Szczecin – Gdansk

Purpose of the trip was tourism and recreation; visiting the main cities of northern (Szczecin, Gdańsk, Toruń) and central (Poznań) Poland. Also visiting old Dutch settlement areas in Żuławy; medieval Teutonic castles; leisure (Masuria). During the trip we tried to combine sight-seeing with relaxation and not running in a hurry from one place to another. The route distances and timing are calculated by GPS and are approximate, not including stops and visiting. For practical reasons the tour report consists of three parts, presented in separate chapters. Here is the first part *

SZCZECIN  / 2-3 July

Accomodation: Hotel “Ibis”

The city is a convenient meeting place, near the border.

Some history

The history of settlement is dating back to the 7th – 6th centuries BC. In 967 the first historical Polish ruler Mieszko I incorporated Szczecin into Poland, but in 1181 the town became a part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 15th and 16th centuries it was the capital of the Duchy of Szczecin. In 1713 the town was incorporated into Prussia. After World War II Poland took power over Szczecin and German population was displaced.

Having one day for visiting the city we decided to see only the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle and Wały Chrobrego Promenade. The origins of the castle dates back to 1346. Its lovely Renaissance shape was designed at the end of 16th century. Unfortunately, in the 19th century, while transforming it into a Prussian garrison, the castle was devastated, and in the year 1944 it suffered much as a result of air raids. Currently, nicely restored, it serves as a place of many cultural events. The sights can be seen in the basement with huge silver sarcophagi, and the castle offers a beautiful view of the Odra River and waterfront.

Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle

Wały Chrobrego Promenade (Chrobry Embankments, formerly Hakentarasse) was built in the early 20th century as an urban complex covering the terrace on a slope of the Oder, city square and a building for the Museum. One should know that adjacent museum buildings have facades reminiscent of the Dutch Renaissance. It is an excellent place for rest and walks.

Wały Chrobrego

THE ROAD TO GDANSK

(362 km / 5 hours and 20 minutes)

It is the longest stretch of our trip. Going to Gdańsk we drive through Bytow to see the first Teutonic castle on our route. Now it houses a hotel and a few exhibitions. On the whole way we drove along many avenues of trees what made the journey very pleasant.

Bytów castle / Photo: Jan Strzelecki

GDAŃSK / July 4-8

Accommodation: “Kobza Haus” hotel near the Old Town and the Green Gate, on the other side Motława. Hotel is elegant and clean, with a beautiful patio and underground parking.

Some history

Slavic settlement in Gdańsk dates back to 9th century. In 997 inhabitants of the settlement were baptised. Until 1308 the city was under Polish control but in 1308 the Teutonic Knights captured it, what became possible after the murdering of Polish citizens. Gdańsk always gravitated towards Poland and after the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 it paid homage to King Wladyslaw Jagiello, and in 1454 to king Casimir the Jagiellonian. In 16th century Gdańsk experienced its glory days – it was then the largest and richest Polish city and largest port in the Baltic trade. After the Polish partition in 1793 it was incorporated into Prussia.

Długi Targ (Long Market) street about 1900

After World War I town obtained the status of a Free City Gdańsk, in which Germany exercised administrative authority. After the occupation by the Red Army in 1945 it was heavily destroyed as Russians burnt house after house. Later it was rebuilt by Poles, with a big attention for historic details. During the walk through the beautifully restored Gdańsk it is hard to believe that the city was once totaly ruined. But having such a pearl, one of the most beautiful cities in the country, the Poles just had to restore its former glory.

 

Długi Targ – present view

In Gdańsk you can find a lot of traces of Dutch artists activity, especially architects, who have left significantr mark on the city look. Those, who enter the Old Town from the Motlawa River side, pass through one of the most distinctive buildings, the Green Gate, which, incidentally, is not green at all. It was built in Dutch Renaissance style, with the use of small Dutch bricks, brought into Poland on Dutch ships as ballast. That bricks are visible in the walls which survived war damages. The name of the designer is not known today but the construction was controlled by the Amsterdam master Regnier.

Green gate and the bridge over Motława river

Renaissance Gdańsk is largely the work of Dutch architects Anton van Obberghen (he designed Bastion of St. Gertrude, the Great Armoury and probably the Old Town Hall), and Willem and Abraham van den Blocke. Willem, Abraham’s father, was primarily a sculptor, and assigned the authorship of stonework details of some burgher houses. Among buildings his greatest work is the Highland Gate. Abraham made an altar in st. Johns church and the decorations of the facades of the Great Armoury and the Artus Court, builded the Golden Gate, the Fountain of Neptune and the Golden Tenement House.

