Still Chilling Out in Gdansk
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
108Trip End Oct 23, 2009
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I started Europe in Prague with 94 degree temps and it's been hot or warm throughout my journey here. The heat finally broke and some clouds and drizzle rolled in. What a nice change, especially for the amount of walking I do every day. I just start early morning and keep going until bedtime. I love it and can't get enough of looking around all these places. I can go down the same street four times and discover something new every time
Since I accidentally stumbled upon where WWI started in Sarajevo I couldn't leave Gdansk without standing where WWII began. I'll be honest, I accidentally stumbled upon the fact that WWII started in Gdansk, too. Flipping through some brochure about the touristical delights of Gdansk opened my eyes to the fact that this city was just as important to WWII as it was to ending Communism. Who knew!!?? Well, my dad did obviously so these pics of Westerplatte are more for him. Try as I might, it was hard to make the bunkers and blown up barracks photogenic.
I really don't have much more than a passing interest in either war but since it was a gloomy day, what better way to spend a morning. By asking around I found out I could take the 106 bus from some bus stop about a kilometer outside of the Old Town across two bridges and down by the tram tracks. After reaching what I determined to be the correct area, I decided to buy a ticket from a kiosk rather than on the bus. This would save me a huge 20 cents but would also force me to interact with a clerk in a place where I don't speak the language.
I took my chances and asked the old man if he spoke English or German (German is common here among older people since this area was obviously part of Germany at different times in history). To my surpise he spoke some rough English that was still better than my nonexistent Polish. I had my ticket in hand but made the fatal mistake of asking where the 106 bus stop was for Westerplatte.
This old man told me, "von hundret and six to Westerplatte"
I said, "yes
He said, "von hundret and six to westerplatte" and just waived his hand at nothing in particular.
To which I responded of course, "where?" and to which he replied, "you not listen. Bus von hundret and six."
I politely asked "where?" again, and he said, "young person not listen. Bus von hundret and six."
Patience is definitely something I have when traveling but come on, this was getting ridiculous.
He came out of his booth, grabbed me from behind, spun me 90 degrees to the right, and said, "now you listen. Bus von hundred and six."
He pointed across the street four times and I began trying to figure out how to get there. Imagine an intersection with a divided road, tram tracks down the middle, a pedestrian tunnel going somewhere, an elevated bridge over part of the road and no apparent stop for the Von Hundret and Six. I did try to listen but all I got was Von Hundret and Six!!! He was very nice about it though and was genuinely trying to help. As I was walking away I heard him say again, "Von hundret and six bus." I just don't think the word "where" could cross that linguistical divide. I think "gdzie" is "where" in Polish should you ever have the occasion to search for the number 106..
Next time I will pay the extra 20 cents and just buy from the driver. Remember that old game Frogger? I put my quarter in the machine and jaywalked across all the lanes of speeding Volkswagens and tram tracks and found the stop somehow amidst decayed sidewalks and mud
Away from the Old Town, Gdansk is still an authentic throwback to the commie days in many ways, and I like the rough around the edges feel. Glad I didn't experience it first hand back in the day, but glad I can visit it now and leave. This is the European experience I am looking for. And they even have crosswalks if you look closely enough before playing Frogger! Miraculously the 106 rolled on up and about ten minutes later I was deep inside an industrial area straight out of the Krushchev era.
The end of the line for the trusty ole Von Hundret and Six is Westerplatte where I traded hundreds of old fogies from the cruise ships for hundreds of second graders on their school outings. I don't know which is worse...Helen waxing exuberantly about grocery store peanut butter or little Polish girls screaming at the top of their lungs. Why do 8 year old girls do that? It seems to be universal and wired into their DNA.
Westerplatte is on a peninsula sticking out into the Baltic Sea on one side and a port area on the other. I checked the schedule for the Von Hundret and Six back to town and saw that a bus left in 30 minutes and another in an hour. I thought an hour would be plenty but man was I wrong. I made it back to the bus stop for the one in 30 minutes with five minutes to spare. I walked up to the memorial, passed along the beach to see some bunkers and the path spit me back out at the busstop
I took the bus a few stops down to Wisloujscle Fort that looked interesting enough in the brochure. The aerial picture that was all sunshiney and glitz sure did make the place look appealing. I squeezed into the fort and up a narrow spiral staircase to the tower along with about 30 kids from Mrs. Johnsonkowski's third grade class and about 60 from Mr. Smithski's and just called it a day. The fort dates back to the 16th Century and has always been strategic for Poland to defends itself. I will reserve comment on how successful that has been for the most part. The trusty 106 delivered me right back to where I started and I wound my way back into the Old Town.