Day 2. Exploring Gdansk

Our day began with a visit to the National Maritime Museum along the historic riverside.  A combined entrance ticket 35zl (£6.50) can be purchased to include the museum ship Soldek moored alongside. Entrance is also included in the Gdańsk Card.

National Maritime Museum, Gdansk
The National Maritime Museum

The museum located in three restored old granaries is devoted to Gdańsk’s role as a Baltic seaport through the centuries.  Its seven galleries include artefacts related to ship building including components, old maps, charts and navigation equipment.  One gallery focuses on the city’s role as a Hanseatic port whist another charts the medieval amber routes through the Baltics.

Longboat in Gdansk Maritime Museum
A longboat on display in the museum

Most of the signage is only in Polish but laminated sheets are available in English to pick up in each room.  These provided us with a short explanatory overview but it would have been preferable for the main signage to have been translated.  A special temporary exhibition was on display about a longboat and settlements which was of interest.

SS Soldek, Gdansk
The museum boat SS Soldek

Leaving there we climbed aboard the museum ship SS Soldek, a Polish coal and ore freighter that was retired from service in 1981 after 31 years of service.  Soldek was the first ever ocean ready boat to be built at the Gdansk shipyards and exploring the ship was the highlight of our visit to the museum.

On the Bridge of SS Soldek, Gdansk
On the bridge of SS Soldek

We had fun peering inside cabins where the sailors once lived, viewed the officers quarters, the galley and climbed up to the bridge to take our turn at the wheel.  We also clambered up flights of steps to the top deck and then down into the engine rooms to view where coal was shovelled into the boilers.

Zuraw Crane, Gdansk
The Zuraw Crane

Zuraw, a medieval port crane is also part of the museum but currently closed due to renovations.  The crane was built in the mid 15th century as part of the biggest double towered gate on the harbourside.  It was used to load and unload heavy cargo from ships and over the years played a big part in the vessels that passed through the city.

Polish Postal Museum, Gdansk
Polish Postal Museum, Gdansk

All the places we’d planned to visit during the day were quite close together so it was just a short walk to the the Polish Post Museum located on the northern edge of the old town. Standard admission 10zl (£1.77) and included in the Gdańsk Card.   I always enjoy a visit to a Postal Museum to have an opportunity to view Postal artefacts such as franking machines, stamps, uniforms etc. but this museum was unique as it also included much more.

Postmaster's Office, Gdansk Postal Museum
The Postmaster’s Office

Between the wars, the autonomous city state of Danzig (Gdansk) had two post offices, one municipal and the other run by the Polish government.  The one that is now the museum also surreptitiously served as the centre of the Polish government’s intelligence gathering service in the free city.  The building was used to store armaments and the postal workers were trained in case of attack.

Monument honouring the sacrifices of the Postal Workers, Gdansk
Monument honouring the sacrifices of the Postal Workers

When WW2 broke out close by, the heroic defence of this post office by its employees went down in history.  The Post Museum portrays the battle as it unfolded and the fate of those defending the building.  It’s only a small museum but definitely worth visiting.  It retains a working post office to one side of the main entrance and a stainless steel monument stands in the square outside honouring the sacrifices of the postal workers.

Almond milk cappuccino at Guga, Gdansk
My Almond milk cappuccino at Guga

On leaving the Postal Museum we were then ready for our morning cups of coffee so we popped into an inviting little cafe overlooking the river called Guga Sweet and Spicy.  It wasn’t until after we’d ordered that we realised it was a vegan cafe but our almond milk cappuccinos were delicious anyway and I’m so glad we chose to call in there.

The Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk
The Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk

Re-fuelled with coffee, we were soon on our way again, this time to the Museum of the Second World War, a vast museum documenting not only Poland’s involvement in the war but also viewing the travesty from a wider perspective.  Standard admission 25zl (£4.42) and included in the Gdańsk Card.  It was decided to build the museum in Gdansk as it was here on the Westerplatte Peninsula on 1st September 1939 that World War Two broke out with Germany’s attack on Poland and where the first shots were fired.

Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk
The glass façade of the museum

This modernist building overlooking the river was designed in three elements to create a link between the past, present and future.  The Past suggesting that the evils of war lie underground, The Present portrayed as the square surrounding the building whilst The Future is the large tower with its glass ceiling pointing upwards.

Street scene, Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk
Street scene in the museum

The visit commences with a short introductory video explaining the events leading up to the outbreak of war which provided useful background information.  We then toured the underground museum which is divided into 3 main sections documented in 18 rooms.

Air Raid Shelter, Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk
Air Raid Shelter layout in the museum

The Road to War explains the unique situation of the free city of Danzig (Gdansk) whilst the Horrors of War tells the story of the war from differing viewpoints.  The Polish Victims of the Holocaust documents the harrowing story of the Jewish population and is very moving as visitors pass through a large room lined with thousands of photos of those who lost their lives to the sounds of sombre Jewish prayer.  The War’s Long Shadow then seeks to investigate the aftermath of war and the ways in which Europe developed divided as it was by the Iron Curtain for 45 years.

Tank street scene, Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk
Tank street scene in the museum

Much thought has gone into the museum’s design and structure and I’m pleased we had an opportunity to visit.  A variety of presentation styles are used to share this dark period in history and they work well.  There are some large exhibits on display such as tanks and a German built wooden railway carriage but it is the many small personal belongings which create the biggest impact.  These include letters and photos donated by individuals showing the disruption and horrors inflicted on ordinary people’s lives.  I would allow a minimum of two hours to explore the museum and recommend adding a visit to any planned itinerary.

Grand Hall, Gdansk Town Hall and City Museum
Grand Hall of the Town Hall and City Museum

On leaving there we just had one more place we wished to visit and that was to the Gdansk Town Hall City Museum in the heart of the old town.  Standard admission 16zl (£2.73) and included in the Gdańsk Card.  The restored town hall building houses the Historical Museum of the City of Gdansk.  Here we admired paintings, antique furniture, silver tableware and historical documents.

Gdansk Town Hall and City Museum
Silverware on display in the museum

For us, the nicest part of visiting the museum though was to view the interior of the magnificent old town hall.  We enjoyed touring the Council Chamber, Court Room and Great Hall which is one of the most beautiful Renaissance halls in Europe.  We had hoped to climb up to the top of its tower which was supposed to be open but due to a rain shower earlier in the day had remained closed. There is a supplement of 12zl (£2.12) to access the tower  The weather was actually lovely late on the Sunday afternoon when we tried to gain access.  We didn’t mind too much though as this is the city’s second tallest tower and we had been up to the top of the tallest the previous day at the nearby St. Mary’s Basilica.

Pyra Bar, Gdansk
Potato based casseroles at Pyra Bar

It was then back to the hotel for a little rest before eating dinner at Pyra Bar located near to the Golden Gate at the far end of Long Market.  Pyra Bar specialises in everything potato based and on a visit to Poznan just before Christmas it had been recommended that we eat there.  I liked it so much that when I discovered there was also a branch in Gdansk, I searched it out.  It’s so popular that when we arrived there were no tables available but fortunately some people were just leaving so we didn’t have to wait.  We both ordered their creamy potato casseroles, mine with salmon and leeks and the other chicken which both tasted delicious and were very filling.  The restaurant is attractively furnished and cosy with additional seating outside on the terrace.  Prices are reasonable so if you are ever in Gdansk, Gdynia or Poznan it’s a good place to go.  The end of a lovely day exploring Gdansk.

