Saturday, September 17, 2016

G'day Gdansk!

So after leaving Bornholm we headed to Gdansk- our next port of call.  We don't have a ton of time here- a morning city tour, a home hosted lunch and then a long sail later in the day to Visby Sweden on Gotland Island.

Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, Poland's principal seaport and the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area. The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), with a metropolitan population approaching 1.4 million. Gdańsk itself has a population of 460,427 making it the largest city in Northern Poland.  The city's history is complex, with periods of Polish rule, periods of Prusso-German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a "free city". Between the world wars, the Free City of Danzig was in a customs union with Poland. In the late Middle Ages it was an important seaport and shipbuilding town, and in the 14th and 15th centuries a member of the Hanseatic League.

Five centuries later, Gdańsk was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, formed in 1980, which played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and helped precipitate the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

So off we went to the old town- reconstruction of Old Town that is- since the whole thing was a rubble heap after WWII - 

beautifully reconstructed facades which don't match the interiors - some of which are spaces in contiguous (on the outside) buildings so as to make them useable in the 21st century - which is all well and fine but there is a sort of Disneyesque quality about the Old Town.  It's all kind of a bit too pristine maybe the years will soften this aspect of its visage.

We did stop for a snack along the way - 

we shared these three to get a taste of things and liked the one on the lower right the best!

Then it was off to the Solidarity Museum-  which is aptly built like a ship in the old ship building yards where Solidarity began and start to chip away at the communist rule - 

crosses for the dead in the cause of freedom and a nautical motif referential of the shipyards-

here are the specifics-
The Monument to the fallen Shipyard Workers 1970 was unveiled on 16 December 1980 near the entrance to what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland. It commemorates the 42 or more people killed during the Coastal cities events in December 1970. (Demonstrations against the price rises broke out in the northern Baltic coastal cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin. Communist leaders made matters worse by ordering the army to fire on workers as they tried to return to their factories. The regime was afraid of a wave of sabotage that was being started, which however is often believed to be inspired by the secret police, who wanted to legitimize a harsh response to the protesters.) It is the first monument to the victims of communist oppression to be erected in a communist country. It was designed by: Bogdan Pietruszka, Wiesław Szyślak, Wojciech Mokwiński and Jacek Krenz.

About the Solidarity Movement-
The history of Solidarity, a Polish non-governmental trade union, began on 14 August 1980, at the Lenin Shipyards (now Gdańsk Shipyards) at its founding by Lech Wałęsa and others. In the early 1980s, it became the first independent labor union in a Soviet-bloc country. Solidarity gave rise to a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement that, at its height, claimed some 9.4 million members. It is considered to have contributed greatly to the fall of communism. (from wikipedia)

the museum is full of relics from the shipyard where it all began as well as documentation of the Solidarity Movement itself-

a typical apartment interior size and style of the Gdansk workers who began the movement-

what the world looked like under the Warsaw Pact and NATO at the time-

interrogation office-

two of the figures who represent the movement are the Pope (who as the first Polish pope used his status to support the Polish people in their quest for freedom) and Lech Walesa

Lech Walesa then- before he won the Nobel Peace prize and before he was the president of a free Poland- he was the first president of Poland ever to be elected by popular vote.

the demands-

messages from visitors-

the archive of the Solidarity Movement - housed in the Museum

As we were leaving the building - waiting for elevators - Lech Walesa himself rounded a corner and came into the elevator lobby - Phil spotted him right away and said to me "there's Lech Walesa!" - we thanked him for what he had done and he motioned to us for a photo - he shook my hand and we got the photo snapped and he and his body man were off on the elevator (we waited with the rest of the hoi polloi for another one LOL) so a huge WOW for us this morning in Gdansk!

he still looks the same- just older and heavier (like us LOL)

Lech Wałęsa is a retired Polish politician and labor activist. He co-founded and headed Solidarity, the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.  Wałęsa was an electrician by trade. Soon after beginning work at Lenin Shipyard (now Gdańsk Shipyard), he became a trade union activist, for which he was persecuted by the Communist authorities, placed under surveillance, fired in 1976, and arrested several times. In August 1980 he was instrumental in political negotiations that led to the ground-breaking Gdańsk Agreement between striking workers and the government. He became a co-founder of the Solidarity trade union movement. After martial law was imposed in Poland and Solidarity was outlawed, Wałęsa was arrested again. Upon his release from custody he continued his activism and was prominent in the establishment of the 1989 Round Table Agreement that led to semi-free parliamentary elections in June 1989, and to a Solidarity-led government.  In the Polish general election of 1990, Wałęsa successfully ran for the newly re-established office of President of Poland. He presided over Poland's transition from communism to a post-communist state. 

from the museum we went to a home hosted lunch - make that a delicious home hosted lunch-

our hostess and her mother at the head of the table-

outstanding chicken -

the apartment hallway heading into the dining room-

table was set and waiting for us!

our hostess who worked in real estate sales when not being a welcoming ambassador for her city and nation-

on the way back to our ship I saw these soviet style apartments - now painted in lively colors - even though they can't afford to demolish the old block housing - they are putting a new face on them!

so off this afternoon for our longest open water sail and roughest of the trip - across a sizeable stretch of water to Visby on Gotland Island in Sweden- a map to remind you of the route-

so now off to Sweden- stay tuned for more fun and games on the Grand Baltic Sea Voyage!

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