A Travellerspoint blog

Poland

Poland.

A Year in Poland.

Glorious Polish Autumn, Lebork. - Poland

Glorious Polish Autumn, Lebork. - Poland

Poland.

In 1994 we left our jobs in North Cyprus to work in Poland for a year. We lived in a small town in Northern Poland called Lebork. This is not a touristy place which was good as we were not ripped off in local restaurants or bars and we got a sense of what living in Poland was actually like. Our teaching job was quite easy with reasonably well-motivated students, a four day working week for me, and a three day working week for my husband, plus every other day seemed to be a saints day holiday. However, our pay was appallingly low and our bosses started to mess us around. Although we found Poland beautiful, we did not complete the year. We walked out of our jobs in January rather than working until June. This was a shame because we were enjoying exploring Poland and had hoped to experience it in all seasons. Oh well, at least we managed autumn and winter.

As teachers we were apply to get a special card which enabled us to travel all over Poland by train for half price. We made good use of this and visited some of the towns on the Baltic coast, Leba, Kartuzy, Gdansk, Gdynia, Sopot, Slupsk, Torun, Malborg, Hel, Elblag, Warsaw, Krakow. One of the things I liked about Poland was the mentality of the people. I think they had suffered a great deal during the wars and during Communism and, though life may have improved, they still suffer. This makes them empathize with others. In Lebork I watched a destitute, homeless woman gaze hungrily into the window of a bakery and the woman inside come out and hand her a large cake free of charge. In Gydinia I sat in a bar where a filthy, ragged, homeless man sat nursing an empty coke glass hoping he would not be ordered back outside into the cold when suddenly a woman customer he did not even know handed him a meal she had ordered and paid for. At such times I was moved by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the people here; something I have rarely come across in other places. I think it derives from a past with shared hardships and a mutual knowledge of what it is like to go without. Another great thing about Poland is it is so underrated. Everywhere we went our guide book told us was bleak, gray, soviet, depressing and we'd get there and discover it was colourful, lively and beautifully restored. Expectations zero; reality wonderful.

Lebork.

We lived and worked in Lebork from September 1994 to January 1995. Lebork, pronounced Lemborg, is a town in Pomerania, Northern Poland. It is about halfway between Slupsk and Gdansk. Lebork, then called Lebno, was part of Poland, then it was occupied by the Teutonic Knights and became Lauenburg and was part of Prussia. It was handed back to Poland along with other areas of Prussia after World War I. Lebork has a town square, the 14th century Gothic church of St James, a castle built by the Teutonic knights, the Leba and Okalica rivers, a market, several restaurants and bars. It is surrounded by forest and we enjoyed walking here in autumn and viewing the glorious autumn colours. There were also pleasant walks by the river. There were some old city towers remaining, too and one had been converted into a restaurant. I tried steak Tartar here for the first time -yeuk! I could not manage to eat the raw beef. During World War II, Lauenburg was the location of the Nazi concentration camp Lauenburg. This was a subcamp of the Stutthof concentration camp. On 10th March 1945 Lauenburg was taken over by the Soviet Red Army. Most of Lebork's old town was destroyed later in a fire, however the Gothic Church of St. James and the castle survived.

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Lebork

Slupsk.

Slupsk is pronounced Swupsk. There should be a line going through my letter 'l' which makes it a 'w' sound in Polish. We visited Slupsk just once. Like Lebork it was once part of Prussia and is now part of Pomerania. Slupsk is located near the Baltic Sea on the Slupia River. It has an attractive town hall, churches, a park. It is the gateway to some of the resort towns on the Baltic coast. Slupsk is the location for a Polish Piano Festival and a Jazz Festival.

Slupsk

Slupsk

Slupsk

Slupsk

Darlowo and the Baltic Beaches.

On our first weekend in Poland the two English teachers who lived next door to us took us in their car to see some of the towns on the Baltic coast. We went to Ustka and Darlowo. The Baltic Beaches are wonderful long stretches of silver white sand. At Ustka as we explored the beach and pier, we were buffeted by extremely bracing Baltic winds causing us to fasten up our jackets tightly. We were then very amused to see Polish people in swimming costumes sunbathing happily under these conditions. Darlowo is a pretty historical town with a town hall on its main square and the Church of St Mary nestled behind the town hall. Darlowo also has a castle which was once the home of the Dukes of Pomerania. On Darlowo's main street we watched a boy skateboarding using puppy power.

