University of Gdansk and Solidarity

Trip Start Jun 17, 2009
Trip End Jul 18, 2009

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Where I stayed
Scandic Hotel

Flag of Poland  , Baltic Coast,
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gdansk, Poland – Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday night here in Gdansk, a very interesting town on the Baltic Sea in the north of Poland. We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a long day on the bus from Warsaw, with a stop at Malbork Castle, about 60 kilometers south of here. Poland's highways are still being modernized from the Soviet era; most people take the trains south to Warsaw. The highway is nothing like our interstate highways, but rather, it is a two-lane road where passing cars and trucks is an art form. If you sit in the front seat of the bus, it is not for the faint of heart. Motorcyclists coming toward us on the road are not given any quarter as bus passes the cars going slower. You basically don’t want to know what is coming at you, so sit in the back and read or sleep!

Gdansk is also known by its long standing German name, Danzig, as this port city has long been a part of German empires over the century, and many of the people here consider their ancestry or heritage to be connected to Germany. It did suffer damage from the Soviet army in the last months of World War II in the spring of 1945 as the Soviets shelled it heavily to dislodge the Germans. What I did not know until today was that the Second World War actually started here in Gdansk, Poland when Hitler’s forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. While it was not ground forces coming to Gdansk, the German navy attacked and shelled a Polish naval outpost and garrison here in Gdansk from the sea. Danzig, as the Germans called Gdansk, was a naval base and port controlled by the Germans throughout WWII.

We stayed at the Scandic Hotel across the street from the Gdansk train station and less than two blocks from the famous site of the Gdansk shipyard uprising and strikes led by the Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa. It was fascinating to go through the Solidarity Museum, which is located underground below the entrance to the Gdansk shipyard. For about 6 zloty (about $2 U.S.), we toured this interactive site and it was very informative. I hope to use part of what I learned there in my school’s curriculum project.

We had dinner and lunch today and yesterday at two nice restaurants in Old Town Gdansk, a beautiful walk with spectacular buildings, sidewalk cafes, and great shops. Gdansk is also one of the most famous places in the world to buy or discover amber, and the shops are full of amber merchandise and jewelry. Our tour guide took us on a bus and walking tour of Gdansk, which was somewhat disappointing overall. I also enjoyed our visit this morning to a lecture at Gdansk University with the Dean of the Department of Philology, which would be the U.S. equivalent of a language department, such as studying English and American Studies in one department. It was a good lecture and gave me a good perspective on Polish education standards and programs, especially at the university level.

Early morning tomorrow, leave for Warsaw at 7:15 am, so time to pack up and get to sleep. Stay tuned for more from Poland.
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