There are many choices for cruises sailing in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. We chose the Viking Ocean Cruises “Viking Homelands” for our vacation because it included several stops in Norway, visited eight countries and spent a day in Gdansk, Poland. Theresa is Polish on her mother’s side, so Poland was a must do.
Gdansk was one of the most prosperous cities in the Baltic during the Middle Ages and the Old Town has been beautifully restored since the end of World War II.
As luck would have it, we visited Gdansk on the first weekend of their three-week St. Dominic Fair, held annually since 1270. The city was packed full of families and tourists spending the day in the street market and listening to music as it filled the old town city streets. We even found several streets with flea market items.
Our ship, the Viking Sea, docked at the Westerplatte Quay. It was here that the first invasion of WWII occurred, when Germany attacked the Polish Military Depot.
The old city of Gdansk sits on the Motlawa River and restaurants and shops line the riverbank. During the Fair, throngs of people bought bread, pierogies and souvenirs from all the temporary stalls along the city streets. Even though the town was crowded, we enjoyed the fair atmosphere. The Green Gate spans the opening of the Long Market Street. It’s actually a building with arches at the bottom and was built in the 1500s as the formal residence of the Poland’s monarchs. Walking through the arches, you enter the Long Market, a historic public square lined with period architecture.
We had the opportunity to visit the shipyards where the strikes led by trade union activist Lech Walesa began the fall of communism in Poland and deconstruction of the Soviet Block.
Gdansk was nothing like what we expected it to be. We thought it would be reflective of the war that happened at its doorstep, but instead the Polish people have rebuilt and stayed true to the original architectural designs. Neither dull, nor boring, instead it was lively and welcoming. If we have the opportunity, we’ll go back.
Back on the ship, a traditional Polish troupe shared folk music and dances from the area.