Saturday, June 07, 2008

G’Day from Gdansk Poland (June 6, 2008)

We opted for the self-guided exploration today in Gdansk. We really didn’t know much about this city before coming here, but once again the ship provides a nice introduction to each location prior to going ashore. Gdansk like Tallinn has a very rich history going back more than 1,000 years. However Gdansk was nearly destroyed in WWII leaving the historic old town in ruins. While Tallinn was mostly original, Gdansk has been restored based on old photographs and historic records at great expense. Some of that restoration is still underway but most of the old town is beautifully restored.

Gdansk is also a much larger and more modern city and includes suburbs that run up the coast continuously all the way to our port city in Gdynia which was about 40 miles north. The traffic was heavy, but no where as bad as St. Petersburg.

On our way into town, we drove past Lech Welesa’s present home and the church where he attends, but weren’t able to take pictures from the bus. We found a great little Pierogarnia (restaurant that specializes in Polish pierogies) for lunch and shared a wide variety of the stuffed dumplings.

We learned the origin of the American slang word: “doozy” as it was used in polish to describe the extra large soft-serve ice-cream cones, spelled “duzy”. We saw these little “Lody” ice cream stands were everywhere and finally decided the smaller size was just right for us. That duzy might end up on our lap before we could finish it.

Since we were on our own, we could afford to take some side-trips to explore some of the areas the organized tours won’t go. Today we climbed the 400 steps to the top of the highest tower in town at the Church of our Lady (St Mary’s) built in 1343. This church is supposed to be the largest brick church in the world and supposedly holds 25,000 people (standing). The view from the top was spectacular.

Since Poland is the first area we’ve been that is predominately Catholic, the churches have a different feel inside than the Orthodox churches we’ve visited and very different from the Lutheran churches. This church had an amazing amount of skulls and other gruesome decorations. Some of the tomb stones on the floor even included what looks like the skull & crossbones typically used by pirates.

Once again you can see from the photos that we were blessed with perfect weather and clear blue skies. Finally as we were pulling out of the Polish harbor, we saw what looked like the makings of a new Polack joke as a large navy cruiser was being towed back to the harbor – it looked quite embarrassing for the crew. As we came around we saw that it was sailing under an American flag!

You can see the Gdansk pictures here:

I've also updated the map to include Gdansk and Tallin photos here:

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