It was an early evening when I arrived in Gdansk. I felt as if I was nomad. I was just a few hours coming back from Lithuania, when friends called me offering a piggyback ride with them, on a business trip to Bydgoszcz. I had a few days off, so despite being tired, the invitation was compelling. Not giving it a second thought, in the middle of the night I repacked my backpack and at 3 a.m. we left for Bydgoszcz. As much as I enjoyed the city, I realized that I was so close to another place I had been craving to visit, I could not resist the temptation and I took a train to Gdansk, leaving my friends behind. I just knew that I could not waste such an opportunity. As soon as I got off the train, Gdansk welcomed me with a beautiful rainbow. I took it as an omen of a great adventure. And indeed, it was. While walking through the Old Town I started to realize what drew my there. There are so many places of historical and cultural values in Poland, but they give you totally different experiences than Gdansk.
First of all, I love Gdansk because it was one of the Hanseatic cities and you can feel it. The phenomenon of the Hanseatic League has never ceased to amaze me. Over 500 years of fruitful cooperation and cultural exchange made it the most powerful alliance in world history. Gdańsk became the member of Hansa in the 14 century. Thanks to this stimulus, Gdansk was one of the richest and the most economically active cities in that part of Europe.
Comparing the city budget of Gdansk and Cracow in the 17 century, Gdansk was 35 times larger. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was where the largest and the most sumptuous buildings were erected, owing to generous donations of prominent citizens. Noteworthy is the St Mary’s Church , the largest brick church in the world. I recommend you to climb to the top as the view is truly amazing!
The real defining symbol of Gdansk is the medieval wooden crane dating back to the 14 century. It resembles the greatest days of the trading age in that part of Europe and a long tradition of shipbuilding. It was destroyed during WWII and then rebuilt ,but there was a time when it was the largest working crane.
The local elite used to meet in the Artus Court which was the exclusive meeting venue of merchants and aristocrats. The name refers to the medieval legend of King Arthur, symbolizing chivalry. It is not a coincidence since solidarity was one of the virtues promoted by the Hanza. In the main hall, my attention was drawn by an over 10 meter high,m tiled stove, ornamented with beautiful portraits, coats of arms and allegorical figures. For me, a masterpiece of art. In front of the building, there is another symbol of Gdansk – Neptune’s Fountain, representing its close relations with the sea.
Most of the sights can be easily found along Long Street and Long Market offering you a pure delight for your eyes. For me, the most picturesque is Mariacka Street – full of amber goods, offered by street vendors and buildings with unique decorative porches.
Gdansk is one of the places which you can admire from the inside and the outside and in both cases it is stunning. As it is beautiful for the human eye, one cannot avoid the reality that everything is so fragile, since a great part of the city was reconstructed. But it also makes the peoples’ efforts to preserve the place and its history more understandable. Once it was a reason for nation’s pride and financial power.
But there is also another side of Gdansk. Another story shows how precious the city was ,when money had little value and people had no choice, but to fall back on the virtue of solidarity, that had a long tradition.