Monday, July 15, 2013

Wandering Around Gdansk

I arrived in Gdansk on Saturday evening just as the sun was setting. By the time I got to the hotel it was dark. I did, however, notice as I was riding in the taxi that the terrain seemed to be yet again different from other parts of Poland that I had visited. Delighted too to see sunlight when arriving as there had been many cool and rainy days in Zakopane.

I enjoyed breakfast in the hotel and then decided to take a bit of a walk. Wow! Gdansk is beautiful.

The first thing I noticed was the tower, for I could see the very top of it from my room. This turns out to be the ratusz, the town hall.

Meanwhile I was admiring all the beautiful buildings along the street.

 And yes, I see the Neptune Fountain.

Lonely Planet says this is the oldest secular monument in Poland. It was built by a Flemish artist, Peter Husan, between 1606 and 1613. Over and over the guide book refers to Low Country artists or architects. Indeed Gdansk buildings appear to be "cousins" of Amsterdam. They are narrow buildings and have elaborate roof top designs.

When I got to the town hall I found it was too immense to photograph within the confines of the street. I continued on and noticed an interesting building on a side street.

Exploration revealed that this is the Fine Arts Academy.

Back to Dluga Targ and more sightseeing.

I ended at the Upland Gate. Portions of this gate have been standing since 1574!

Under the gate passage I found a poster of what Gdansk looked like at the end of World War II.

 I marvel at the courage of the people who lived then. When the first person started to pick up stones and debris where did he or she put it? I don't know how one cleans up after a disaster when all around the whole nation is disaster. My only experience has been cleaning up after tornadoes when only part of a city is damaged and there are many to help along with stable public services.

Turned back towards my hotel where I spent some time on the computer revising my travel plans for the week.

Leaving the hotel I went towards the Green Gate.

The Lonely Planet guide book says this structure was not only part of the fortifications, but planned to be a residence for Polish kings. However, the kings did not like the damp and chilly weather along the river and lived elsewhere when in Gdansk. I can understand that perfectly for while walking along the river the sun disappeared under clouds for about two hours and it was damp and chilly. In the 20th century a new leader, Lech Walesa, established his offices here.

Here is a river view facing upstream.

Downstream I saw one of the water trams arriving at the dock.

I enjoyed walking along the river and just seeing all the people, all the shops, and all the activities going on.

Return to Dluga Targ and stopped at the Sphinz Restaurant for obiad. Sphinz is a chain across Poland, perhaps rather like Applebees in the United States.

Had a beautiful dish of zander with vegetables. Often when I see food such as this I remember the Polish-American bus driver who told me he couldn't take his parents back to Poland "because there is no food."

After obiad I walk over to St. Mary's Basilica. The guide book says this is the largest brick church in the world. I approached it from the southeast corner and by the time I had walked counter-clockwise just around half of it the north end where the entrance door is I became a believer. This is a huge building.

This church was started in 1343 and finished to its huge size in 1502. Then in 1572 it became a Protestant church which is remained until the end of World War II. That is was a Protestant church for about 400 years explains its "plainness."

One enters under the organ and choir loft.

The above is a view on the main floor from the right hand side. It's not possible to get back far enough to take a photo of the entire main aisle area.

To each side of the main aisle seating are many small chapels.

Some of the side chapels are as large as small churches. 

 And some are very small. 

Seated in the second row of pews I got this view of the main altar. 

Above is a more detailed view of the center of the altar polyptch, believed to date back to the 1510s. 

To the left of the altar in another side area is the 15th century astronomical clock. 

In this area, too, is a small piece of the original frescoes that decorated this church in its beginning as a Catholic church.

I very much enjoyed seeing this church. As I told my guide in Lublin last year, churches give one insight into culture and history. 

Walked back to my hotel to see if e-mail had brought news confirming a change of travel plans. Then I took a nap.

Towards evening my goal was to have a meal at the Velevetka restaurant. This is a Kashubian restaurant. Many of the people in Minnesota with Polish ancestors link back to the Kashubians. Looking at the menu is seems Kashubian cuisine uses more fish than other parts of Poland -- quite logically because this area is close to the sea. Also it appears to me that more use is made of duck and goose than in other parts of Poland. 

The restaurant is located in the cellar of an old building just across the street from the Town Hall. 

 The design is charming.
And the food is wonderful.

This is pork tenderloin served over roasted potatoes with lettuce strips and cherry tomatoes. Oh yum!

So you all can see I had a very good day in Gdansk!

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