One of the most difficult part of going on a vacation is selecting a suitable destination. For our last 4 overseas vacations we have been going to Europe. We had been to France, Italy (Twice!) and a small part of central Europe that included Prague, Munich, Salzburg on our previous trips to this beautiful continent. Still our thirst for Europe, with its amazing architecture, weather & food had not been quenched yet. So it would be a European vacation this year too!
We usually travel in the European spring (Late April – Early May) when the weather is good and the meadows and trees are in full bloom & more importantly the crowds are manageable. For this year we shortlisted 2 destinations after a lot of research and leg work. The first option was a trip to the Northern parts & the Alsace region of France ( We had previously been to the French Alps, Riviera & Paris ). The second option was the Central European country of Poland.
As I did more and more research, I realised that Poland has a lot of variety – from the beautiful Baltic port of Gdansk to the beautiful old capital of Krakow & the Tatra mountains in the South. It has a decent public transportation system that is essential for our travels, since none of us wants to drive (either at home or abroad!). Also vegetarian food was available freely (The better half is a eggitarian, I eat anything that moves!). The thing that sealed the deal in favour of Poland was that the cost of everything was significantly lower than in France. So Poland it was! ( Budget travellers remember
After considering our options in Poland we finally settled on an itinerary that included 3 nights in Gdansk, 1 in Torun, 3 in the Tatra mountain resort town of Zakopane & 3 in Krakow. 10 nights is the upper limit of our vacation due to various reasons, so the capital city of Warsaw and the beautiful town of Wrocław were left out.
We flew into the Lech Walesa airport in Gdansk on a beautiful sunny day and took a taxi from the airport to our booked hotel Podewils at the edge of the Main town. The taxi ride was smooth and relatively cheap. We had arrived in Gdansk right at lunch time. So we quickly checked into our beautiful waterfront facing room, freshened up and left with cameras in tow.
We were very hungry and we went to a small little restaurant called Nova Pierogova, close to our hotel that served Pierogis (Polish dumplings). The restaurant had decent reviews and was literally a stones throw from the hotel, what else does a hungry man need! We ordered Russian Pierogis with Cheese, potatoes & onions for the better half and meat ones for me. It was nice and sunny , perfect weather for a nice cold beer. Needing no more reason than that I ordered one for myself and a juice for the better half.
Having satiated our hunger we then started our walk around the main town of Gdansk. Our hotel was on the other side of the river Motlawa that passes through Gdansk. So we crossed the bridges over the river, stopping to take photos of the beautiful waterfront and entered the beautiful main town of Gdansk.
We entered through the green gate into the beautiful square known as the Dlugi Targ or the Long Market. It is worth noting that Gdansk was almost bombed to oblivion in the second world war. The Gdansk we see today has been reconstructed post the war, literally from ruins. Every structure you go to in Gdansk shows the ruins of what was left of it after the war. So even though the buildings may not be old they have been beautifully reconstructed to match their pre war description, but adding the modern amenities.
We then walked to the centrepiece of the square, a fountain with a statue of Neptune hurling his trident. Though it was not functioning when we visited, the fountain is a beautiful piece of art that matches the beauty of the buildings surrounding it.
From the Long Market a beautiful long narrow road called the Ulica Dluga (Literally long road in Polish!) leads into the depths of the main town. Cafes, restaurants and shops line the pretty little street and made it ideal for an evening stroll
We reached the end of the long road to find a beautiful building of the “Great armoury of Gdansk” that was certainly worth a photo. We didn’t intend to visit any interiors today and so we walked past it and continued our wanderings.
As we walked away from the main stretch there were hardly any tourists. I made a mental note to avoid the crowded Ulica Druga next time. Soon we came across a pretty little park with local kids playing and an imposing statue in the centre. It had no English signage so I just took a photo and moved on through the park.
We then started moving towards the structure you can see from all of Main town and the structure I used for navigation, the huge brick church known as the St Marys Basilica. We saw some people gathered at what appeared to be a fountain without any fences.
Sure enough it was a pretty little fountain with sleeping lions at all 4 corners. It also had the beautiful Royal Chapel in the background. There were benches all around so we sat and relaxed at the fountain for some time before moving on.
After resting a while we started again towards the huge structure that is the St Marys Basilica. It is one of the biggest red brick churches in Europe and it dwarfs every other structure in Gdansk. The interiors & the tower that can be climbed would have to wait for another day as we were tired after the long flight.
We then walked past the church and towards the waterfront again and reached it via another red brick gate called the Chlebnicka gate. Red brick architecture is one of the hallmarks of Poland and we would see a lot of beautiful red brick structures in our ten days here.
We reached the waterfront near the Great Mill and the Maritime museum across the Motlawa. We took a few photos before moving on.
We had been walking around main town for a good 3 hours now. The tiredness and the lack of sleep was now starting to tell. So we decided to have an early dinner ( early by our standards, right on time for the Americans!) and call it a night.
So we searched for a restaurant that we had read about in our Rick Steves guide book. The restaurant called Pod Ryba specialises in huge baked potatoes filled with a variety of fillings. We ordered one for each and a plate of potato pancakes. They also had a item called sour milk on the menu. Curios, I ordered one and it turned out to be a delicious thick buttermilk. So another one was ordered for the better half.
After finishing the huge portions with great difficulty we dragged ourselves back to our hotel and promptly fell asleep. But not before taking photos of the superbly coloured skies at dusk.
We slept our tiredness away and woke up fresh the next morning. To my surprise it was already quite bright at 6 am. That meant that I would not be getting any golden hour photos, as the sun would be up by the time we got ready and reached main town.
We reached an empty main town and took photos of the pretty streets in some great light. My favourite is this one with the Neptune fountain as the first rays start hitting the street.
Even narrow lanes look so picturesque at this time of the day and the camera rattled away.
The four quarters fountain was not functioning this early and this lion statue looked like it had just woken up and given a huge yawn.
In our wanderings the previous day we had missed a street called Mariacka that has been reconstructed with front porches that were present in all houses in Gdansk prior to the war. We walked the empty street with the unique architecture which instantly transports you to a time gone by.
It was time to return to the hotel as the morning walk had increased my appetite for what would turn out to be a delicious breakfast at the Podewils.
As we walked back the sun peeped out over the Maritime museum buildings making for a great frame.
The waterfront would soon be filled with tourists, but right now it was peaceful and serene -a perfect way to end the morning walk.
We were scheduled to visit the largest castle in the world in Malbork that day. So we tucked into our breakfasts and filled up for a long day ahead.
But that is a story for some other day, some other time!
PS – This has been a long post filled with clunky writing as I get out of my rut and start this series. Should improve as I get into my groove!