Gdansk, Poland

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
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Trip End Aug 10, 2007


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Flag of Poland  , Pomeranian Voivodeship,
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Now the adventure begins as I head into new territory.  I said goodbye to John at the train station from where he took a bus to Tegel Airport in Berlin while I continued on to Poland.  It turned out to be one of those periodic days of what I call "starvation vacation", a when my poor planning or situations beyond my control while traveling leave me hungry.  In this case I spent my last Euros on a drink and a brotchen at the station.  My (German) train was late getting into Szcechin leading me to miss my connection and have to spend three hours in a dump of a station that didn't have an ATM, exchange, lockers, or checked luggage.  Well, by European standards Poland is a very big country and the next train didn't get me to Gdansk until almost 9:00 P.M.  I quickly checked into my hostel and went out for a feed, picking a small authentic-looking Polish place.  The menu was fortunately printed in German as well as Polish, so I naturally chose a soup described as "Danziger Art", suggesting a local specialty.  When this arrived it turned out to be a thick tripe soup with dill cream.  I despise tripe but actually made it through half the bowl before my disgust overcame my hunger.  Be forewarned - avoid "Flaki" on Polish menus.  This was not a good introduction to Polish cuisine since the gooey mystery meat filled pierogies that arrived next were only slightly more palatable.  On the positive side, though, Poland's the first place I've encountered outside Bavaria where they regularly serve beer in manly liter size glasses.

Through much of its history Gdansk was known as Danzig and was more of a German than a Polish city, an identity reflected in its architecture.  The city's prevailing brick Gothic bears much more resemblance to that of other Hanseatic League cities like Hamburg or Lubeck than the Baroque style more common in the rest of Poland.  Things changed, though, in 1945 when Gdansk was leveled, national borders were shifted, and a great big ethnic cleansing moved the Germans out and Poles from the eastern parts of Poland that the Soviet Union annexed into what is now northern and western Poland.  Fortunately, the historic center of Gdansk was beautifully reconstructed.

There isn't a lot to do on a week night in March in Gdansk other than watch soccer in a pub with the locals, but it this part of the world a "pub" might be in a vaulted brick medieval cellar.  I'm not sure if places like that are really all that common or if it's just that I, with my medieval fascination, tend to seek them out. Anyway, tonight it's Poland versus Armenia and I fortunately don't look at all Armenian.  One thing I've noticed is that younger Polish men tend to have a very different appearance from those almost everywhere else in Europe.  While elsewhere hair might be worn long or stylish, rakish or foppish, in Poland the crewcut seems to be very in, and it's often accompanied by camouflage jackets and fatigues - not a lot of low-hanging jeans with displayed underwear gangsta-rapper style here.  Anyway, Poland's winning, but I still make my exit before things start to get rowdy.

My roommate at the hostel in Gdansk was a retired British man named Jeff who was in town on a sort of business.  He was actually there to inspect the progress on a sea-worthy barge he was having constructed at the shipyard which he and his wife intend to use to travel the waterways of Europe during the summers.  It's always nice to meet people who intend to do more than sit home and watch TV in their retirement years.
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