Please note that this report...
Please note that this report is not on Gdansk only, but on North Poland. VT does not allow me to select 'North Poland'
I consider it as absolutely essential to study a little bit the history of Europe in this area and especially the history of Poland, before going there. A minimum would be to cover the time frame of the last 100 years, but it certainly is no waste to go back as far as 1000 years. Polis people and their relation to the surrounding nations cannot be understood otherwise.
Most of the area I travelled in was given back to Poland under the treaty of Versailles in 1919, occupied again by Germany during World War II (Blitzkrieg) and liberated again in 1945.
I will not cover the seven days of travel in detail for each day, but rather the highlights, which were (The names in brackets are the German names and are added for Germans)
1. The city of Torun (Thorn)
What remained in my memory is the centre of the old town with the extraordinary town hall and St. Mary’s church from the 14th century, the old defensive walls, separating the old from the new city, and, in memory of the most famous son of the city: a statue of Copernicus and a Copernicus museum.
2. The city of Olsztyn (Allenstein)
Olsztyn in Masuria, has been badly hurt during World War II and even shortly thereafter by the Russians. To see the Castle the house where Copernicus lived as well as museums and the Cathedral.
3. The lake region or Masuria (Masuren)
See my fondest memory below.
4. The city of Kaliningrad in Russia (Königsberg)
While I have to agree that the short stay in Kaliningrad does not qualify me for a profound judgement, but there seem to be worlds between Poland and Russia (realizing that Kaliningrad may not be representative for Russia (is not). In Poland you can see and feel everywhere the development, the progress and the efforts the people undertake. In Kaliningrad I did not have this feeling at all. Passivity, the big communist type living quarters neglected, shops where you would not like to go in, etc. As I may be unjust, I will not continue.
What remains is an evening with old Russian orthodox chorus music, the Dom with the grave of Immanuel Kant and a city where even the historical remains after World War II have been razed to the ground by the Soviets.
5. The village Rauschen at the East Sea
Quite a contrast to Kaliningrad was the small village of Rauschen.(This is the German name, I do not recall the Russian one) The names in brackets are the German names and are added for Germans
Still in Russia, Rauschen is a seaside resort at the East Sea. While the public installations were also not in a very good shape, some of the old houses were maintained very well and some new, reasonably sized hotels constructed. Overall a nice place to stay in summer.
6. The Malbork Castle (Marienburg )
The significance of this well-preserved castle from the 13th century cannot be understood without knowing the history about the Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Ritterorden), which moved its Headquarters from Venice to Malbork in 1309. This Order exercised power over the region for about 200 years. Just the fact that they choose this area instead on Venice, makes you believe that this area (which we think is remote and hardly known) was much more in the centre of commerce and politics some 700 years ago then it is now. The “Hanse” playing a large role in there.
7. The city of Gdansk (Danzig)
Again, just to high lighten the importance of knowing the history of this area:
In 1945 Danzig became Polish for the first time after 1308. At the beginning of World War II about 40 000 inhabitants were German speaking and less than 16 000 Polish. This has changed dramatically as the ethnic Germans were expelled after the war.
If you enter Gdansk through the old gate you see a long street with well-maintained old houses. Knowing that Gdansk was basically destroyed to a 100% during World War II, one can hardly imagine which efforts the Polish government ahs put in to reconstruct the houses in their original way already shortly after the war, as resource had been scarce everywhere.
It is just a pleasure to walk through the old city and enjoy the atmosphere. Here you also find the most and most famous place to deal with amber in all its shapes and colours and in some shops you can still watch them shaping and polishing the stones. I personally like the quiet countryside, especially if there are a lot of lakes.Now, there is nothing exciting going on, no happenings, but the peace you can feel and the air you breath can give you strength for amny months to come.
That is why Masuria (Masuren) (early in the morningand during the day until sunset) are my fondest memory. I only wished to have had the opportunity for some long walks all by myself.