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Darlowo And The Baltic Beaches

Town Of Leba.

Leba is pronounced Weba. It is another word that should have a stroke through the L making it a W. Leba was one of our favourite places in Poland and we went here a lot. Leba is a town on the Baltic coast; the River Leba flows through it. Leba has a beautiful long silver sand beach. On the beach you can see the historic Neptun Hotel. This hotel dates from 1907. Someone told me this was once Goebbel's summerhouse, but I'm not sure if this is true. At one point this hotel was apparently a casino. Filming for the movie "Effi" based on the novel "Effi Briest" by Theodor Fontane was carried out in front of this hotel in 2007. The old town of Leba changed location in the past because it was getting covered over by encroaching sand dunes. These ever growing sand dunes are now part of the Slowiñski National Park. This park is about 8 kilometres west of Leba. It is filled with sand dunes, pine trees, lots of different species of birds and apparently has wild boar though we did not encounter any. The park occupies about 186.18 square kilometres. UNESCO designated the Slowinski National Park a biosphere reserve as part of its Programme on Man and the Biosphere in 1977. Polish beer is excellent, but Leba was one of the few places we could find it on draft; most places sold bottles. We always rounded up a trip here with a pint of draft Hevelius before heading back to Lebork.

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Town Of Leba

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy was another of our favourite places. We always went here by train. Unfortunately it was only served by slow local trains and when I say slow I mean you could practically have walked faster. As we only ever went when we were not in a hurry, we found this very funny and got used to the gentle chug, chug, chug of the train together with frequent long, unexplained stops. Kartuzy is situated on a lovely lake surrounded by forests. Its famous building is a large church by the side of the lake. This was built in 1380. It was once home to a small group of Carthusian monks originally from Bohemia who were obsessed with death and preparing for the afterlife. The roof of the church is shaped like a coffin; the monks slept in coffins and there is a huge clock in the centre of the church with the angel of death on it. His scythe forms a pendulum and there is a Latin inscription on it reminding us that - 'every second takes us closer to death'. You can hear the ominous ticking of this cheerful timepiece all over the church as you wander around pondering your own imminent demise. I loved it, because I found it so hilariously over the top. Kartuzy also had a very good market and lovely lakeside walks.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Kartuzy.

Sopot.

Sopot is part of what is known as the tricity: the cities of Gydinia, Gdansk and Sopot. Sopot is in the middle between Gydinia and Gdansk. The word Sopot means stream or spring. Sopot is on the Baltic Sea and has a beautiful long silver sand beach. The beach is edged with woods which are stunning shades of red and orange in the autumn. Sopot is a spa town and people come there for rest, relaxation, recuperation. It has the longest wooden pier in Europe 650 metres long, 450 metres of that actually in the sea. The pier was normally surrounded by swans and was a favourite haunt of walkers and fishermen. The Grand Hotel is a wonderful luxury hotel on the beach at Sopot. The hotel has a casino and luxury shops.The hotel was built around 1927 at a cost of 20 million Danzig gulden. It was originally known as the Kasino Hotel. It is now owned by the Sofitel Group. Famous guests at this hotel include: Alfonso XIII, King of Spain; Martin Bormann, private secretary to Adolf Hitler; Charles Aznavour; Fidel Castro; Marlena Dietrich; Charles de Gaulle; Hermann Göring, second in command of the German Third Reich; Adolf Hitler; Annie Lennox; Greta Garbo; Vladimir Putin; Demis Roussos; Omar Sharif and Boney M. Sopot has a famous lighthouse which dates from 1903. Sopot is home to the famous Sopot International Song Festival.

