Leaving Warsaw, I took the train to Gdansk, and arrived in the early evening. I contacted my Airbnb host, and was easily guided to my place, which was in a great location near the station. I have accumulated more clothing and hand baggage now, so it was nice to not to have to lug it so far away.
The host greeted me at the door, and he showed me how/where everything was/worked. It had a simple kitchenette, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. It had nice big windows that looked out to the church nearby which was nice, but mosquitos filled the air and I quickly realized I needed to shut it to protect the place.
I looked up a place on tripadvisor for dinner, and headed there for a nice meal next to the harbor.
I ended up having a lobster ravioli and a bruchetta which was great. I enjoyed my meal while listening to a drunken Swedish man behind me along with his wife. She complained about the sauce of his dinner, and explained that people don’t want something so fancy–that a nice bouillabaisse is all that’s necessary with a steak.
I chuckled as I left and headed back home to rest from the travel day.
The next morning, I went on the walking tour at 10:30. Kasia was our tour guide, a native Gdansker, and really sweet. We started our tour after she asked everyone where they were from. It’s always interesting to hear everyone’s places, as it’s so international. We had a Brazilian, Germans, Japanese, Belgians, Canadians, and more. The tour was informative, and great to learn about the city.
I started a conversation with the Japanese girl and surprised her with my speaking. Unfortunately, she had to leave the tour early, and we didn’t ever get to see each other as she was going to the Marbork Castle with other people from her hostel that afternoon. We tried to make a plan for the next day.
At the end of the tour, the Brazilian guy and I started chatting and we ended up going to do some photos of the main crane in the town. We then decided to have lunch together and chatted about what we were both doing. Aylton, Brazilian, had actually been living in Krakow for the last 4 years. His friend invited him years ago, and finally, he quit his job and left to Krakow–apparently to never return!
We decided to head up to Sopot as he wanted to see the beach, and I was completely open. I was happy to have someone to explore with, and especially since I didn’t have a plan, it was good to know someone was wanting to do specific things and I could tag along.
Once at Sopot, we wandered around, and were surprised that no one was in the water. Apparently there was bacteria or just too much vegetation, and they had the red flag out to signal no swimming. There was a huge pier, but to go on the pier, you had to go, buy a ticket, and come back and walk through a turnstyle. Just as with toilets that you have to pay to use, out of principle, we opted not to pay the $.50 or whatever it was to go on this pier.
Instead, we walked down and found a place on the beach to enjoy some partly cloudy skies. We headed into the hotel where hitter stayed which was rumored to have swastickas on the floor, later to be covered by carpet.
While we continued t0 chat, the German couple from our tour walked up unknowingly right beside us. As we all realized, we chatted, and invited them to join us. Now we were four. Annete and Kevin were on a small vacation to Gdansk from Ziegen. We all enjoyed our chat, and decided to have our dinner together in Sopot.
Enter Mr. Texas, from Poland. While we walked searching for a restaurant, we were approached by an opera sounding loud speaking voice of this little man named Patrick Texas. We spoke with him about the restaurant, and ended up deciding to go there–for better or for worse. Patrick took a liking to me, not only when he found out that I was American, but also from Tennessee–home of his favorite singer, Tina Turner. Apparently, he will be going there September 23rd, to Nutbush, TN–which he was amazed I didn’t know after asking me how far it was from the airport, as his eye sight is bad (-6.0) and can’t drive. I’m writing this to remind myself how ridiculously funny it was for his stories of being on XFactor, and the amount of information he kept yelling at us over and over.
We had fun with our crazy dinner, got some dessert and headed back to Gdansk for the evening. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that we went out for another drink near the station and enjoyed even more convo. We decided to go to the Castle the next day.
We met up the next morning to head to Malbork Castle, and when we got to the station, up walked another couple from the walking tour–Leticia from Tenerife, and Phil from Ireland. We added them to our group, and despite their taking another train to Malbork, we met up again at the entrance to get our tickets.
While we thought about waiting in line, a big sign says, skip the line–buy online. So I went through and bought our tickets through the webpage. We then went to lunch at a kebap place run by an Algerian–who loved our international group.
After lunch, we hurried back for our 2pm tour. When I pulled up the email for the ticket, it showed the following day–before I about had a fit, we saw the others go in with their online ticket for tomorrow as well, so we said ‘we’re with them’! and we were let in without a hitch. Thankfully, we were all together and in with our tickets that were for tomorrow. What a silly campaign–don’t stand in line, buy online? How about, don’t stand in line the day you want to come, and be sure to buy online more than 24 hours in advance. Guess that didn’t fit on the sign.
We loved the castle. It was really interesting with its history, details, and overall design. As for typical with castles, the moats, and places they could pour hot oil, toilets, bedrooms, heating systems in the floors, all of these technological pieces were fascinating to see.
