|Red-brick towers of rebuilt old Gdańsk|
From our fourth floor room we had a great view over the Baltic in the morning. A gloriously sunny summer day, with pleasantly warm weather. After breakfast in the traditional breakfast room we packed and got ourselves ready. Below us a man was mowing the lawn with his motorised lawn mower, driving elaborate patterns back and forth.
We followed the hotel receptionist’s advice and took the small route 102 along the coast. This took us through mile after mile of lovely green fresh proper forest. There were only a few other cars on the road and from time to time we passed through a small village before re-entering the forest again. It went like this for a long time and progress was rather slow as overtaking was difficult and the roads aren’t all that good, at least not all of the time. We passed some traditional houses, of brick and with the top halves of broad wooden planks, or just small little houses. Some have had TLC and a lick of bright paint, others had crumbling plasterwork and exposed brickwork underneath. It was a very gentle, peaceful rural part of the country and I think most people here were either locals living as they have always done and a good number of Poles with summer homes. After lots and lots of forest and with glimpses of the Baltic just off to our left, we got to more open countryside, green fields with waving grass, black and white “Friesian” cows in the fields, and still the Baltic to our left. In the forested parts, between adjacent villages, we saw more solitary berry or honey vendors, sat along the road with four or five jars of blueberries or trays of cherries or strawberries. Later we reached some small towns, and then larger ones as we got closer to Gdańsk. Places like Slupsk, nothing to report really, just ordinary roads, a few roundabouts or a system of signs guiding us into, through and out of the town. Blocks of apartments, which don’t look grim as such, with little splashes of colour, although I imagine these would have been the typical communist living arrangements. Now they’re just blocks of accommodation. The roads got bigger and with more traffic and our progress sped up as we got closer to Gdańsk.
We had hoped to get to tourist information before 4pm but a call confirmed they were actually open until 5pm. In the semi-busy traffic we ended up going round and round, being guided through a one-way system that just wouldn’t let us go where we wanted to. In the process we actually got to see a fair deal of the centre of Gdańsk, with pretty red-brick towers and churches, and Dutch-looking merchant houses, as well as fairly ordinary blocks of apartments.
The atmosphere is completely different from anything we had imagined. There was nothing grey or drab or even industrial about this place, and it felt a lot like Amsterdam, architecturally, but more laid-back. Tourist information was on an unlikely street away from the very centre and they didn’t come up with the kind of hotel we were after, only an out of town place for 80 zloty (£13) so we suspected it would be just a room in someone’s apartment. Instead we did our own round and eventually found a good value centrally located hotel at the Dom Muzycka, set up for tour groups who just want a clean decent room. It’s housed in a part of the old Music Academy building, a grand yellow-brick affair consisting of several wings around a central courtyard/parking area. We got a nice big bright high-ceilinged room, a super find!
With two full days her in Gdańsk we weren’t in a hurry to go out into town this evening and opted to have dinner in the hotel restaurant after having a drink in the bar/restaurant. We booked a table for 8pm and spent some time taking care of chores such as washing clothes, and before we knew it it was time for dinner. There were several other tables of diners, one German tour group and several Poles in couples, and there was a good atmosphere in the restaurant, and the food was excellent too, beetroot soup with dumplings and slices of nice fatty pork shank, and for Ness the hearty typical Polish zurek soup, and we washed it down with Sobieski sweet bitter, a delicious vodka-based (?) Polish schnapps. The middle-aged man who seems to be the head waiter was taking his role very seriously and we had to keep a straight face as he went through the motions of presenting and then serving the wine. As “bus days” go, this was a good way of seeing a bit of the country while travelling. I was just amazed how slow our progress was on these small roads.