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Sopot

Swans on the beach at Sopot. - Poland

Swans on the beach at Sopot. - Poland

Gdynia

Gdynia is a city and major port on the Baltic Sea. It is part of the Gdynia, Sopot, Gdansk tricity and stands on the Bay of Gdansk. Gdynia is mainly a modern city. On its sea front it has a monument to Joseph Conrad. This monument was created by Danuta and Zdzislaw Koseda and Wawrzyniec Samp. It was originally unveiled in 1976. Joseph Conrad came from Berdychiv in the Ukraine and had no links with Gdynia, but he was of Polish origins and wrote books about the sea such as Lord Jim so I guess a monument to him in a Polish port makes some sense. Near this monument stands the Maritime Museum with several weapons displayed outside. My fondest memory of Gdynia is when we came and ate in its Chinese restaurant to celebrate my birthday as I was missing Chinese food since I had just lived for three years next to a Chinese restaurant in Northern Cyprus.

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdynia

Gdansk.

Gdansk is the third part of the Gdynia, Sopot, Gdansk tricity. It is a port and is located on Gdansk Bay. As Gdansk is quite a famous city, I already had expectations of what it would be like before I first visited. I expected it to be industrial and filled with shipyards. While it does have industry and shipyards, the centre of Gdansk is actually very beautiful and interesting. Most of Gdansk was flattened in the Second World War, but as with many Polish cities, the historic centre has been beautifully restored. Gdansk old town has tall buildings with gabled roofs. It always reminded me of Amsterdam when we visited. Gdansk has lots of churches and museums. One of the churches, St Mary's is the largest brick church in the world. During martial law between 1981 and 1983 members of the Solidarity movement sought refuge in St Mary's. The old town has a pretty fountain called Neptune's Fountain. Its centre piece is the god Neptune clutching his trident. Neptune is made of bronze. He was first erected as a statue in 1549. Later in 1633 he was converted into a fountain. He survived World War II as he was dismantled and hidden. The Motlawa River flows through the old town of Gdansk. This river has many ships and is lined with museums, restaurants and bars. Gdansk's Maritime Museum can be found here. This museum is made up of four separate parts:The Crane, the Soldek ship, the National Maritime Museum and the the Maritime Culture Centre. The museum is on both sides of the Motlawa River and a ferry will take you from one part of the museum to another. Some of the old town's streets are lined with shops or stalls selling amber jewellery, wood carvings, wooden boxes and wooden chess sets. We did not always go to Gdansk as tourists. We often went to visit the British Council Library. We had our favourite cheap restaurant where we would go and eat a big plate of bigos and our favourite bar on the Motlawa River where we would drink ice cold bottles of Gdanskie beer. This was my favourite Polish beer.

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Gdansk

Enjoying a beer in Gdansk. - Poland

Enjoying a beer in Gdansk. - Poland

Torun.

We visited Torun on a freezing cold winter's day. That's my excuse for my rather bleak, colourless, brown, photos. As we approached the walls of the historic city centre we stopped to watch some children having a great time sledging in the snow. Torun is located in northern Poland on the banks of the Vistula River. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It was the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. The medieval centre of Torun was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Torun's historic centre is surrounded by thick defensive walls. Torun has a cathedral, several churches, a town hall and a leaning tower. By accident we strayed onto the grounds of the closed ethnographic museum. Its skansen has historical farmsteads, a windmill and old wooden cottages. The oldest cottage dates back to 1767. The ethnographic museum was established in 1958.

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Torun

Malbork.

Malbork is a town in northern Poland situated on the delta of the Vistula River. We visited here on a day trip in order to see the famous castle of the Teutonic Knights. This is the largest brick castle in the world. Malbork Castle was built in the 13th century as the headquarters of the Order of Teutonic Knights. They came here to convert the local population from Paganism to Christianity. Malbork Castle is situated on the banks of the Nogat River. Malbork means castle of the Virgin Mary. The castle complex is actually three castles combined into one. When Malbork was part of Prussia the Teutonic Knights based in Malbork Castle collected tolls from any boats passing along the Nogat River. They also had a monopoly on the amber trade here. Malbork was a member of the Hanseatic League, and many Hanseatic meetings were held in Malbork Castle. Malbork Castle suffered damage in World War II.

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Malbork

Warsaw.

