Poland - ‘Gdansk with Me’ - BY SAMANTHA OWEN-STODDART
Over the last May Bank Holiday weekend I took a trip to Gdansk, with my mum. Gdansk is a port city on the Baltic coast of Poland. We always plan one or two girls trips throughout the year, mainly to spend some quality mum and daughter time together and live out both of our passions, you guessed it travel! As I have said before my mum and dad instilled the need to travel and learn from other cultures into to me from being small. I am so thankful that they did so. My mum is a lovely lady, so kind and caring. Even though I am 35 soon, she would tell you if she met you I was still her little girl and always will be.. She is not only mum, she’s my best friend. So who better to experience Gdansk with!!
After the obligatory g n t (she only likes Tanqueray or Hendricks Gin with a Fevertree mixer) or three at the airport, we boarded our Ryanair flight and two hours later we were in Poland arriving into Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport. Met at the airport by our driver, as we had booked a transfer with the hotel (15 pounds) due to a late arrival at nearly midnight, for a seamless drive into Gdansk. 20 minutes later we pulled up at the Craft Beer Central Hotel, which is perfectly situated next to the main train station and a short walk into the old town and waterfront. This hotel is a listed building, that was formerly a Railway Clinic carefully renovated and only opened a year ago to the public. In 2011 the building and the surrounding area had been used for the movie Walesa. First thoughts were good, lovely staff and nice ambience. We had a quick drink from the attached brewery, I tried one of the beers which was great and our beds beckoned. Our room was on the third floor and it was beautiful, modern yet in keeping with the building and very comfortable indeed. I especially liked the sitting area, the heated bathroom floor tiles and the travel buddy! A quick unpack, shower and a good nights sleep was needed, before sightseeing the next day.
Breakfast was a continental buffet with lots on offer to eat, served in the bar area with plenty of seating. This was included in our hotel price with booking.com and I would recommend it. After eating, we hit the streets of Gdansk with a spring in our step. Heading for the old town, it took less than ten minutes and it was a straight walk along from the hotel with one crossing over at the lights. As it was a Saturday morning it was busy with tourists and locals alike, we wandered the streets and marvelled at the buildings in front of us. You could truly stand and look at them all day if you wished. We headed down Golden Gate to the Long Market passing Neptune’s Fountain on the left, looking for the arches ahead of us which are called Green Gate, that brought us out at the waterfront. The first impression was wow! It is so beautiful, the colours of the buildings and the architecture was stunning. You could just feel the history immediately, I was so excited to seek it out. After getting our bearings and stopping for a drink and some necessary people watching, I suggested we go to see the European Solidarity Centre, kindly recommended by Roaming Required on Twitter! All agreed we headed back to the hotel for a quick change of shoes and a stop off en route to Sephora, well it was a girls trip after all..
The European Solidarity Centre was a ten minute walk from the hotel and it is quite a site, definitely worth exploring inside and out. Give yourself a good couple of hours to visit. We bought our tickets, 10 Zloty per person which is about £2.25 bargain! You also get an audio tour included into this price, that you pick up opposite the ticket desk. This is brilliant, as it guides you around the whole museum from start to finish. I was super impressed by this place, it actually blew me away, it was so interesting learning about the history of Poland, the Solidarnosc movement and how the shipyards shaped the way the country then progressed.
They say, “We believe that the experience of the Polish Road to freedom gives us the civic energy even today and that the heritage of Solidarnosc (meaning solidarity) is still a source of invigorating ideas for Europe”.
I like to think I have a good general knowledge and keep a track on politics, I was very surprised to learn that Poland didn’t gain their own democratic freedom as a country till 1989. A few years after I was born. This museum is for everyone and very accessible, interactive and eye catching. My attention was fixed the whole time I was there and my mum was very impressed too. If you only see one place in Gdansk, go here! On leaving the building we went to explore the outside and I took pictures, before heading back to marina area for lunch.
