Gdansk, anchor of freedom

The train station of Gdansk lies somewhat at the border of the old city center, the main town. In front of the station lies the main traffic-artery, where ten year old busses and the local trams stop. The main town seems fenced off for visitors by the concrete road and iron tracks. In order to cross to the other side, one has to walk through the pedestrian tunnel underneath the road, since a green barred fence runs along the tramtrack for a few hundred meters in front of us. The pedestrians tunnel houses numerous kiosks selling everything from sexy lingery, cell phones to the latest news. Each store enprisons a salesassistant within a glass cell of one meter depth and three meters wide, stuffed with goods to sell. Resurfacing from these consumerdepths of Polish kiosks, one stands at the foot of a western-style mall, next to the Rossmann drugstore chain that can be found in Poland since the last few years.

Gdansk is part of the tri-city Sopot, Gdynia and Gdansk. Sopot like Scheveningen, Eastbourne, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, the popular beach resort for the Polish masses, liberated from the proletarian yoke and now fully enjoying the yearly pleasure of a consumer’s yearly labour. On a nice day, these seaside visitors take a daytrip to the ‘old’ main town of Gdansk, which was more than any other town in Poland rebuild after the destruction of World War II. They stroll along the Dlugie Pobrzeze quay along the Strawa Motlawa, its line of amber jewelery stores, or sit down for a large sized beer with a sjaslik or kielbasa from the grill. A rare group of Russians may sit down at the Greek restaurant. The streets of Gdansk, like Krakow or Praha alike, are overcrowded during the day, and it is a petty to the architecture that it is overflooded, although the local entrepeneurs must welcome the visitors with open arms. Here, more than in Poznan or Torun, the city is catered to tourism.

Nevertheless, a few parts of Gdansk remain impressive and authentic. There is most and foremost the harbour. From the quay one can take oneof several boat-tours through the harbour ways, or to underline the Baltic location of Gdansk, a ferry to Helsinki or Copenhagen. The harbour is as impressive as any tourist site, because of the political historic importance as the cradle of Solidarnosc. Now, one can visit the museum “Road to Freedom” and stand at the Solidarnosc Square in front of the very gates where tens of thousands of people fought against Communism, and some paid for it with their lives. Here, it was the labour movement in alliance with the church, who resisted most fiercely against the Soviet government of Jaruzelski’s military staff.

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