When I headed off to Poland on a 5-day work trip last week, I wasn't expecting to fall in love with the country. To be honest, I was expecting grey, heavily industrialised landscapes and utilitarian, soviet-style buildings. Visiting Gdynia and Gdansk was a revelation. It seemed more Scandinavian in atmosphere (not that I've ever been anywhere near Scandinavia but the interiors of the restaurants and coffee shops we visited reminded me of Ikea !) - very young, very dynamic and very trendy. Not what I was expecting at all.
We had an afternoon sightseeing in Gdansk (also known as Danzig). Walking along the dockside, the guide explained that the whole of Gdansk was destroyed during the war but it has all been reconstructed to reproduce exactly the way it used to be. Some Polish people dislike the town because they think it's fake but I really liked it.
I love the way there are (seemingly) old towers and buildings dotted amongst the modern offices and flats.
There are lots of little archways heading from the docks up towards the town centre with its shops and monuments, giving you a sneaky peek of the little alleyways and cobbled streets beyond.
This is one of the iconic photos of Gdansk. It's the medieval Great Crane, used for lifting heavy loads off the ships.
In Gdansk, they have scaled down models of the different monuments right next to them which is a great way of getting an overview of the whole building. They're apparently designed for blind people to feel but I think they're great for everyone. It was hard to work out what we were looking at in the photo above but the model makes it much clearer.
We made ourselves giddy by looking up at the huge crane mechanism above our heads !
There's a really lovely old-fashioned boat in the port - it's not authentic, it's a touristy cruise ship, rather like the pirate boats in Turkey, that you can take a ride on but it really looks the part.
Just a few steps along the quayside is a large restaurant called Goldwasser.
This is one of Gdansk's iconic products - Goldwasser vodka with flakes of gold suspended in it. Gdansk is also the world capital of amber and there are numerous shops and workshops selling amber and explaining where it comes from, showing off the different colours and the inclusions (insects or vegetation) that you can find inside.
Time to nip through an archway into the main part of town.
We picked up some little souvenirs from the tiny shops in this street, often selling handmade goods. I got a hand-painted glass angel for the Christmas tree and a little tree made from lots of little pieces of amber. I also got some vodka shot glasses and some cherry and honey flavoured vodka - it would be rude not to !
I love the fact that there are things to discover all over the place, wherever you look. Ornate manhole covers on the ground ...
Intricate rooftops and statues up in the sky ...
And gargoyles everywhere you look.
There's no such thing as a boring building in Gdansk !
We discovered St Mary's Church.
It is the largest brick-built church in the world.
It also has another unique feature. It took several years to build and the builders messed up the measurements so there is an interesting window-in-a-window feature. This caused much merriment in our group because all the women had assumed it was part of the design whereas the men noticed straight away that something was wrong !
Many of the buildings reminded me very much of Bruges in Belgium.
My favourite building was the Arsenal because it's just so full of ... bling !
The things on the roof represent exploding bombs and there are also dragons and gilded statues.
Way too many architectural features for one building but I love the fact that it's so OTT !
And with that, we were off for another three course meal in a restaurant laid on by our hosts (which was the recurring theme of the trip !)
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