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Gdańsk: Sunshine in the Darkness

March 30, 2011

About two weeks ago, I visited Gdańsk, Poland, a medieval city in the northern part of the country on the shorelines of the Baltic Sea. Visiting Poland was special for me: it is the land of my maternal grandmother’s family and ancestors. In some ways, I felt like the trip was a pilgrimage of sorts. At 90 years old, she never visited Europe, but I think that if she could go anywhere, she would go to Poland.

We arrived on a partly sunny day and were picked up by a 20-something employee from the hostel. He threw our bags in his hatchback, and flew through the outskirts of town to take us to our new home for the next three days: Hostel Happy Seven. When we stepped out of the car, drowsy from travel and hungry for lunch, we set foot on the cobblestone roads of Gdańsk that ran along a narrow canal.

The hostel was cozy and dark. Upon entry, we were required to remove our shoes. After taking a brief rest in our room, we set out for dinner to a unique basement café called ‘The Dragon’ (Polish translation not available). The café had a similar dark, ombré ambiance to it. The dimly lit basement served amazing pierogi for a great price; an unheard of concept in Norway. With full bellies, we walked the city streets to do a bit of nighttime sightseeing as we headed back to the hostel.

Gdańsk radiated a gothic, medieval vibe…a different, but alluring characteristic that I have never experienced in any other city. The architecture is colorful but dreary, stately but sorrowful, and masculine but feminine. The streets are filled with stray cats that howl and fight underneath cars and in the sidewalk, a sad sight for any feline lover. Black birds line the leafless branches of trees in hoards, cawing throughout the night. The city feels silent, almost lifeless when the sun goes down. It is almost as if you can hear the echoes and reverberations of war from the city’s violent past.

When daylight arrives, the sun peaks through the clouds, and Poland is awake once again. Streets are filled with school children, business men and women, and Eastern European tourists alike. Needless to say, English was not an option in this country…most of our communication was primitive, including hand gestures and pictorial signs.

Perhaps most memorable was our trip to the sea. After a frightening train ride with the locals and missing our stop, we finally arrived in Sopot: a small town on the shores of the Baltic. We immediately walked to the beach and strolled along a wooden pier that boasts the claim of being “Europe’s longest.” The sea was gray and dreary, but I have never seen livelier birds playing in the water. Swans, ducks, seagulls, and pigeons frolicked near the base of the pier: bobbing, flying, and splashing about. It was a magical sight that I will remember for the rest of my life. This was the first time that I saw amicable, happy birds in Gdańsk. There is something about the Baltic Sea that invigorates the senses and wakens the soul, yet it still emanates the same feelings of darkness and obscurity. It is something almost inexplicable, but worth experiencing first-hand.

Click here to view the photos from my trip.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    March 30, 2011 12:12 pm

    Great blog about your trip to Gdansk. We’ll have to share (somehow) with Grandma. She will enjoy it. The photos are very neat. Another great experience for you. And the video was fun. The seashore with all the different birds, getting along so peacefully. Who would have thought mallards were so global??!! Thanks Lisa, Keep on blogging.

  2. Mary Kay permalink
    April 2, 2011 2:58 pm

    Loved this one Lisa! Photos were amazing!

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