Warning: This is a very long post. I thought of breaking it up into discrete bits, but I decided that would destroy a sense of the diversity of the day. You have three options: get a cup of coffee and settle down with the lot; serialise it; or decide your time’s better spent somewhere else!
It’s my last morning in Gdańsk and I’m determined on a ferry trip to Westerplatte where the first bullets of WW2 were fired and where I may actually glimpse the Baltic.
The crowds aren’t out yet, so I ramble up ul Długa without the people-surfeit of my first day, through a nondescript arch with a charming ceiling painting, towards Neptune’s fountain and the flying figure at the entrance to Artus Court, which I plan to visit later today. By the time I head back at 9.30 to catch the ferry, past a very grand door, tour groups are appearing, looking far less enthusiastic than I feel.
The ferry glides along the Motława into a very different world. Why is it that a skyline of cranes and ship hulls has my camera clicking madly? For at least 30 minutes we chug along past shipyards and see something of the Gdańsk that was the setting for Solidarity’s action.
From the ferry, I see a 16th century tower and a massive monument to the Westerplatte garrison of 180 men who held out for seven days before surrendering to the invading Germans. I’m tempted by bushland, but my train leaves in five hours. If I go back to Gdańsk I will feel more secure, and there’s plenty still to see there.
As the ferry turns just before two lighthouses I catch a glimpse of what is surely the Baltic, but turns out to be merely the Gulf of Gdańsk.
Working boats exhibition
Back in Gdańsk, I enter the Museum of the Sea, which is hosting an exhibition that intrigues me, partly to cater to J’s lifelong love affair with all things boat. The museum has a few venues: the one I visit is modern glass and brick, with boats hanging over a couple of floors. Photographing was difficult because the boats were big and in a confined space, and I knew J would want to see how sails are constructed and how the hull is fitted out.
Interlude with gargoyles
Fumbling my way back to Artus Court on tired legs, I find a street that seems rather nondescript, until I realise that it’s home to another collection of gargoyles.
The interior of this building couldn’t be more different from the industrial foreshores of the Motława or the beautiful utility of working boats. It’s lavishly decorated with lacquering, paintings and furniture, including a huge tiled furnace. One thing I noticed about Gdańsk was the proliferation of signs in Braille: here there were also raised outlines of some of the paintings to accompany verbal descriptions.
Outside in a courtyard there is a different kind of grandeur: a scuffed door, a time-pocked doorway and a collection of late Gothic slabs.
By now its close to 2, so I recover my bag from the hotel and retrace my rainy day steps towards the station, sad to be leaving Gdańsk and its amazing array of pleasures.