Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
With a population of over 470,000, Gdańsk has a similar population size as Antwerp. As Antwerp, it’s a port city. But the maritime history and present are much more tangible in Gdañsk.
Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the most prominent city in the geographical region of Pomerania. It is Poland’s principal seaport and the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan area.
The city is at the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay on the Baltic Sea, in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, the resort town of Sopot, and suburban communities; these form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto). Together, the population amounts to approximately 1.5 million.
Gdańsk lies at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, which drains 60 percent of Poland and connects Gdańsk with the Polish capital, Warsaw.
Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also an industrial centre.
The city’s history is complex, with periods of Teutonic, Polish, Prussian and German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a free city state. In the early-modern age, Gdańsk was a royal city of Poland. It was considered the wealthiest and the largest city of Poland, before the 18th century rapid growth of Warsaw. 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.
In the interwar period, Gdańsk lay in a disputed region between Poland and Germany, which became known as the Polish Corridor. The city’s ambiguous political status was exploited by Germany, furthering tension between the two countries, which would ultimately culminate in the Invasion of Poland and the first clash of World War II just outside the city, followed by the ethnic cleansing and executions of Polish-speaking minority population and ultimately flight and expulsion of the German-speaking majority of the city’s population in 1945.
In the 1980s, Gdańsk was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, 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 Warsaw Pact.
Gdańsk is home to the University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk University of Technology, the National Museum, the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, the Museum of the Second World War, the Polish Baltic Philharmonic and the European Solidarity Centre. The city also hosts St. Dominic’s Fair, which dates back to 1260.
The city scores very well in rankings for the quality of life, safety and living standards.
The city has some buildings surviving from the time of the Hanseatic League. Most landmarks are located along or near Ulica Długa (Long Street) and Długi Targ (Long Market), a pedestrian thoroughfare surrounded by buildings reconstructed in historical (primarily during the 17th century) style and flanked at both ends by elaborate city gates.
This part of the city is sometimes referred to as the Royal Route, since it was once the former path of processions for visiting Kings of Poland.
Proximity and water
Water is everywhere in the historic heart of Gdańsk. Many bridges connect the islands. You’ll find quite a lot of activity there with restaurants, bars and clubs. Major hotels are built in eachothers vicinity as well.
We did everything on foot. Gdańsk has the perfect size for it and nice streets and pavements to walk on.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.