Gdańsk offers so many places worth seeing that it is necessary to stop here for a few days. Guidebooks offer many routes. Besides walking through the Old Town one could go to the famous Gdańsk shipyard, or take a cruise to the Westerplatte, a Polish military base, where from the firing from the battleship Schleswig-Holstein WW II began. Remains of this base does not exist anymore, but the place in itself has its own importance. We chose exploring the city and the Gdańsk Shipyard.

Day 1: Długi Targ street

Already in the first day in the evening we went on a Dlugi Targ street, the most representative one, to savor the atmosphere, as there are many nice cafes and restaurants. The main walk was held the next day. Dlugi Targ street townhouses are very unique, each represents a different style and each deserves special attention because of the rich ornaments. It is home to the city’s most distinctive feature – a fountain of Neptune (reconstruction), placed in front of Artus Court (meeting place for guilds and brotherhoods bourgeois, and from 1742 the first Polish stock exchange). One of biggest attractions of this building is the tile stove, the largest in the world, which was built in 1545.

Artus Court

Opposite to the Artus Court is placed a fountain of Neptune, the symbol of the city. And in the window of the neighboring house, at a special hour, appears the most famous inhabitant of the town, “Maid from the window” – the heroine of the popular historical novels for young people.

 Neptun / “Maid from the window” 

Day 2: the Gdansk Shipyard

On the second day we went to the Gdańsk Shipyard. First we stoped by the monument of the Fallen Shipyard Workers and the famous Gate No. 2, which in 1980 gathered the striking shipyard workers.

Then we entered the building, which houses the famous hall of BHP, where the famous August Agreement was signed by Polish authorities and Lech Walesa. Apart from a few souvenirs such as an illegal multiplier (stencil printer) the main attraction are the stills.

Famous Hall BHP, photo: Artur Andrzej / a picture from the exhibition (click to enlarge) 

For those that want to know the taste and “charms” of Polish People’s Republic, it is necessary to see the exhibition “Roads to Freedom”, which is located near Gate No. 2, in the basement. Its creators reconstructed here typical Polish shop from the 80s, the prison cell for imprisoned opposition activists (on the photo) and something more. It is hard to believe, but shops really looked like this one! The museum also contains audio-visual position where you can find materials related to the Polish anti-government protests and demonstrations during the period of socialism.

Being in this area we came to the giant mill (reconstructed), which was the largest mill in medieval Europe, we visited nearby church and bowed to the famous astronomer John Hewelius, whose statue stands in this particular area.

 The mill – supermarket

Day 3: Motława promenade and Old Town

The third day of our stay we spent on further exploring Gdańsk, starting with walking on Long Embankment – the boulevard of Motlawa and Old Motlawa (interestingly, it was built only in XIX century). Coastal buildings and the famous Crane, one of the largest crane in medieval Europe, forms a very characteristic and picturesque landscape of the city. There are also restaurants and cafes and cruise ships depart from here.

 Banks of Motlawa

Crossing by St. Mary’s Gate (one of many in this boulevard) visitors enter the charming St. Mary’s (Mariacka) street. It is very narrow and the houses here have standing terraces, which once were places of rest for Gdańsk patricians. Today it is a jeweler’s street, full of charming shops of beautiful jewelry made of amber. 

Mariacka street

Wandering on the street one enters the square, facing the huge St. Mary’s Church. Until recently it was the largest church in Poland. It is 105.5 m long and can accommodate up to 25 000 of the faithful. Inside there are numerous chapels, many monuments of Gothic art, but it is also worth to climb the tower, which offers a beautiful view of over Gdańsk and its surroundings. But to get there, you have to beat as many as 400 steps!

St. Mary’s Church / foto: www.gdansk.pl, Gdansk City Hall

The walk in the Danzig can be concluded with a thrill – a visit to the former prison and the torture chambers.

Danzig is not only a city of history and monuments, but also of modern architecture. A good example is the PGE Arena, built for the Euro 2012 football championships. The shape and color reminds a piece of amber, which is a treasure of the Polish coast.

 PGE Arena stadium

New: Museum of World War II, opened March 23, 2017

Museum of World War II / Rudolf H. Boettcher

We have not seen it yet…

Renata Głuszek

Published: June 24, 2012 / update: May 7, 2017

To be continued in Malbork – Masuria and Torun – Poznan.

 Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Renata Głuszek Han Tiggelaar, www.gdansk.pl

* Whole route: Szczecin (2-3.07) – Gdansk (4-7.07) – Malbork (8-9.07) – Dziwiszewo, Masuria (10-15.07) – Torun (15-17.07) – Poznan (17.07) – Łagów Lubuski (18-19.07)

Time of the trip: start – July 2, end – July 20 (19 days)

 MAPS