After a seventeen hour journey across Germany and Poland we arrived at our hotel in Gdansk last night and fell into bed. This morning after breakfast, of course, we set out to explore the city.
Turning out of our hotel we passed under the magnificent four arched gatehouse of the green gate, built for the Polish kings although they never stayed there, where Lech Walensa now has his office and passed out onto the banks of the Motlawa River.
We walked along the banks of the river before coming to The Crane. At one time the biggest working crane in the world, it could raise 4 tonnes to a height of 11 metres, it also formed part of the defences of the city. The cargo was raised by men walking inside two 6 metre diameter wheels.
Lunch was at the ‘Fishmarket Targ Rybny’ where I had a very nice Cod Steak with an orange and fennel curry sauce followed by a piece of hot chocolate cake with warm cherries and orange ice cream. Highly recommended and good value. Then on to the Gdansk shipyards, if you press me to be more precise gate 2 of the shipyards.
Being there brought back memories from the TV of the strike in 1981 which led to the formation of the first free trade unions in the Soviet Union and played a part in bringing about the fall of it. More reminders of the time when Europe was divided in two mutually hostile camps was on display at the ‘Roads to Freedom’ exhibition which took you through the life of people in the Soviet Union and their struggle to free themselves from it. I thought it was very good in that it started with a display of people’s ordinary life and what it was like for people, for example with rationimg of everything including toilet rolls, and then took from this example of people’s life through to the political consequences and the fight to be free of Soviet domination. A very good compliment to seeing the place where the history was made.
Afterwards we headed back to the station we arrived at last night and headed out to the Wrzeszcz train staition and then walked along a couple of streets where the buildings would not be much changed in shape and character, although with the addition of things like double glazing and different businesses, but not massively changed from the beginning of last century when German author, Guenter Grass, was born and spent his childhood and early manhood there. The picture above is of the house where he grew up, and features in his book ‘The Tin Drum’, At the end of the street is a park for the neighbourhood and in it is a statue of Jenny Brunies from his book, ‘Dog Years’. Across the park is another statue of a small boy with a tin drum, Oskar, from the book of the same name. We saw some more of the sights of Grass’s childhood, including the church where he was baptised into the Catholic faith.
A cultural difference was everywhere to be seen today, 8th March, International Women’s Day. I am used to the day being a formal remembrance of the fight of women to get rights and a mark of the distance still to go before they get equality. In coutries in the former Soviet Union women’s equality was enshrined in the constitution in the 1920’s, although I doubt it made that much difference to people’s lives. Yesterday a facebook friend complained on the site about workmen disturbing her the night before women’s day. I could not see the problem. Then today I saw so many people selling flowers and so many people walking around with flowers. I then remembered that in the former Soviet Union 8th March is like a mix between Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day with men giving flowers and chocolate to women friends and relatives. It is interesting that in Western Europe the day has a political focus around equality for women whilst in the East it is around the personal. The last picture is from the underpass where there is frantic flower buying.
Tonight I’m going to try and find somewhere to watch the Manchester City match and then tomorrow it is off to the seaside for my birthday