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Gdansk is located only 100km (60 mi) from Russia - Kaliningrad region (Kaliningradskaya Oblast) which is the Russian enclave bordering Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. Surely I wanted to drive there but I need a visa to Russia since Poland joined the European Union in 2004. For me, as a Polish citizen there is no consular fee. But it takes over a week and for multi-entry visa test for AIDS is necessary. Details here. I didn't have so much time. Real tourist trap for me.
Unique Suggestions: Well, at least, when I saw Russian restaurant (Tri Medwiedia. Kuchnia Rosyjska) in downtown Gdansk I had to try delicious Russian food including Russian beer but... it was a total mistake. Details in my restaurants tip, pictures here. Well, skip it and enjoy Gdansk. Keep smiling - look at my picture :-).
Fun Alternatives: Take more time to prepare to a visit Russia and to get a visa on time.
Currently there are no direct cruises from Gdansk to Russia. But you may take a day trip to Kaliningrad, Russia from Elblag (60 km east of Gdansk, over 1 hour by a bus or a train) by a hydrofoil. The trip takes over 3 hours with the two stops in Polish cities: Krynica Morska and Frombork, so only 5 hours is left for Kaliningrad. It costs 180 zl (€ 45) in 2005. Up-to-date information here.
Written Nov 14, 2005
Do you like this sign? I hate it. I can accept a crossed out flash but not a camera unless the sign is put for security reasons (in a military zone for example). In Gdansk, I've found the ban on taking pictures in the Uphagen's House, the History of Gdansk Museum (the Main Town Hall) and in the Artus Court.
Unique Suggestions: I first look at behaviour of other visitors, whether they take pictures and whether they use small, hidden cameras (my recommendation), a camera flash or a tripod (not my recommendation). I follow them and pay attention to the reaction of the museum staff. I never use any illegally taken picture for commercial use. In the Artus Court noone paid attetion to me when I took pictures (with no flash). Honestly, I have noticed the ban sign at the end of my visit. Lucky me :-).
In countries/states of tight law and strong law enforcement (the USA) better follow the ban. At some places you have to sign the statement (once I was forced to sign it to buy a ticket to a gallery) that you was informed and understood the ban.
I always smiled when I saw fast moving Asian visitors (Japanese?) with small cameras taking forbidden pictures as quick as they could in, say, Louvres Museum. I've learned a lot from them ;-).
Fun Alternatives: Skip the place with the ban.
Write or e-mail a complaint letter about the ban to the authorities or local tourist organisation.
What about establishing AABOP - Association Against Ban On Photography? Any wiser name?
Written Oct 26, 2005
I always look for and expect to see local culture in the heart of any old town, I visit. Unfortunatelly, instead of Gdansk culture, I could easily see and hear a few Indians doing a show in the main, representative square of Gdansk, that was the Long Market (Dlugi Targ). The Indians were playing Indian music and dancing and surely they collect money from the spectators.
Unique Suggestions: Ignore the show like I did. E-mail a complaint letter to the Mayor of the City of Gdañsk (firstname.lastname@example.org) that you would prefer to see Polish local show instead of Indian one in the heart of Gdansk. Thus the mayor should refuse the application of the Indians for doing a show in the old town next time.
Fun Alternatives: Keep smiling and dream about the next trip to a real homeland of the Indians (I would like to visit Peru and Bolivia).
Updated Oct 24, 2005
I arrived to Gdansk for the concert of Jean Michel Jarre by my car. It was a few hours to its beginning but I couldn't find any place on a street to park my car at a distance of 1 km from the gates to the concert. So, I was very lucky when I found a covered parking lot on my picture. I took the parking ticket at the entrance happy to find surprisingly almost empty parking lot. The people from another, just parked, car asked me where to go for the concert. I checked the price of the parking which was OK (2 first hours for free!).
After midnight I came back and... the gate to the parking was closed. The writing by the entrance gate which i didn't read before (my mistake!!!) said that they were open till 10.00 pm - it was the parking lot of Madison shopping mall which I didn't know. Hmm... I am always more careful traveling abroad... Oh my God... what to do? Meanwhile the next happy faces started to come to take their cars hidden behind the close gate and their faces changed in a minute. Luckily the three Madison's security guards came and they were very kind and opened the gate for us, the only problem was that they didn't have a change.
Unique Suggestions: Try to call security guards or wait for them (smile to security cameras :-) and... do hope they are as kind as in my case. Have a change ready.
Keep smiling and... look for good nightlife (pubs and night clubs) till the morning (do not drink alcohol to be able to drive a car in the morning) or look for any accommodation (impossible in my case, no vacancy, all accommodations were fully booked long before the concert), go to sleep on a bench at Gdansk railway station (not my recommendation). Well, I would choose the first option.
Fun Alternatives: Whenever you park a car on guarded parking lot check opening hours. These located by shopping malls and supermarkets are usually (always?) close at night.
Updated Sep 24, 2005
There are tons of street performers in Gdansk! If you stop to look at them, you should really give them money. It's only right, so choose wisely. Some of them really are entertaining though, and you can see how much effort they put into it. Some of these street performers rely completely on this job for their income and I feel better about giving these people money than giving it to bums because they really make an effort.
Updated Aug 18, 2003
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