Last week we had only just got back from our little outing to Alsace, feeling glad to be home, but in the knowledge that we were soon about to be off again.
So we emptied our suitcases, got the washing machine going, watered the plants, checked our post, popped into work, called round on dad, and started to repack.
But what to pack? We were off with some great friends to Gdansk on Poland’s Baltic coast, a place we knew almost nothing about. I’d heard of the Solidarity movement at the time the Iron Curtain was starting to be drawn back, and knew it was previously designated ‘Danzig’ during the Second World War, but otherwise I knew almost nothing.
The main draw for us agreeing to go along was of course the esteemed presence of our very good friends, who as well as being seasoned travellers on whom we could count to do all the research necessary to make the trip a success, would also keep up a constant stream of banter you only get from raconteurs of the finest quality.......It was also cheap!
The return flight , Liverpool to Gdansk was only £40 each and our appointed tour leader had got us a great deal in a nice hotel in the city centre. But what to pack? Would it be wet, dry, hot or cold? In the event with limited baggage allowance we stuck to jeans, T-shirts, fleeces and kagoules and kept our fingers crossed.
In the event we arrived in Gdansk basking in October sunshine and enjoying temperatures of 20c. And wow, what a beautiful city. Utterly flattened by the ravages of war by 1945, Polish pride and sheer hard work have recreated the historic old city of Gdansk, a place of a long and distinguished history.
The waterfront is characterised by old merchant houses, granaries and historic gateways, and now dotted with street cafes and restaurants. Boats and ships add interest and character whilst a motorised mock galleon offered hourly trips to the coast at Westerplatte, site of the first German attack in 1939, now a national monument to the heroic Polish defenders who against all odds held out for a week.
The trip includes a cruise through the shipyards with regular points of interest, including dozens of cranes, ships and oil platforms before arriving at the national monument at Westerplatte itself, all for about £7. The trees of the monument give way to a long sandy beach and my first view of the Baltic and a quick paddle.
Back in the city we visited the recreated old town, centred on the Long Market (Dludi Targ) best approached through the beautiful Green Gate. This is a lovely place with a happy bustling feel, the ideal place for a quick Polish beer and a bite to eat. Coffee and a cake cost around £2.50.
The scene is dominated by the stunningly beautiful Town Hall with its spire-topped tower, alongside the Royal Road. The houses are tall, narrow merchant-style, similar to the type you see in Amsterdam, reflecting its importance as a historic trading centre. There is an abundance of churches, markets, buildings and places to eat. A short train ride ( 70p) gives you access to the seaside resort of Sopot with its impressive pier. Nowhere is it expensive, and there is a pleasant safe feel.
All of us loved Gdansk which exceeded all expectations. Combine that with wonderful friends for company, you really are onto a winner. We all hope to one day go back. Mind you, it’s nice to be home!