No, that’s not a reference to my enthusiastic sampling of Poland’s craft beer during my stay in Gdansk. The ‘Lush’ in question is of course my cardigan, which I managed to finish in time for my trip. Here I am wearing it at the European Centre for Solidarity, a worthy-sounding but actually completely excellent museum on the site of the famous Gdansk shipyards.
I really enjoyed knitting the cardigan and was delighted with how it came together – quickly and painlessly on the whole, although I did make a bit of a meal of the buttonbands, picking up too few stitches on my first attempt and having to rip them out. Also I’m the world’s worst at knitting on dpns; no matter how much I tighten the stitches you can see the ladders for miles, so my sleeves are less than perfect. Oh, and there was the small matter of only buying nine buttons when I’d actually made ten buttonholes…but quirks aside, it’s an easy-to-wear, nice looking knit with which I’m very happy.
Gdansk is in the north of Poland so it can get quite cold, but our weather was more of the damp and mild variety – perfect for a shorter-sleeved knit like Lush. Here I am enjoying my morning tea on the balcony of our apartment, a modern, airy space called Apartment Lastadia. The old town, with its long, pedestrianised main street and beautiful, baroque buildings – most of which are exact reconstructions of those destroyed in the war – was a mere ten minute walk away.
The Baltic has amazing resources of amber, and Gdansk is a treasure-trove of amber jewellery – it’s everywhere! One narrow, cobbled lane called Mariacka Street is lined with amber boutiques, their wares beautifully displayed outside in illuminated glass cabinets, which makes for a magical sight when you walk along at dusk.
At the centre of the old town is St Mary’s Church, one of the largest brick-built churches in the world. Whilst not particularly beautiful it’s certainly impressive, and a climb to the top of the tower (400 steps) reveals fantastic views of the old town and beyond. We were very excited to be able to see our ‘house’ (just to the right of the green spire)!
Central European food is hearty, stodgy and not to everyone’s taste, but I love a good pierogi (these are dumplings with a wide range of fillings) and we had some excellent ones at Pierogarnia U Dzika on Piwna. We also enjoyed some lovely, coffee filled times just down the street in Retro Cafe, ‘Pistachio Indulgence’ being my favourite caffeinated tipple. The cosy interior was so inviting on a grey afternoon.
But the Solidarity Museum I mentioned at the start was my favourite thing in Gdansk. As far as ‘cold war’ museums go it’s definitely the best one I’ve been to – and believe me, I’ve been to a lot! It tells the story of the Solidarity movement, from its bloody beginnings in 1970, when 42 shipyard workers were killed by government troops during a strike, through the rise of Lech Walesa and Solidarity’s triumphant victory in 1980, followed by a brutal crackdown by the Polish govenment and the imposition of martial law, to the eventual crumbling of communism in 1989. What could’ve been a dry, dispiriting tale was transformed using imaginative exhibits and vivid displays into something inspirational.
The hats of shipyard workers decorate the ceiling of one exhibit
Whilst the Polish press refused to cover events in its own country, the world’s media enthusiastically chronicled Poland’s fight for freedom from oppression
The actual gates of the shipyard which were rammed by government tanks
during a protest
The museum seemed to be hugely popular with young Poles, often couples, who made up the bulk of the visitors. It’s no mean feat to make history accessible and engaging to the younger generation – the curators have done an excellent job.
So, I hear you ask, what of the enthusiastic sampling of Poland’s craft beer? Well, I can happily report that Gdansk has a small but healthy craft beer scene, and that we partook of this keenly. All in all, a great trip!