Tales From the Wizards: Journey to the Baltic Sea by Ayanda Theko

Jun 4, 2021

As the train pulled up in Wrzeszcz station I was relieved that I finally arrived after a 9-hour overnight journey. While I waited for my dear friend and host, I took a walk around and purchased a much needed espresso. 

The city of Gdansk is part of a larger metropolitan area called the Tricity

The city is situated on the southern edge of Gdansk Bay on the Baltic Sea, in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, the resort town of Sopot, and suburban communities; these form a metropolitan area called the Tricity. Like most of Poland, it was affected by the war.

Here, some buildings that survived the time of the Hanseatic League are mostly tourist attractions are located along or near Ulica Długa (Long Street) and Długi Targ (Long Market), a pedestrian thoroughfare surrounded by buildings reconstructed in historical (primarily during the 17th century) style and flanked at both ends by elaborate city gates. This part of the city is sometimes referred to as the Royal Route, since it was once the former path of processions for visiting Kings of Poland.

The long street of the Royal Route, which for a time was the path taken by visting Kings of Poland

Eventually, my host arrived and the Easter weekend could begin! When we walked out of the station, I couldn’t help but notice how busy the streets were. Which was weird to see because it was an early Thursday morning.

The city looked like New York meets old town Krakow but it was spacious and had a scent freshness…maybe that was because the sea was nearby. It gave me the sense of being in one of the coastal cities back home in South Africa and that was beautifully nostalgic.

After freshening up we embarked on an exploration mission, though the weather was freezing cold, it was pleasant enough to walk around if one was dressed correctly. We took a ‘Lime scooter’ to Old Town. My first experience on a scooter but they are very popular there and so easy to hire if you have the app on your smartphone.

Freezing cold water is typical in winter but summer can bring water warm enough to swim in!

Poland is known for its Catholic influence and has a vast number of churches; however, Gdansk may just have the most I have seen and “my are they beautifully majestic ones at that”. Upon arrival in Old Town it’s very clear where you are, you can picture the sailors and merchants walking around back in the day, the buildings are old fashioned and colourful, though some have been rebuilt.

There is endless rows of cobble passageways and little café’s here and there. Upon passing through the big old gates, there is a massive anchor next to one of the gates and the ceiling was replaced by a mechanism that controls the anchor. It is massive and so old that it sends a chill down your spine as if to say ‘welcome to the old world’

On the other side is a mind-blowing experience that makes you feel like you travelled back in time. There are old pirate ships that have been converted to travelling restaurants; there are retracting bridges that open to let boats in from the harbour through; white yachts belonging to the owners of the holiday homes and small fisherman boats for those who maybe fish for fun. There are seagulls flying around confirming that the sea is nearby and lastly a Ferris wheel overlooking the splendid sights.

Prepare to see classic pirate ships in the harbor of Gdansk

Eventually hunger crept in, so we bought kebabs which is a cooked meat dish originally from the Middle Eastern. Numerous variants are popular around the world but very very common in Poland. To my surprise it looked nothing like the Kebabs I am used to back home. Here they are like a ‘wrap’ where as in South Africa, it is meat and other ingredients roasted or grilled on a stick.

So that was an experience as it had a lot more food than I anticipated. Regardless it was delicious. Over the next few days I tried my best to have as much Polish cuisine as possible – especially seafood, since I was by the sea anyway. I discovered soup is a starter regardless of the season, pierogies are the signature dish and almost everything is pickled. The biggest surprise however was seeing the ‘sweet tooth’ Poles seem to have from doughnuts, sweetened bread, dumplings, ice-cream, jam scones etc. Like kids in a candy store…

Waiting for the sunset along beach walks bring in Gdansk

Eventually, the seaside was on our itinerary, situated in Sopot (one of the towns that form the Tricity) Though it was a pleasant and sunny day, the seaside was so cold. Apparently, the Baltic Sea is one of the coldest in winter but can be pleasantly warm in summer.

However, because I am from a warm country, Polish weather is generally miserable for me. Sopot was a lovely visit, smaller than Gdansk but known for its night life and lovely urban landscape. Visiting Gdynia was lovely too, however the city is more residential than Gdansk so a lot people tend to settle down in Gdynia and visit Gdansk and Sopot by train or bus.

Gdansk’s nightlife is something special and worth the trip to experience!

My favourite part of the entire trip was the nightlife in Gdansk, the young people are so friendly and are really interested in knowing why I chose Poland, but once we got through the formalities of conversation, we were bar hopping, tasting various beers, cocktails and dancing the night away(people of Gdansk really do live in their own world).

The number of foreigners getting to know each other was assuring and confirms that Poland is indeed adamant about growing their economy and improving international relations. This therefore exposes the Poles to various cultures and ethnicity, which is a step in the right direction for the once very conservative and pained society.

Having lived in Krakow and Bielsko-Biala, and been to Warsaw and Katowice, I must say Gdansk is by far the most cosmopolitan but historical city. It gives you the Polish experience without feeling so out of touch as most expats tend to feel when in a new country.

This is a guest post as part of our “Tales from the Wizards” series, where our Wizards take over the blog and share their stories of life in Poland.

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