We weaved in and out of the main parts of the castle learning about the people who used it and lived there. At the end of the tour, we exited and walked past a medieval type fair in the grounds behind the castle. While we were getting our fresh sorbet from frozen fruits, a girl passed by with an owl on her arm that I wanted to hold. After the sorbet, I told everyone, I’m going to go hold that owl! I always think they look like such mysterious creatures, and have always wanted to hold one!
Luckily, no one else was hanging around, so I went up and asked could I hold the owl. Before I knew it, Rila was perched up on my gloved hand and I was learning about how she couldn’t even see me :( I was too close for her far sightedness. She was beautiful, and made me so happy to watch and hold her. Kevin thankfully took tons of photos so I could have some great shots of the experience.
We then went out and took some more pics of the outside of the castle before we decided to catch the train back to Gdansk. That evening, we all had a great dinner together, and we picked up our last member of our group, Henry, a guy from Hong Kong whom we’d seen at the earlier part of the day carrying around a violin, then again at the castle, then again at the train station. He was destined to be part of our group.
We spent the entire evening chatting, eating, and finally playing violin! Henry was 21 and was traveling around Poland to Lithuania and was planning on playing violin as a street performer to fund his travel around. After some peer pressure, he was soon playing some traditional chinese songs on the violin in the restaurant. It turned out that Annette was also a talented violinist, and played some songs as well. Then it came out that I was a wannabe violinist, and got up in front of everyone and played Ode to Joy–one of my beginner songs :) I was proud to have had my first violin performance!
We planned for our next day to go to the Solidarnasc (European Solidarity) Museum to learn about the rise against Communism, and the famous port strike of Gdansk.
This museum was really beautifully designed, and we all learned a lot about the fight about Communism from there. They showed details about the main port strike that sent ripples through the nation for their movement. That evening, we decided to do a boat tour out to Westerplatt, but we didn’t get out of the boat. The tour was nice, despite it only being spoken in Polish and German.
The next day, we went to meet up with Aylton to say goodbye, and had lunch with him. The Germans and I took a boat to Hel, which was 2 hours away. It was a long ride, but we finally made it and rented some bikes to go around the peninsula. We ended up going to the far tip of the peninsula, looked for some amber, then made our way around the forest back to the town. It was kind of a trashy town–a town that had the same fast food type stalls, kids games, like a fair. We had some fish for dinner before we caught the ship home. It was a long day!
The last day, we decided to meet up for the Solidarity Tour–once again with Kasia. This was a great continuation and overview/review of the museum we had just seen. It was a nice tour again, and afterward, we went to a dinner which turned into a disaster. I’d found this Italian place on TripAdvisor that had basically close to perfect on scoring, so I’d recommended it to Kevin and Annette, despite it being a little pricier, I thought it would be a nice dinner for our last evening out.
We got a table out on the patio which was great, as all the other seats were reserved. On my placemat in front of me was a dirty fork. Not the greatest start. Then once the meals were presented, as Kevin started to dig in, there was a huge long hair –so we think/thought–and he pointed it out. I about had a fit because I was the one who suggested this place, and it embarrassed me to no end thinking that I’d brought them to a restaurant that had this type of problem.
When we alerted the server, I pointed out the hair, and he said, oh no, that’s part of the vegetable on your plate. And we said, are you sure? He started to get agitated, contentious and louder, and then tried to guilt us into asking if we really wanted another plate. We sent him off, and I took another look at it, broke it, and it had all the attributes of hair. So this time, I was ready to bring back our original server, and have the food changed out. When he got back, he said he asked the chef, and they said that they couldn’t confirm nor deny that it was a hair, and I pressed him to say, do you believe that is hair or not, and he shrugged it off. So I said, yes, please replace the plate.
So as Annette and I ate our dinner, Kevin patiently waited for them to refire his steak to medium. Once they brought it out, he cut into it and it was quite well done. Yet another strike. As the server apologized and said there was nothing else he could do, I reminded him that he will be able to remove it from the check, and that I would like to see the manager at the end of the meal. I also let him know that it wasn’t his fault as he wasn’t the chef, but also, that we were not happy with the other server trying to tell us it wasn’t a hair gracefully, replacing the plate, and being gruff about it.
Finally, that gruff server revisited our table and he said, I was told you were unhappy with my service and something to the effect of wanting to know why. And I said, do you really want to go through this again? And he got louder, and said yes. So I got loud, and said first, there was not one, but THREE strands of hair in his food, and when we showed you, you tried to convince us that it was part of the vegetables. Then when we questioned it more, you got loud and contentious about that fact.
So he apologized, and went on. It was definitely not the type of dinner I would have enjoyed having for our last night, but nonetheless, it was a dinner that we wouldn’t forget :)
After dinner, we all went aboard the ferris wheel that showed us a great view of Gdańsk from above. That was the great ending to my fantastic week in Gdańsk, Poland!