Parking lot closed at night!
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.
- Road Trip
The worst ban ever!
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?
- Museum Visits
- Budget Travel
Only 100 km from Russia but...
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.
- Budget Travel
Not prepared for foreign visitors
Gdansk becomes Mecca for more and more visitors from all over the world and its well maintained downtown and main tourist attractions are well covered in travel books. However there are still off the beaten path attractions which are not ready for crowds of visitors.
It's the best seen in the Oliwa Park. There is NO information about the park, no map, just nothing in any language but Polish (map and historical ingo by the Palm House) and Latin (names of some rare plant species). Add very small parking lot by the entrance, always packed with cars. And the Coach House, the Palm House and the Orangerie were closed for renovations when i visited the park.
Unique Suggestions: Welcome to my map of the park with explanations in my Transportation tip and to my info in my Off the beaten path tips.
Do not visit the park where most do it, that is in sunny, summer weekends.
Fun Alternatives: No alternative. Well, maybe do not drive a car there. Take a taxi or a bus.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
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.
When a foreigner tries to buy a ticket ...
Unfortunately people working at the railway stations do NOT speak any other language than Polish (there are little exceptions but not many).
Unique Suggestions: Before you go to buy a ticket, ask somebody who knows Polish to write all the ticket details for you on a sheet of paper. With this paper go to the ticket office. The price is shown on the cash screen. So don't worry.
If you need to buy a ticket for an international trip at the station in Gdansk Glowny, go to the main hall of the station and go up-stairs on the 1st floor to KASA MIEDZYNARODOWA (INTERNATIONAL TICKET OFFICE). As far as I remember there is no sign in English :-(.
Fun Alternatives: You can always print the text I have attached to this tip and use it, when buying a ticket.
Believe me, I have seen many times desperated tourist who couldn't find the way at the station because of the language barrier...
If you found the tip useful, please RATE it.
It took time to collect the data and publish it here for you to use it :-).
Most of old town parts are new
Gdansk is one of the towns (as quite much of them in Poland) that was damaged in Second World War. Pity, not only newer part of town was touched by War, but also the old part.
Later, at Soviet times, the city slowly was reconstructed, but it is really visible, that part of old town is a new one, but rebuilt using old models. There are, of course, unique, not damaged buildings as it is Mariacki Cathedral.
Hitler visiting Gdansk
All days I explored Gdansk, I have seen Hitler show on the balcony of main town hall. Don't think he is real Hitler :)
I think they made some Hitler shows for "Kashubian days" festival. Unreal Hitler was talking loudly to crows in Polish language, but quite German pronunciation ;) The talk was about land occupation, German roots, so on.
I wonder if it is associated with Kashubian nation, as Polish talk that Kashubians are more interested in German culture than Polish.
I got ripped off on the pirate ship.
One of the best ways to view this beautiful city, is from the water.
I saved this cruise, for my last day in Gdansk, so I could get some shots of the city from the water. I would've never said that this is a tourist trap, but I got ripped off on it, so in a way it sort of is.
There are actually two pirate ships that leave from the Main City, one sails all the way to Gdynia, and the other one sails to Nowy Port. That one also stops at Westerplatte, so you can get off and see the monument, then return on another ship for the same ticket, and the price also includes a shuttle to the monument.
Anyways, I got really ripped off on this ship. Their sign said it only costs 20 zloty, and you get a discount if you're a student, but you have to show ID, which I didn't have. I asked the lady for 1 ticket, and gave her 50 zloty, expecting to get 30 zloty back and still have some money leftover for other things, instead she gave me 10 back. I thought she was trying to keep my change, but I looked at my ticket, and it said 40 zloty. I thought I accidentally bought a ticket to Gdynia. I was furious, but I didn't say anything. I got on the ship anyways, and it was so packed, that there was no place to sit, or get a good view. A lot of people got off at Westerplatte, so it cleared out on the way back, and I managed to squeeze to the front of the ship, where the best views are.
There are a lot of rigging lines, and ropes in the way, which makes picture taking really difficult.
The ship is supposed to sail all the way into the bay, and turn back at the mouth of the river. I used to go to the Cleveland Lighthouse, and watch the ships sail past, and half the time, they didn't do that. They cut the route short, and that's what happened with me. I thought I could get some great shots of the lighthouses from the water, but instead of sailing into the bay, like it's supposed to, the ship turned around before Westerplatte. The entire round trip, takes around 1.5 hours.
The pirate ship is the most popular, because it's a pirate ship, but you can take regular boats, for a cheaper price, and better pictures, but I was ripped off on one of those as well.
I couldn't leave the city without taking the pirate ship. I was saving it, for my last day, and as a farewell gift from Gdansk, I got ripped off. Not cool. The ride was nice, I just didn't like that I got ripped off.
I would not advise against going on this ship, as it is quite something. Just be aware, that this is Poland, and you right get ripped off, so make sure you're clear about the price and route, before you depart.
- Family Travel
The trap is that dishonest owners of so called "kantor" where you can exchange your currency into zloty offer a very good rate of exchange. A tourist is very glad but finaly it occurs that the rate is not that good. Why? Because SOMEWHERE it's written that it's only when you exchange a certain amount of money (usually big)-if you exchange a small amount- the rate is usually smaller. It's good to know it BEFORE because AFTERWARDS you can do nothing as it's not against the law.
