Following on from Finland and a day at sea we hit the final port of call on our Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess, that being Gdynia in Poland. While it was possible that Gdynia had plenty of interesting things to see and do we preferred the lure of the nearby city of Gdańsk, not least for its reputation as a hub for amber jewellery, something my wife was quite keen on acquiring, and so we had booked an excursion that would take us there with a bit of a guided walk, a visit to the basilica, then some free time to explore on our own. This sort of tour is the kind that appeals to us most as it allows us to pick up some of the history of a place and get a feel for the layout and landmarks while also providing a bit of freedom for photo and shopping opportunities that other people might not be too concerned about.
Our guide was very knowledgable about the region of Poland in which we were in and the history of the area (medieval, wartime, and Solidarity movement era) but his manner of speaking was a little monotonous so the drive from Gdynia passed without much to recall. We drove through Sopot and past both the impressive Gdańsk stadium and the Monument To The Fallen Shipyard Workers Of 1970, either of which would have made nice photo stops but it was not to be on this trip. Eventually, we parked up at the Podwale Przedmiejskie close to the archaeological museum and commenced our walk to the Green Bridge and to the outskirts of Gdańsk’s Main Town.
Stopping for occasional history lessons and to give some people a chance to pop into one of the amber stores along the Gdańsk waterfront we eventually passed through the Brama Chlebnicka entrance into the Main Town then immediately turned right in order to hit Mariacka Street. Brama Chlebnicka was the oldest of the three main gothic water gates and the one that suffered the least damage in the bombings of World War II, requiring the least amount of rebuilding work. We were constantly reminded that a lot of what we would see in Gdańsk had been heavily damaged during the war but it wasn’t until we got back onto our coach at the end of our excursion that we were handed before and after photographs of the area; they made for very sobering viewing but also attested to the great work of the people in rebuilding afterwards.
Mariacka Street is the centre of Gdańsk’s amber jewellery trade and was an incredibly photogenic location. Before we’d travelled to Poland we knew that we wanted to hit this street to see the cobbles and the ornate stonework decorations (with some very bizarre designs) of former merchant houses now turned into craft shops. Our guide pointed out numerous places of interest along here and I made a point to fix the location in mind as I knew that our free time would see us return here in search of something for my wife.
From Mariacka Street we tracked around St Mary’s Church (where we would be visiting next) and stopped at the Fontanna Czterech Kwartalow (or Four Quarters Fountain) to hear about it and the area we were in. The fountains have coloured lights set into their bases and can produce fabulous light and water shows to entertain people although it was broad daylight when we visited and they were rather more standard in appearance. As we stood here listening to our guide I was approached by a local who was interested in our group, who we were, where we were from, what we’d seen, etc. I had to explain that while I and my wife were English the overwhelming majority of people in our group were American and that we were coming to the end of our cruise around the Baltic Sea. He seemed genuinely interested in us and cruising and in the places we’d seen and it was nice to interact with someone like that in that setting.
We finished this guided walk part of our excursion outside the entrance of St Mary’s Church (or the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to give it its proper title) while our guide sorted out tickets for us to enter.
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