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strange days in the polish corridor - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-09-16 22:20
Subject: strange days in the polish corridor
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:tiredtired
Music:snoring cats
Okay, to put these scurrilous and totally unfounded Wizard Of Oz stories to rest, we're just back from a long weekend in Poland, where we went for Bogna's cousin's wedding, and much fun it was, too. For the sake of everyone's sanity and because there's more (including piccies) I'll carry on

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.
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User: sarcobatus
Date: 2008-09-16 23:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nice!

The photos are very interesting. Sounds like you and Bogna had a good time.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-17 21:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We did indeed. I love Polish weddings, and I fell in love with that part of the country. There were some things I wanted to see that we didn't make it to - the river trip up to Westerplatte being one, the fortress at Malbork being another, although we saw it from the train - so we shall return.
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Kat: applause
User: artykat
Date: 2008-09-16 23:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:applause
loved seeing all the pictures. It is an amazing place, and I'd love to see it in person. So glad you had a good time, the pair of you.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-17 21:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I should point out, for the sake of fairness, that the photos are of the Old Town, and that Gdansk has its share of grim Stalinist blocks and, I presume, grotty horrible places. But yes, it is a bonny town.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-09-16 23:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, thank you for the nifty tour of Gdansk!

Don't laugh, but the pictures really reminded me of some parts of Baltimore, Maryland, particularly the harbor near Fells Point.

the other Jean-Marie
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-17 21:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm not sure that's so far-fetched, you know. It depends who settled around Baltimore - because of its nature, Gdansk has always been a much more cosmopolitan city than many others in Poland, so the architecture you're thinking of in Baltimore could have come from immigrants from along the Baltic coast.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-17 22:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We got really lucky with the hotel. I'd been wanting to stay at either the Heveliusz, which is a massive skyscraper of a thing where, apparently, visiting dignitaries such as Thatcher and Bush have stayed, or the Novotel, which looked nice on its website. In the end there were no rooms available at either. And just as well. We drove past the Novotel on the way into town and it's a grim little place stuck out on what appears to be a ring-road. And the Heveliusz may have all the modern conveniences and great views out over the Old Town and the Gulf, but looking at it I could see it being a bit soulless. The Krolewski was brilliant. Our room didn't have a kettle or an iron and ironing board (although it did have a very imaginatively-stocked minibar) but it was a smashing room and the food was terrific. The first night we were there I had the second-best steak I've ever eaten. And the view, as you can see, was outstanding.
In addition, it's right next door to the concert hall that's the home of the Baltic Sinfonietta, and we very nearly spent our second evening there at a concert because some very heavyweight musicians and conductors were having a gig. In the end, though, we decided to give it a miss and eat in town instead.
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jmward14: wristpad
User: jmward14
Date: 2008-09-17 05:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:wristpad
Oh wow! Great photos of what looks to have been a great time. :-) One of these days, I really want to see Eastern Europe. Greg was in Slovakia and Hungary in 2000 and I'm so envious. Hugs and smiles, Jean Marie
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-17 22:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We spent New Year's on a skiing trip in Slovakia a few years ago, and enjoyed it a lot. I've never visited Hungary, although Bogna and her family used to holiday there and she's always spoken very warmly of it. I can't recommend all of Poland - I'd steer clear of Warsaw, for instance, I never liked that town - but there are some remarkable places.
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jmward14
User: jmward14
Date: 2008-09-18 05:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sounds like Gdansk is one of the good places, though. Hugs and smiles, Jean Marie
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-19 22:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It is. Most recommended. But kind of hard to get to from the States - the airport only seems to serve European destinations, so you'd have to fly into Warsaw and then either get a connecting flight or catch a train.
Otherwise, I think it would be a cracking town for a WorldCon.
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mylefteye
User: mylefteye
Date: 2008-09-17 23:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I for one would like to see that giant astronomical clock.

And in an entirely unrelated vein, does this mean you've missed the first two episodes of 'Harry and Paul'?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-18 22:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It is certainly something to see. It's colossal, trust me. And it still works, which is rather staggering.
Yes, I've missed the first two episodes of `Harry And Paul.' Is it any good?
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mylefteye
User: mylefteye
Date: 2008-09-18 23:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think it's the best thing Harry Enfield and paul Whitehouse have ever done together. Whether I will still think that in a month's time, when some of the running jokes and repeating characters have palled I don't know. If you've got BBCi Player it's definitely worth downloading the first two episodes.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-09-18 23:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's a point; I'd forgotten about the iPlayer. Thanks for reminding me.
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