Unique Suggestions: Say the amount of money you want to exchange and ask them to tell you the exact rate.
Don't Take The City Tours
Walking around the main city, you will see people offering city tours. Don't take them. There is no point. The main city is small. Everything is within walking distance, and there are noticable landmarks, like the St. Mary's Cathedral tower, so it's very difficult to get lost. If you have a good map and guide book, you can see all the interesting sites yourself, plus a few that are off the tourist path, and you can also pop into the souvenier shops. The city tours will just rush you, and won't actually take you inside the museums. The only plus is, that they will give you information on the sites. Trust me, these tours are not neccessary, and a waste of time and money. You will see a lot more on your own, then you will on one of these tours. I didn't see them getting a lot of customers.
Unique Suggestions: If you really want to, take a walking tour. Don't take one of the tours that drives you around in a little golf cart, unless you are disabled, or have problems walking, in which case, that would be the best option for you. But to truly experience the city, you have to walk it.
Fun Alternatives: Get a good map and guidebook, and see the sites on your own.
Lighthouse Museum in Nowy Port, not worth the cost
They say, "It's a museum unlike any other", but trust me, it's nothing special. I've seen way more interesting lighthouse museums in the states. The Cleveland Lighthouse, as it is called, was built in 1893, and is modeled after one of the lighthouses in Cleveland, Ohio. The lighthouse is currently privately owned by a sea commodore, who turned it into a museum. He wasn't there when I went, but my mom got to meet him, and she said he's a really nice guy. However, the enterance fee is way too high for this museum. 10 zloty, that's only about 3 USD, but for Polish standards, it's really expensive. There is nothing to see in this museum, except pictures, certificates and some old lighthouse equiptment. There are only 4 items on display, and the rest are pictures and award certificates, which are in Polish. The lighthouse is most famous for its timeball, which is the main reason I went, but it turned out, you can't even get to it, you can only see it from the bottom. Honestly, it's only worth going for the view, which on a clear day, is really nice, but 10 zloty is way too much. The seal sanctuary in Hel only costs 2 zloty. The lighthouse looks nice from the outside, but inside, it's nothing special. You're really just paying for the view. I was really disappointed. It shouldn't cost more than 2 zloty. I wouldn't pay the 10 zloty to go inside, unless you're really into barometers, lightbulbs, and certificates, or just want to experience the feeling of being inside a lighthouse.
Unique Suggestions: Bring your kids. I saw a lot of people there with children. They might enjoy and appreciate the museum more then the adults. If you've already decided to pay, at least spend some time on top, and enjoy the view.
Fun Alternatives: Check out the rest of Nowy Port. It has two nice churches, old Prussian buildings, and authentic Polish bakeries. If you want to relax, walk to the beach in Brzezno, which isn't that far, or if you're looking to do some site seeing, for 2 zloty, you can take a ferry accross the river, and visit the Wisloujscie Fortress, and Westerplatte. Or, if you're looking to get out of Poland for a few days, go into the ferry office near the lighthouse, and ask about the ferries to Sweden.
- Museum Visits
- Family Travel
Lady In The Window
We attended the opening ceremony of St. Dominic's fair, and some lady told us, that there will be a lady appearing in the window of Nowy Dom Lawy (next to Dwor Artusa), at 2:00, dressed in 17th century clothing, and waving to the crowd. It sounded pretty cool. We had about an hour to kill, so we checked out the fair, then went to see the lady. She is a fictional, 17th century character. The story says that she is in the window waiting for a sailor of the Puck fleet to appear to her, and she is waving at passerbys.
The story, and tradition is interesting, except the lady isn't a real lady.
I thought she was real at first, but as I looked more carefully, I noticed that it was a plastic statue. I was really disappointed, and mislead. If the lady would've told us right away, that it would be a statue, we wouldn't have wasted our time. I thought it was kind of stupid. It would've been cool, if it was a real lady, but for a fake lady, it's not worth wasting your time, as there are much more interesting things at the fair.
Unique Suggestions: Check out Dwor Artusa, City Hall, and the Neptune Fountain, while you're there.
Fun Alternatives: Check out the folk bands, and food and merchant stalls.
- Arts and Culture
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 (email@example.com) 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).
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
When's sunny it's wonderful, but if it rains....
People come here to Gdansk, and to Tricities ( Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia) to relax by the sea in the hope that one will get tanned and bath in the sea. The whole region, called Wybrzeże (the Coast), is popular because you can combine lying on the beach with sightseeing and other things. However, if it happens a rainy and cold summer, it can be very tricky. The only solution in a rainy day is to go to cinema. I thought about it when I had passed by a multi-screen cinema at Aleja Zwycięstwa 14 (Victory Avenue), . The other one is in the downtown opposite the railway station, Cinema City Krewetka, at ul. Karmelicka 1 . The first cinema is close to Bałtycka Opera, which could be another alternative for boredom, but unfortunately, it’s due to summer vacations closed to 20 th August. That’ s a pity. Although some theatres, contrary to theaters in other Polish cities, are open during summer.
Unique Suggestions: Check out which institutions are open on:
Fun Alternatives: A ride on a watrer tramways ( ship/ ferry) can be also alternative on rainy days. See .
- Budget Travel
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