You are spoilt for choice with lots of food and drink places on offer, it is very reasonable to eat and drink in Gdansk with an average lunch costing less than 20 pounds for two people including alcoholic beverages. The weather was fabulous and the sun was beating down on us, boats constantly passing up and down the river. A boat trip was the joint choice for the late afternoon, a rest for our already weary feet! We boarded a boat for 10 Zloty each and took our seats outside to enjoy the weather, what we later found out was we had boarded the ferry that took you around the whole area of Gdansk, taking three hours with a few stop offs… Not the one hour trip down the Motlawa river as we first thought, lesson learnt but what a laugh we both had and a new adventure to tell everyone about. Arriving back into the marina around 8 pm, we wandered back to the hotel to dress for dinner, stopping for a famous chimney cake on the way. The best idea ever, if you have never had one you must!! On entering our hotel we ordered two gin and tonics to the room and decided we would take the train to the seaside resort of Sopot, about 20 to 30 minutes away. Dressed and showered we walked next door to the station, it was super busy and the ticket queue was huge. As it was nearly 10 pm we took a taxi from the hotel, don’t take one from the station as it won’t be a cheap fare. Once in Sopot, we made our way down the Main Street and to the eating area, deciding on Thai Thai restaurant as it had been recommended to us. Unfortunately wanting to be completely honest here, we didn’t enjoy the meal or Sopot. It was a real party place and not our idea of fun, quite disappointing. However not wanting to let it spoil our trip we found a nice hotel and bar to enjoy a drink before taking a taxi back to normality.
Sunday we were up early and out into town, booking ourselves onto a boat trip to Westerplatte. Which is a peninsula in Gdansk and situated at the mouth of the Dead Vistula in the Gdansk harbour channel. This was the very place that World War Two broke out on September 1st 1939. We took a pirate style boat across, choosing to explore Westerplatte for an hour before returning on the next boat. It was a great trip and it cost 20 pounds for both of us. When on Westerplatte we went to see the war monument to the Polish defenders, the museum and explored the barracks there too, it is all so interesting and well sign posted. Make sure to give yourself plenty time to walk back to the boat from the monument, it takes twenty minutes to walk to it. We enjoyed an ice cream awaiting our boat, as there is a small cafe there. The boat trip itself is fun too, on the way back you go past Westerplatte monument for those who choose not to explore on foot, you can get some great videos and photos this way. Once back on dry land we opted for a long late lunch, with yummy food, a few gins and aperol spritzs, perfect! Late afternoon we walked around Gdansk taking in daily life and spotting sights such as The Crane which is one of the most famous symbols in Gdansk itself, as it represents what is left of the city’s ‘great trading age’. The Shakespeare Theatre, Archaeological Museum, SS Soldek and many of the famous churches including St Mary’s and St Catherine’s church. That evening we came back to get changed and ate in the Old Town on Dluga Street in Euro, a polish restaurant where we experienced beetroot soup with the famous dumplings for the first time. It is delicious and I would eat it again. A gentle stroll home and much needed rest.
Monday was our last day, so after breakfast we headed out and took in more of Gdansk. Walking down Mariacka Street, one of the most famous and photogenic streets here. Filled with famous gargoyles and stone creatures such as fish, it is known for it’s Amber. I purchased a pair of Amber studs whilst here and would certainly recommend you have a wander down. Back onto the waterfront, it was so empty and quiet as the weekend rush had ended and many must have gone home. The heat had gone up a notch and a cocktail was in order. Today was more at ease with a relaxing lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, followed by another famous treat called a Polish Lody, a very tall swirled ice cream. Delicious and a must have!! But eat it quickly else it will melt… We spent the last of our time here walking, enjoying the atmosphere, sunshine and Gdansks architecture.
Home time arrived and we got a return drive back to the airport for 13 pounds. Ready to catch our Ryanairflight back to Newcastle. Gdansk airport was pretty easy to navigate and we boarded the plane, with a slight delay due to passenger illness we flew home happy to have visited this amazingly beautiful part of Poland. I wouldn’t rule out a return in the future and if you haven’t been please add it to your travel list, you won’t regret it!
My mum throughly enjoyed herself and we had a great trip. With Tel Aviv to look forward too in September, we have many more memories to make and lots more exploring to do. The one thing these travels to Poland taught me, relax a little and be more spontaneous. I am the worlds best pre planner and after a busy trip to India a few weeks ago, I wanted to try more laid back approach and it worked very well indeed.
I booked the flights for this trip separate to the accommodation, which I reserved on booking.com paying for on departure, which is a great idea as you don’t have to pay up front. I thought the hotel was fantastic and certainly worth staying at for both it’s location and it’s great staff too. Highly recommended!
If you want to see more great pictures, or read further blogs by Sam, visit her website www.sostravel.co.uk
Samantha Owen-Stoddart: The girl who loves to travel, sharing her experiences and inspiring others along the way