Evening in Gdansk
Evening stroll by the riverside

 

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50 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring Gdansk

  1. Great article Marion. Gdansk has a lot to offer, especially in terms of heritage and architecture. The crane is such an unusual sight, but what a great history behind it, brilliant that it has been preserved. I love all the postal history, there’s a lot of charm there. Also agree that the general decline of the postal industry is sad. Put me down for one potato casserole, with salmon if you would.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your interest in this post Leighton. The Maritime Museum in Gdańsk is superb especially being able to tour the SS Soldek moored alongside it. Postal museums always interest me but it is so sad that post offices are now in decline and are to be found tucked away in newsagents and horror of horrors even a Subway! Hope your week goes well. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve actually never visited any museums while in Gdansk (unless you count the free, open-air museum in Westerplatte), but it looks like I missed out! Lots to learn about the city, especially being a port town and having a notable role in WWII. And to finish off the day with a stroll along with banks with the colorful houses on the water makes for the perfect scene!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All the museums we visited in the Gdańsk were of high quality from the vast WW2 museum to the small Postal Museum demonstrating the bravery of its employees in the onset of war. I do hope you get an opportunity to return at some stage Rebecca.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s nice to enter a ship and be able to explore a little bit. I think Postal Museum(s) are becoming part of history now … one of these days, the younger ones won’t know what ‘stamps’ are anymore ☺️. The Museum of the Second World War looks like a really interesting place to visit – that tank street scene is quite unique. And as always, your food looks great. Thank you Marion for another stroll through Gdansk and for showings us their attractions.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Touring the National Maritime Museum was interesting especially being able to go on board the cargo ship. I feel so sad about the decline in post offices worldwide especially as many of them were in such beautiful, historic buildings. Nowadays their counters can be found in newsagents and to my horror I even spotted one sharing a Subway takeaway! Is it the same in South Africa Corna?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s even worse here Marion 😔. Some of the buildings are neglected and not even functioning anymore. People don’t really want to use them because they are not efficient anymore – it’s really sad. We always posted a Christmas box to my brother and his family in the UK, but nowadays it’s a risk … packets will ‘disappear’ or opened even before it leaves SA … or it will take 5-6 months before it reach its destination. I posted a postcard to our house when we visited ‘The Hell’ last year May and it reached our house in December … a distance of only 489km (303 miles) 👀.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can hardly believe it, it’s so sad and depressing as even though most of us have access to email we still need the post occasionally for the niceties in life such as birthday cards and parcels! Thanks for letting me know and enjoy your Sunday Corna.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. We so enjoy museums and learning. It looks like the ones you visited in Gdansk were interesting as well as educational. The Museum of the Second World War is probably one that we would spend a lot of time exploring with its amazing building. Thank you for sharing your travels. We will refer to your blog posts if we ever get to visit there.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A fascinating city with so much history, both good and bad. Love the shot of the Maritime Museum with the ship’s bow. That crane is also interesting. I think we all need to tour the 2nd World War Museum to get a feel for the horrors faced. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I visited Gdansk and the shipyard (including some of its ships!) some years ago; an uncle used to work there and was stuck in an office when the Solidarnosc strikes started in August 1980 – he had some amazing stories! Lovely to see the city as it looks now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The National Maritime Museum was superb and I especially enjoyed being able to explore the ship. The Post Office Museum was fascinating too as it documented the bravery of its employees on the outbreak of the Second World War. Thanks so much for your welcome contribution Linda and hope you are enjoying a pleasant and sunny weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The National Maritime Museum looks really interesting, and its amazing to learn what an impact the seaport and boats had historically on the region as well. I am also in awe at the Monument honoring the sacrifices of the postal workers, especially in the WW2 time. I would definitely want to check out the Post Museum if I ever have the opportunity to travel to Gdansk. Thank you for sharing these photos and stories to provide a view of this part of the world!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so pleased to learn that you enjoyed reading this post on Gdańsk Allie. Both the National Maritime Museum and the smaller Post Museum were very interesting and we enjoyed our time there very much. Hope your weekend goes well and many thanks for commenting. Marion

      Liked by 3 people

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