Neither Hayzybob nor I had been to a new country this year, and 2017 is coming to a close threateningly quickly. So last month we pinpointed our meeting point to Gdansk, which I’d heard good things and seen beautiful pictures of – a one-of-a-kind town with recognisable circular towers and buildings. It used to be a strategically located influential port town for nearly a millennium, but was vastly destroyed in the Second World War. It has, however, been beautifully rebuilt.
Our long weekend exploring the streets of Gdansk was cool. Both literally and metaphorically. It was the weekend there were huge storms in central Europe – we got the tail end of it, featuring arctic(-feeling) winds and sunshine upon an impressive backdrop of intense dark clouds.
So, what to do in Gdansk?
Stroll down the riverside with its picturesque buildings and historic boats.
Gdansk riverside is a superb, stunning walk, with magnificent structures both in water and on land. One of the most famous ones is the Crane, the Zuraw, a frankly unattractive building with an interesting history. This largest crane in medieval Europe was built in the 1400s as a double-towered gate on the shoreline, but it also worked as an exceedingly efficient crane, hoisting loads of up to two tonnes onto vessels. And it has a statue of an actual crane, as in the bird, perched atop the building Crane.
Explore inland, towards Neptune.
Visit Mariacka street
aka St Mary’s Street, its cute cafes, its ubiquitous amber shops and its interesting architecture. My free tourist map advertised it as “the most beautiful street” which I hesitate to agree to. I wouldn’t say beautiful was the word, more like unique, quaint and fascinating. The buildings were high, the narrow street cobbled, and the street in shadow. As a charming advantage, Mariacka street houses the epic Café Kamienica.
Visit other cafes!
We were in constant search of heat and warmth (well I was, Hayzybob had thought to bring a warm jacket) and therefore when we chanced upon a nice little resto just below the Zuraw, aptly named “Restaurant Zuraw”, I decided to venture for the famous zurek soup. It is generally translated as “sour rye soup with sausage” which doesn’t exactly classify as the most appetising dish, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from travelling, it is: Do not judge a food by its English translation.
If amber is your thing, Gdansk is your place to be as it is frequently mentioned as the amber capital and its souvenir shops and stalls outside all sell it. I wasn’t too fussed, but Hayzybob was very pleased!
Admire the Neptune Fountain
Neptune is one of the only statues which was not destroyed in the Second World War. Surrounded by picturesque pastel-coloured buildings, this is a popular meeting point in Gdansk. It’s at the end of Ulica Dluga, “the Long Lane”, the main old town street, which is also a pleasure to stroll down.
Wonder whether Poles are familiar with the concept of cider.
Eat pierogi, aka Polish dumplings.
I am still going to do a separate entry on the Definitions of Dumpling Around the World, but Polish dumplings are perhaps best described as larger versions of Russian pilmeni or Vietnamese wontons. We meant to go to the popular O’Mandu pierogi restaurant on Sunday, but were put off by the long queue snaking its way through the arctic air at the restaurant door. Monday was luckily less packed, and we shared a portion of meat-filled dumplings and a portion of potato-filled ones. Absolutely delish, and when we couldn’t finish them all the super-friendly waiter immediately suggested we take them in a doggy bag home. Yes please! Despite being popular with fresh and top-quality food, it was extremely affordable, and we spent an enjoyable long evening there with many beers and many moments of reminiscing.
Wander around afterwards with said doggy bag
having an insane amount of fun taking pictures utilising Hayzybob’s fantastic technological connection between mobile phone and camera, meaning we could see the camera viewfinder through the phone, and were able to take pictures via the phone. Such fun and many giggles.
And do not buy smoothies
with “burak” in them. Without being prepared to drink a beetroot smoothie. Which, yes, could be nice and refreshing and healthy, but less so when judging by the colour you expected it to be a nice berry-flavoured beverage.
THANK YOU GDANSK, OTHERWISE IT WAS A PLEASURE. 🙂
Have you been to Gdansk? What was your favourite?