Warsaw is the capital of Poland and its largest city. It is located on the River Vistula. We visited Warsaw just once on a day trip. It was a bitterly cold day in the middle of winter. Warsaw suffered dreadful damage during World War II, but its historic centre has been beautifully restored. The restored buildings are all in the same period style. The reason for Warsaw's destruction was that in 1944 the population of Warsaw rose up against Hitler's occupying forces. The German Reich's revenge was swift and resulted in the burning, bombing and destruction of 90% of the city. There are statues and sculptures all over the restored old town commemorating the Warsaw Uprising. Resistance fighters are depicted emerging from manholes, grenades in hand as they try to drive out the invaders. It took many years to rebuild Warsaw's historic centre. Researchers used paintings and photographs as an architectural blueprint. The restoration work was not finished until 1962. Now the historic centre of Warsaw is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We travelled to Warsaw with a work colleague with a very different travelling style to us. She kept wanting to eat, while I kept wanting to sight see. Consequently I did not see everything I wanted to see. Warsaw has a beautiful old town square, a castle, a cathedral, churches, museums. In the evening we strolled through the Old Jewish Quarter. The Jewish Ghetto was flattened after an attempted uprising in 1943, but some parts of the Ghetto wall still remain. Warsaw has many memorials. One of them is Syrena the mermaid. This statue commemorates an old legend. One day Prince Kazimerez lost his way while on a hunting expedition, a mermaid guided him back to safety by firing burning arrows to lead him back to his companions. The mermaid is the symbol of Warsaw. Another well known memorial is the little insurgent the statue of a boy soldier holding a sten gun and wearing an oversized helmet. This statue was raised on October 1st, 1983. It was designed by Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz. The statue is a tribute to the children who served as messengers and front line troops in the uprising. Many of them were killed in the fighting.

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Warsaw

Krakow.

Krakow is the second largest city in Poland. Its historical centre has survived wars with considerably less damage than any other Polish city, making it Poland's most historical city. Krakow is located on the River Vistula. We visited Krakow for a day. It is a beautiful city with a huge castle called Wawel Castle right in its centre. It also has an old town and an Old Jewish Area Kazimierz. In the Jewish area we visited a former synagogue which is now a museum. The museum documented life for Jewish people before, during and after the Second World War. For me the most distressing exhibit was a school photo of a primary school class taken around 1937. All the children in the photo are Jewish. Their happy, smiling faces look into the camera with so much hope for their future and underneath there was a little note stating the number of them that were dead by 1945. I have seldom seen a more powerful symbol for the horrific pointlessness of war. Parts of the film Schindler's List were filmed in Krakow. The Wawel area dates from the fourteenth century and consists of Krakow's Castle and Cathedral. You can view the Polish crown jewels in the castle treasury here. The cathedral was the site of the coronation of every Polish king and queen. On the riverbank outside the castle there is a statue of the Wawel Dragon. This terrifying creature once lived in the large cave behind where he stands. He terrified the local people and plundered their livestock. The dragon was eventually tricked into eating a bag of sulphur which killed him. This statue dates from 1972 and was designed by local artist Bronislaw Chromy. The heart of the old town is Rynek or Market Square with its magnificent cloth hall, town hall tower and St Mary's Basilica. Here you can also find Saint Wojciech's Church with its green roofs this is one of the oldest churches in Krakow. In the centre of the square stands a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, a famous Polish poet.

Cracow Or Krakow

Cracow Or Krakow

Cracow Or Krakow

Cracow Or Krakow

Cracow Or Krakow

Cracow Or Krakow

Elblag.

We visited Elblag purely because we discovered it was the home of EB beer which was one of the most popular Polish beers when we stayed in Poland. The Elblag Brewery is Poland's largest brewery. It belongs to the Zywiec Group. Zywiec is also an extremely popular Polish beer. Nowadays it is exported to the UK among other places. Brewing beer in Elblag dates back to 1309. In that year Teutonic Master Siegfried Von Leuchtwangen bestowed brewing privileges on the town of Elblag. The current brewery dates from 1872. Elblag is situated about 55KM southeast of Gdansk. The city is a port located on the River Elblag. Elblag was almost totally destroyed at the end of World War II. The old town has now been partially restored. Its skyline is dominated by St Nicolaus's Church.

Elblag

Elblag

Posted by irenevt 06:23 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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