Week 37 – Poland week two – Gdansk and the Baltic Coast

This week we went to Gdansk, to Hel and back, saw the moving sand dunes on the Baltic coast and had a serious amount of tomato soup.

Heading north from Wroclaw to Gdansk, we broke the journey with an overnight stop at the spa town of  Ciechocinek. We arrived just as hundreds of fire engines were assembling for a convoy into town, all sirens blaring…

…which was an entertaining diversion but not quite as diverting as spotting in the distance this enormous construction. It’s an inhalatorium….

….no, we’d never heard of one either though apparently there a few others in Germany and Austria. It’s a 19th century health therapy which works by channelling streams of brine …..

…. down the blackthorn twigs stuffed into the massive frames of these graduation towers…

… which causes the salty water to vaporise in the wind and sun, creating a microclimate rich in iodine. Breathing in the salty air is apparently as good for the health as a walk by the sea.

So just as they did in the 1800’s, we joined the locals for a stroll along the 1.5 km path around the three giant towers, before getting back in the van and heading for Gdansk. …a journey which without question….

…..wins the passenger’s ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ award.

See what I mean?

Once in Gdansk, our first stop had to be here….it’s the European Solidarity Centre…

….a museum  beside the famous Gate Number 2 of the Gdansk shipyards. The centre celebrates the history of …..

….which was founded in 1980 by this charismatic man….

…and tells the story of it’s fight against the Soviet-imposed Communist regime…

General Jaruzelski’s television broadcast on 13 December 1981 declaring martial law and outlawing Solidarnosc

..and how it survived the attempt to destroy it and Polish demands for democracy.

This photograph is considered as the best symbol of martial law in Poland – armed soldiers in front of the Moscow cinema when it was screening ‘Apocalypse Now’.

It was a fascinating, all absorbing exhibition.

Leaving the shipyards and back in the historic old town, we hadn’t expected the city to be so charming and characterful. We had a wander, stopped to listen to the buskers play one of Vivaldi’s seasons …

….browsed in the amber shops  and wandered some more.

Heading further up the Baltic Sea coast, we stopped off to see some of the giant murals in the Zaspa estate. It’s like a giant open air art gallery….

..where the end wall of the high rise is the artist’s canvas.

Further on in the seaside resort of Sopot, the street art was impressive too……

….but the big draw is Europe’s longest wooden pier.

It’s a really swish resort …

…but we didn’t stop for the sniadanie angielskie, tempting as it was to have a full English Breakfast fry up on the pier end.

We were going to Hel.

That’s the little small town at the end of this narrow spit and on the map looks like this….

….but as we drove further down the spit, passing high rises and bill boards and with no sign of the sea, we thought this is not what we expected. But then, thankfully, it all changed. Once you got through the little fishing port…

……and overtook the hordes of day tripping school children and got out onto the walkway along the beachfront, it was all rather heavenly.

After our pierogi-fest last week, we haven’t done much in the way of tasting Polish cuisine  this week. For one good reason….here it is…..

..an enormous carton of tomatoes bought for a few zlotys in a motorway polski sklep….

…a whim purchase which has resulted in a certain sameness to the campervan kitchen menu.

Our last stop this week was to see Leba and the dunes which sounds a bit like an ’80s pop combo.

The sand dunes are in the Slovinkski National Park and judging by the number of coaches ahead of us are a major tourist attraction.

From the car park, we got on board one of the electric cars to drive though the woods and up to the dunes though the first glimpse of sand…

…didn’t prepare us for just how spectacular they are. It’s a 500 hectare complex of moving sand dunes.

Apparently due to the strong westerly winds, the dunes move a few metres every year and in the past have covered a village.

Or in this case a pair of flip flops.

Ah there you are…..we wondered where you’d all got to.

And that ended our journey up the Baltic coast. It was time to turn the van round to point eastwards on our way to Lithuania, a route that took us through the Masurian lake region and an overnight stop in Mikolajaki….

…where we called in to one of the restaurants but scanning the menu options….

..maybe we’ll stick to tomato soup.

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