Gdańsk, Sopot, and Westerplatte on the Baltic coast of Poland

After a great day in Bialystok, my northern Poland journey continued on Wednesday morning, May 22, 2018, to Gdansk on the Baltic coast of Poland.  I managed okay to buy my train tickets, boarded the right train on the correct platform (this route is served daily by 67 trains, whew!), and enjoyed the 6 hour ride.

Hey, there’s a Canadian onboard! 🙂

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The train passed by Malbork, probably the largest medieval castle in Europe. Built in the late 13th century, as Marienburg, to serve as the residence of the Grand Masters of the Knights of the Teutonic Order. The fortress consists of three castles and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Not a bad photo taken through the train window as it sped along.

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Upon arrival at the Gdansk train station (below two photos), I pulled out my smartphone and used the GPS to locate my hotel adjacent to Old Town in Gdansk.  It was about a 15 minute walk, a nice introduction to this Baltic coast city.

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Some Wikipedia facts about Gdansk:

  • With its population of 465,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the Pomeranian Province of Northern Poland.
  • The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population approaching 1.4 million.
  • With its origins as a Polish stronghold erected in the 980s by Mieszko I of Poland, the city’s history is complex, with periods of Polish rule, periods of Prussian or German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a “free city“. In the early-modern age Gdańsk was a royal city of Poland. It was considered the wealthiest and the largest city of Poland, prior to the 18th century rapid growth of Warsaw. 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.
  • Gdańsk lies at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, which drains 60 percent of Poland and connects Gdańsk with the Polish capital, Warsaw. 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.

Below are samples of photos taken over my 2 day stay in Gdansk, the resort town of Sopot, and Westerplatte.

Old Town, Gdansk

Even though substantial parts of the town consist of reconstructions from after WWII, it still retains its charm as a medieval centre which is around twice the size of the corresponding centre in KrakowOld Town is full of maritime atmosphere and has lots of Hanseatic-style architecture. 

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Zuraw, the oldest medieval port crane in Europe

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The Main Town Hall is one of the finest examples of the Gothic-Renaissance historic buildings in the city. The Main Town Hall houses the History Museum of the City of Gdansk

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In this photo the Neptune Fountain can be seen with the Main Town Hall

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The Green Gate at the end of this street was built from 1568 to 1571 as the formal residence of Poland monarchs.  It now houses the National Museum in Gdansk.

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Museum of Polish Toys from the years 1920-1989.

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St. Mary’s Church looms in the background

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St. Mary’s Church dates back to the mid 14th century and is considered as possibly the largest brick Gothic church in the world, with the massive squat tower at 78m high (I climbed it).  The final shape of the church was achieved over 150 years after initial building work had begun.  The church has an area of nearly half a hectare and can hold over 25,000 people.  It does seem somewhat empty, but it does contain 30 chapels throughout.  The photo below is a view to the front of the church.

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Back view of the church

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There are over 300 tombstones within the church

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The main alter

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A 15th-century astronomical clock, placed in the northern transept.  According to legend, the clock’s creator had his eyes gouged out so he’d never make a clock to better than this one.

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On my way to the top of the church tower, 78m high.

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Two big bells seen on the trek up the tower

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A portal on the trek up the tower

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View from the top of the 78m tower.  Note the ferris wheel shown earlier.

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View from the top of the 78m tower

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For my last day in Gdansk, I returned to the train station and caught the train to Sopot, about a half hour trip.

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During the short trip the train passed by the Gdansk Shipyards (formerly Lenin Shipyards).  The yard gained international fame when Solidarity (Solidarność), under the leadership of Lech Walesa,  was founded there in September 1980.

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Sopot train station

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Some Wikipedia facts about Sopot:

  • Sopot is a seaside resort city on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, with a population of approximately 40,000.  It lies between the larger cities of Gdansk to the southeast and Gydnia to the northwest. The three cities together make up the metropolitan area or Tr-City.
  • Sopot is a major health-spa and tourist resort destination and has the longest wooden pier in Europe, stretching out into the Bay of Gdansk.

The beach was about a 10 minute walk from the train station.  I had hoped to dip my toes into the Baltic but unfortunately is was polluted 🙁

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Enjoying my Lody!  Poles love their ice cream.

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Upon returning from Sopot by train, the route to Westerplatte as the next stop of the day was a bit more complex to navigate.  The 40 minutes bus ride was pleasant, offering some good sights of the industrial areas of Gdansk.  Westerplatte was the place where the opening shots of WWII were fired.

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This part of my trip to the Baltic coast was lots of fun, albeit the hectic pace tired me out a bit.  The next day’s trip to Torun would be more relaxing.

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