Part 2 - Gdansk and Chełmno
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Gdansk is a jewel of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Poland's most important port, lying near the mouth of the river Vistula. There is so much to see in Gdansk and the surrounding area that you should plan at least a two day stay. It was established around the year 1000 as the capital of the Slavic state of Pomerania. In the 14thC it became a member of the Hanseatic League and became very wealthy. It enjoyed its greatest prosperity as Poland's main port in the 17th and 18th centuries and most of the gorgeously decorated mansions that line its narrow streets were built at this time. Unfortunately the city suffered great destruction under the bombardment of Soviet forces in April 1945, but all the buildings have been lovingly restored to their original glory.

The finest of them line Długi Targ (Long Market), which starts at the Green Gate (not just a gate, but an ornate palace in which Polish kings resided during their visits) and is dominated at the other end by the tall tower of the Ratusz (Town Hall). Beyond Neptune's Fountain the street narrows and becomes Długa (Long Street) in which the houses are somewhat smaller but just as ornate. At the far end it is closed off by the Golden Gate. Little remains of Gdansk's original fortifications, only the many gateways, which by their very ornateness demonstrate that in the golden age of the city they no longer served as defenses.

A parallel street Mariacka ( Mary's Street) is lined with jewelry shops full of exquisite artwork, particularly the specialty of the Pomeranian coast - amber. Don't miss the museum in the Town Hall with many wonderful pieces, including the largest ever carved out of a single piece of amber weighing several kilograms.
St Mary's Cathedral at the head of that street is the largest all brick church in Europe. Severely damaged in 1945, the interior appears very stark, with only a few of the original art pieces, old altars and an extraordinary working astronomical clock that had been stored safely, still exist. See photo album.

Gdansk Quay The Great Crane on the quay of the old port, built in 1444, is Gdansk's most famous landmark. The treadmills rotated by walking men were able to hoist 2 tons to a height of 26m. (90ft). The museum next to the crane, and across the harbor, provides a great review of the history of the ancient port. The quay is lined with more ancient merchants' houses, the lower floors of many of them house restaurants where you may take a rest for a snack, or an excellent evening dinner. From the same quay you can take an excursion through the port to the Westerplatte fortress at the mouth of the Vistula, at which the first shots of World War II were fired, or to seaside resorts on the Baltic coast.

All this time you have been walking, because no vehicles are allowed within most of the old city. Less than 400 meters north of the Renaissance Arsenal (now a shopping mall), lies a peaceful, less visited area, along the Raduna Canal. This canal provided water to power the mills of ancient Gdansk. Two of them remain - the Great Mill and Small Mill with steeply gabled tile roofs. Close by you should visit the ornate Church of St. Catherine with an 11m long Gothic wall fresco depicting Christ's entry into Jerusalem.. St.John - Chelmno If you are driving from your previous stop at Torun, you should plan to spend at least a couple of hours at Chełmno, a small, medieval walled city on the banks of the Vistula river. All the walls and gates have survived virtually intact until today. Its finest building is the Renaissance Town Hall standing in the center of the Market Square. There are six Gothic churches within the 24 city blocks, but the one most worthy of a visit is the bi-level Church of St.John the Baptist built at the beginning of the 13thC. It is in the rear of the red brick Abbey of Benedictine Sisters, now a hospital for the poor and an orphanage. You enter through a door of the Abbey, pass through a passage to the courtyard to the church. Behind the church is a beautiful peaceful garden with a great view of the country below.

How to get there. If you don't want to drive a car, you can go by train or by bus.

  • Between Warsaw and Gdansk, several direct fast trains every day, about 4 hour travel time.
  • Between Toruń and Gdansk several direct trains daily, just under 3 hours.
  • From and to Chełmno PKS buses connect with Torun, Bydgoszcz and Gdansk.
  • If Sweden is included in your trip, Gdansk is a port for the overnight ferries to Nynashamn (south of Stockholm).

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Please continue to Part 3 - Pomerania, Warmia and Mazury

Plock, Gniezno.
Torun, Pomerania.
Map of Tour.
Detail maps for all Poland, including city plans.
LISTED PLACES for detailed information.


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Last update February 2004