Here it is!
I remembered. I found the time!
Gdańsk in 3 days, in March, in a pandemic, with a war going on across the border.
On Day 1 I grabbed my Lonely Planet guide to Poland and set off on the self-guided city walk which it recommends. Experience has taught me that this is a good way to orientate myself in a new city, and perhaps identify places I would like to visit.
I really enjoyed it. The weather was ideal – beautiful sunshine and the temperature was just above freezing, but feeling warmer in the sun during the middle of the day. One other positive factor was that much of the Glówne Miasto (Main Town) is traffic free, and so the walking experience is very pleasant.
On Day 2 my focus was the city’s Muzeum II Wojny Światowey – the World War 2 museum. I am not a slave to guide books or “must see” lists, but it came so highly recommended it was hard to avoid. Entry is limited to 200 people every 2 hours to avoid crowding, so I booked online – 25 zł (about £4.22 or €5.08). I chose the 10am slot, right at opening time.
That was “full fare” admission, although I suspect I would have been entitled to an Old Fart discount had I been able to negotiate my way past the language barrier. These things are tricky because I look only a few days older than 45, and gatekeepers in museums are highly sceptical when I enquire about seniors’ discounts. I have an honest face, but still.
As it turned out the museum was very quiet. Leaving aside the dearth of tourists (mid-week, pandemic, Ukraine war), on Tuesdays the museum has free entry so that is when locals would visit. I was there on a Wednesday, the day they are least likely to visit.
It was an excellent choice and the guide book etc recommendations are absolutely right.
My 3rd day took me to the Narodowe Muzeum Morskie w Gdańsku – the national maritime museum. It seemed like a good choice for a city with such a long maritime heritage. It is much more traditional than the very modern World War II museum, but just as interesting in its own way. The Sołdek which is moored at the museum is part of it, and you get to clamber pretty much all over the ship.
Regular visitors to this blog will know that food is usually a vital component of my holiday excursions. Gdańsk was no different in some ways, but very different in others. I had looked for a food tour, but nothing was available – no doubt a reflection of the collapsed tourist numbers.
What I discovered was that the food in my hotel was excellent, and occasionally exceptional.
As a result I ate there on 3 evenings. It sounds a little unadventurous, and unlike me, but there it is. To offer just a flavour – sorry, could not resist – of what was on offer, one night I had a tartare of salmon served on wild rice with caviar as a garnish.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, on the night I ate out I went searching for a place recommended by Lonely Planet, could not find it – perhaps a pandemic casualty – and ended up in a local pizza place (Sempre).
In fact I loved it. I had not eaten pizza for months, and theirs was delicious. I paid 74 zł (£12.79/€15.33) for a diavola pizza, 2 glasses of Sangiovese and a wee bottle of water.
My only other foodie experience worth mentioning was having lunch in the bistro/cafeteria at the Muzeum II Wojny Światowey. I had spinach pierogi. It was excellent. It cost me 31 zł (€6.42/£5.35) along with a small bottle of water.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2022