Frei Stadt of Danzig
Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
576Trip End Ongoing
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On Wednesday, my manager gave me the bad news, due to budget reasons, your contract is not being renewed. I had been waiting for this day, for years. Such is life. But how the worm turns. On Friday, whilst on a bus, I was offered another contract, this time in a bank, a big pay rise was added, so I couldn't say no !!!
After much looking around, we found a flight to Bydgoszcz, hired a car, not long after, we were in Torun. Car parked, bags dumped, we hit the streets. We thought it would be a bigger place, but it wasn't. The buildings were more in a Flemish/German style, but that was to be understood, we were in the furthest corner of the Frei Stadt of Danzig.It was raining in the morning, so we had another walk around. There were walls and a couple of towers which were pretty good, but as it was early, the churches were not opened so we just walked. Nicolaus Copernicus lived here once, exciting !!! There were also some other buildings which were nice, but we had to move early. See, in Poland, the roads are shit, so you don't get anywhere fast.
From Torun to Malbork, it is only around 100ish K's away, but it took around 3 hours !!! But fuck, the countryside was nice !!! New Malbork, however was a shithole !!! We parked up and walked to what according to the book states, is the largest Gothic castle in Europe. If you arrive before two, you get a three hour tour in Polish, but after two, there is only one tour left, and that is for an hour. We missed the last three hour and settled for the hour shortened tour. We waited for our guide, and when she arrived, it was just the two of us, and she couldn't speak English, well, just two words, original and restoration. In we went, and because we couldn't understand each other, we started overtaking groups. Where the hour tour was meant to finish, we had been going for twenty minutes, so we got to see the whole place !!! It had been pretty destroyed during WW2, but a lot had been restored, except the church. They had left it the way it was, but put a roof on it. It was a little sad seeing it this way, but also good, because it put the castle into perspective from 1945. It was a good tour and we were lucky we were the only two, or we would not have seen all this.
Slowly we went, and we had arrived in Gdansk. It was night, the streets were pretty empty, so we walked the Royal 300 metres. From one gate to the other, we looked at the buildings, and they were pretty nice. Once again, they didn't look like the same type as I had seen years ago in both Krakow and Warsaw, but this was to be expected, as we were now in the capital of the Frei Stadt of Danzig.
In the morning, we decided to visit a memorial for Solidarity. I still remember those days when Lech Walesa the electrician in the dockyard, lead the boys on strike, which forced communism out. There is also another memorial for strikers which had been killed in the 60's. It's funny how nothing changes, once again the shipyard was on strike. I wonder what the mayor, Lech Walesa, is going to do about this ???
Back in town, we took another walk around. We visited the museum that is part of the Town Hall, even seeing the red room the local Germans had removed during WW2. This was a good thing as the whole place had been destroyed and rebuilt in the original way. Out the back of the town, there were more old gates, and as I walked round, I looked at Lucy and said, even though we are in Poland, it feels more like Sweden or Flemish Belgium. It just didn't feel right.
About 10 K's away is Westerplatte, a place famous for where WW2 started. As we had been over the bridge in Sarajevo where Franz Ferdinand had been shot, we needed this for the World War starting place sets !!!
Trust me, it's not an easy place to find. There are no road signs !!! GPS got us there, and on the site are a couple of memorials, a bunker or two and a huge blown up building. It was worth going for the tick on the list !!!
And then we drove back, back via Torun, for one last fattening dinner before our flight from Bydgoszcz.
And that was another weekend done and dusted. It was different, it was enjoyable, and it makes me want to go back to Poland again.