Bogna's cousin lives in Warsaw, but she also has a house in the western part of Masuria, and that was where the wedding was going to be. Because it's equidistant between Warsaw and Gdansk and because I've never visited the northern part of Poland, Bogna decided we'd spend a day and a half in Gdansk before heading on to the wedding.
I really liked Gdansk. Indeed I really liked this part of the country. Down south, the area I'm most familiar with, is an area of coalmines and steelworks and coking plants, and consequently it's filthy. It's a nice, comfortable, worn-in kind of filthy, but filthy nevertheless. Gdansk isn't like that. Okay, it has its heavy industry in the shipyards, but the place is so clean. And there's an awful lot of building work going on, both reconstruction of old buildings and new-build. There doesn't seem to be the gently rusting industrial desperation you see in Upper Silesia.
Anyway, this is the hotel we stayed in
It's called the Krolewski, and it's built in an old grain warehouse on an island in the River Motlawa. And this was the view from our windows
This is one of a couple of...galleons, I suppose you'd call them, which moored opposite us. One's called Lew, and this one, my hand to god, is called Black Pearl. They both take tourists upriver and back to photograph the Polish fortifications at Westerplatte, which is where the German attack on Poland officially began in 1939.
As you'll know, Gdansk used to be Danzig, and was probably Gdansk before that. It was one of the old Hanseatic ports on the Baltic coast, so ships would come upriver and unload their cargoes. And they'd do it using this (that's Bogna in the distance, by the way)
This is Old Gdansk's harbour crane. The Poles call it `Zuraw' and it could lift tons of cargo up as high as twenty-seven metres or so and it was powered by a bunch of blokes walking around the inside of huge wheels. You can go inside and wander about. It's part of the Gdansk maritime museum, the main part of which was next door to our hotel and was one of the best museums I've ever visited. It follows Polish maritime history, from the very earliest peoples paddling rough canoes up and down the local rivers, to the Gdansk Shipyards and Solidarity. Utterly brilliant and full of really well-thought-out exhibits and displays. There are also what appear to be a motor torpedo boat, a bathyscaphe and a midget submarine just parked in a yard beside it. Not exhibits. Just parked there.
Anyway, tons of history. The Old Town is absolutely stunning. This is Mariacki Street, supposedly the most beautiful street in the city
and mighty pretty it is, too. It leads up to this
This is the Mariacki Church, Gdansk's Cathedral. It's the largest brick building in Europe, and the largest brick-built church on Earth, and you need to be about a hundred miles away from it to get it all in the frakking frame, which is why I did it in two photos. The inside is staggering. There's an astronomical clock as tall as a three-storey building, which was constructed in the 1560s. I can't remember what we were doing in the 1560s, but we sure as hell weren't doing anything like this. Jaw-dropping stuff. Really.
This being the Baltic, of course, there was amber everywhere. The Poles call it bursztyn, and practically every other shop and stall was selling the stuff, in a staggering array of jewellery. You wind up thinking that there just can't be any more amber, anywhere. And then you go to the Amber Museum, where they're displaying the work of one sculptor-jeweller, and your mind turns to mush. There are chunks of carved amber the size of my head, tables intricately inlaid with the stuff, pictures made from it like marquetry, and one jewel cabinet of quite extraordinary hideousness which contains getting on for a thousand kilos of amber, and in the process of construction the sculptor used three tons of the stuff. I've never been a real fan of amber, but that was an eye-opener.
Anyway, Friday we walked around Gdansk for about six hours, then on Saturday we went to the wedding, which was like most Polish weddings I've been to. We were still eating at one o'clock on Sunday morning. And drinking. Then, later on Sunday, we all came back to finish off the leftovers. And drink some more.
Monday, we got up about six, caught the train back to Gdansk, walked round the town for another six hours while we waited to head off to the airport, got on the plane, and finally got back to Luton just gone seven in the evening, local time. We had a cab waiting, and by the time we'd gone through immigration and picked up our bags and driven back down the M1 it was closing in on nine o'clock.
Sorry, this has taken a while to do. I was hoping to do some emailing and some other stuff tonight and I never got round to it. Catch you tomorrow.