waterfront, in the centre, there is a place called the Observatory of changes, a.k.a. Infobox, where you can watch the square and the sea from above and take a closer look at the city miniature model and all its highlighted landmarks.
Background of wedding photo shoots
Orłowo Pier is one of the most charming places, eagerly frequented by the inhabitants of Gdynia, Gdańsk and Sopot and tourists. No wonder, as the view of the surroundings from there is amazing: not only the wildlife reserve, Orłowo Cliffs, but also Sopot, Gdańsk and Hel Peninsula are visible. The 60-metre escarpment is considered an identifying symbol of Gdynia, being one of the most frequently photographed natural sites in Poland. Next to the entrance to the pier (free of charge) we come across a fishing harbour. Banners fluttering in the wind, fishing nets drying in the sun, colourful boats on the shore make this place unique, often serving as a background of wedding photo shoots and other photographic locations.
The largest, the smallest, the first, the longest, the oldest, the most famous, the Orly, one of the most beautiful – this is how you can describe Tri-City. It`s the world`s phenomenon which you musn`t miss. So I hope you will visit Trójmiasto soon.
See you there!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Michał Stanisławski and Joanna Rumińska
© Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2016. All rights reserved.
The Oliwa Cathedral
© Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2016. All rights reserved.