Sunday 16 August Gdansk, (Poland

We had an easy morning, starting with breakfast out in the Lido Café enjoying the view as we sailed towards Gdansk in Poland. We went to an onboard lecture by James (who was on our previous cruise too) – “The Second ‘World War’ in the Baltic”. James explained to us that Gdansk was where the Second World War started.
We arrived in the old Hanseatic port of Gdansk and disembarked at 2.45pm and boarded some buses that took us into the city for our walking tour. The Hanseatic League was a trading alliance in northern Europe in existence between the 13th and 17th centuries.
We had the best local guide we have had – Joanna, who gave us so much interesting information, with a bit of humour thrown in too – she was just wonderful. Joanna explained to us that the city is very busy because today was the last day of the big week-long Festival and there were thousands of people in the city, so it might be a “bit” busy!
We drove through the industrial area, past the Gdansk Shipyards, previously known as the Lenin Shipyards and also saw “Solidarity Square” with its famous monument commemorating the deaths of shipyard workers shot down in December 1970 by the Communist regime. The shipyards, which cover 400 acres, used to build about 150 ships per year but now it is used for steel construction.
We passed many interesting places before arriving in the city and walked from the bus across a bridge over the Canal – the bridge was covered in people and all along both sides of the canal there were stalls with people milling around. We saw a replica Galleon from 17th century and now used as a cruise boat. There were little pleasure craft all along the canal and also a bungee jumping tower.
We walked through The Green Gate, which was called that because it used to be wooden and was painted green and when it was rebuilt, they decided to keep its former name. When we came out from under the archway of the gate, we just stood in awe – the historic centre, which was destroyed during World War II, had been lovingly restored in original design of Hanseatic cities. What stood before us was a long cobblestone pedestrian mall, referred to as either The Long Market or The Golden Mile.
Joanna walked with us along the cobblestones (with thousands of other people), pointing out various buildings and also Neptune’s Fountain, which dates to the 17th century.
Joanna told us that they Mayor had invited us to visit Artus Court (Dwor Artusa), which is an impressive mansion that was a symbol of power in the 16th and 17th Century. The court still plays an important part in public life today and is the scene of important receptions and meetings. The Court complex includes the ground floors of two connected tenement houses called the Old House of the Court and the New House of the Court. The inside was amazing – 85% was original and the rest was restored after being damaged. The building’s interior was a huge, three-part hall supported by four stone columns and filled with hundreds of works of arts and crafts over several centuries. There was a gothic sculpture of “St George Fighting the Dragon” (1600), a unique collection of historic ships, many antique pieces of furniture and many beautiful paintings to name a few. In one of the rooms, they had photos of past historical events including Adolf Hitler in 1939, signing a secret agreement with Russia over the division of Poland; and also another photo showing the damage done to the Town Hall by the German tanks.
Joanna continued our walk through some of the adjoining streets with their beautiful buildings and shops, past the Main Entrance to City Hall and up to the Golden Gate at the far end of the Golden Mile. The Golden Gate was built at the beginning of the 17th century in Italian Renaissance style. We walked past the Great Armory, a Renaissance style building – the outside is the original but the inside has been reconstructed.
We were taken to St Mary’s Basilica, the world’s largest brick church, capable of accommodating 25,000 people. The Basilica was also lovingly restored after sustaining severe damage to the roof and windows after the war. The interior vault supports 37 windows, over 300 tombstones and 31 chapels. The church can be accessed through seven gates with intriguing names like the Purse Maker’s Door. The inside of the church was beautiful and we saw the Astronomical Clock, which dated back to the 1500s. The famous astronomical clock, which is 14 metres high, consists of three parts – The Peak or Theatre as some people refer to it with the Apostles, and Adam & Eve striking the hours and quarter hours on the bell. The Central Part is the planetarium with the proper clock, the zodiac sings and a disc with the phases of the moon. The Lower Part is a liturgical timeline containing a calendar, the sun, moon and starts over the next 70 years.
From there we were taken back to the Golden Mile and given an extra 1½ hours of free time – we wandered through the shops and stalls and then along the canal, soaking up this amazing atmosphere. We all met up at the Green Gate and Joanna walked us back to the bus, which took us to Solidarity Square to see the Monument up close.
We arrived back at the ship at 7.00pm after an enjoyable but long afternoon. We had dinner at 8.00pm, turned our clocks forward one hour and went to bed for an early start tomorrow morning at 5.45am for a 7.00am Shore Excursion. It may have been a long afternoon but it is going to be a short night!

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