For some reason, prior to my most recent trip, I had never entertained the idea of holidaying in Poland. Nothing against the place, it’s just not somewhere on my list of places to visit before I die.
I am aware that Poland is a place, it has a rich cultural history and I know plenty of people for whom it is home. It just always seemed to slip below the radar when I would look at holidays. This is also because I don’t really go on that many holidays.
That being said, after spending a few days in the city of Gdansk, I insist that you drop everything you are doing right now (unless it’s literally a matter of life and death, that you may continue) and figure out a way to get there.
This holiday was one of those things I had simply agreed to. Not to say that I wasn’t anticipating having a good time. I was to be going with Anna, Jodie and Luke. I believe I have mentioned the latter pair of people (they’re the filthy vegetarians I have to make soup for) and I’m kind of hoping you know who Anna is by now, she’s the Noodle.
I knew that, even if the holiday turned out to be a bust, we would have a good time one way or another. As it turns out, my reticence was unwarranted. Gdansk is an absolutely wonderful city. It’s beautiful, kitsch, trendy, traditional, fun, friendly, historical, modern… so many more adjectives. It is the perfect place to go for a city break.
For a travelling couple, or troupe of friends, it has everything you need. Cafes, bars, museums, restaurants, sights and sounds, it makes for a truly relaxing getaway.
We stayed in an AirBnb in Old Town and, after showing the address to my friend Dawid (whom, it turns out, is originally from Gdansk) we discovered that we were in the perfect position to explore the city. We were close enough to everything that we could step out of the door, pick a direction and find something to do. But, if we wanted a small slice of solitude, we were off the beaten track. It’s basically my perfect place to be, straddling the line between ready to party at a moment’s notice and turning the lights off so people don’t know you’re in.
So, a little bit about Gdansk. I’ve been, I’m now an expert.
Gdansk is, according to Google, a port city on the Baltic coast of Poland. It has been known as Danzig (also the name of the band who sang Mother, which is a great song). The city has traded hands a few times and was even a free state for a while there.
I could continue regurgitating facts I’m clearly reading from Wikipedia, but we’re not here for a History/Geography lesson. Gdansk is a city which looks like it got to around the middle ages and thought, “We’re good, let’s stay like this”. The buildings which survived the war looked like something out of Assassin’s Creed. All 3 stories high and covered in ornate carvings which would make excellent handholds for someone hoping to parkour their way to a better vantage point.
The streets are almost all cobbled which adds a sense of magic when you walk down them and the nearby Town Hall bell tower sounds like the theme tune to Home Alone 2. It honestly feels like we’d hopped of the plane, jumped in a taxi and ended up on the set of Harry Potter.
When we first arrived, I saw snow and was flabbergasted. I don’t mean that there was a bit of snow, I mean that there was fully settled snow on the ground, a good few inches thick. For some of you out there, this is no big feat. It’s just another day in your life. Well, I’m from England (Scunthorpe, to be precise) and let me tell you, it is a big thing. Back in the halcyon days of my youth, I remember getting actual snow, the kind you could pick up and throw at people. Or just go sledding, your choice. It was an annual event which you waited for with baited breath. Over the years, that divine white blanket covering the ground on your walk to school slowly shrank, becoming thinner and thinner until all you were left with was a brown sludge you were forced to drag yourself through in plimsolls as your toes went numb.
In Gdansk, I felt like a child again. Have you seen those videos of dogs who see snow for the first time? That was me! Pointing frantically at every dune and hill covered in the stuff. I was enthralled.
After settling down slightly, we made our first mistake. This one was forgivable as we had never been to the place before and, therefore, had no idea what we were doing.
We got a Taxi.
That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with the taxis, we had followed the advice online and made sure to get one of the registered ones outside of the airport. However, as we found out on the way back to the airport after our holiday, it was very simple and extremely cheap to just get the train. We paid about 60zl between us for our taxi, which works out at around £12. We could have made the same journey for about 4zl each… 80p. Well, you live and you learn.
The taxi dropped us off near to our street because it was closed off. I think he said something about a festival… I really don’t know… Anyway, we made our way (through the snow!!) on to our temporary home….