Monday, August 7, 2017

Post 5: The Tri-Cities Area

Sopot, my base of operations in Northern Poland is a wonderful little town, but it's part of a larger area called the Tri-Cities (or Trójmiasto in Polish) and Sopot is one point of the tri-cities. Gdańsk is the big city a several miles to the south, and Gdynia is a big (but small compared to Gdańsk) city several miles to the north.

And in this episode of my Polish adventures, I'll show you around the tri-cities area.


Gdańsk is the big city of the tri-cities area with a population of nearly 500,000. If you look on maps that zoom out far enough, it'll be the last of the tri-cities whose label will disappear. It's Poland's largest seaport and the 4th largest city in Poland. It's also a name I had trouble pronouncing when I first arrived because with the heck is with that thing over the n?! It sounds like someone has a bad cold when they say the name. =) Actually, it's not as hard as a lot of other words I've had to deal with in Poland, and I doubt I sound like a native when I say the word, but nobody has trouble understanding me either.

A lion is the mascot of Gdańsk, and I decided to take a nap on this sleeping lion. =)

There's a lot of history to be found in Gdańsk. The city was founded in the 10th century and over the years has been under Polish rule--as well as periods of Prussian and German rule not to mention the time when it was as a "free city" (but not an independent country) between the two world wars and kind of shared between Germany and Poland.

At the edge of town, the fist shots of WWII were fired in the Battle of Westerplatte as German forces invaded Poland. The Germans, of course, would be defeated six years later, but only after 60 million people were killed, entire cities destroyed, and left scars that still haven't fully healed and perhaps never will.

After the war, the Soviets installed communist rule over Poland, but Gdańsk would be the birthplace of the Solidarity Movement which played a major roll in the end of communist rule, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the fall of the Soviet Union. To say that Gdańsk has had an outsized roll in European history would be a huge understatement!

Nowadays, the city is a bit more peaceful and a mix of industrial shipping and a tourist trap through the delightful downtown area.

This pretty doorway marks the entrance for the location where Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was born.
Yes, that Fahrenheit--of Fahrenheit fame! He was born right there in downtown Gdańsk.
It appears to be a regular apartment complex today so there's no museum or anything,
so I could only see the exterior. It's probably changed a lot since 1686, though!

I like the fact that they made a statue of a thermometer on its exterior. I also find it ironic
that they commemorate the man who invented the Fahrenheit scale even though nobody
in Poland actually uses the Fahrenheit scale. =)
After Karolina returned from a week in Prague with her mom, she was in town for the better part
of a week and took me out for after-school activities such as canoeing on the river
through downtown Gdańsk. (That's Karolina, obviously, in the boat ahead of me.)
If there's one landmark that people think of when they think of Gdańsk, it's probably this 15th-century crane called Żuraw. This people-powered device could hoist loads of up to 2,000 kilograms (4,400 pounds) making it the largest crane in medieval Europe. It was blasted into pieces at the end of WWII, but everything was carefully put back together and restored in the postwar decades.
Karolina might want to comment about this later in the comments because I don't really know much about it and wouldn't have known about it at all if not for her commentary! But apparently there's some famous story (in a book) about a woman in a window, and every day at 5:00 this woman (it's a mechanical one, not a real person) opens this window and looks out like the woman in the book does. It was kind of cool, but I wish I knew the story to fully appreciate the moment!
View from the top of St. Mary's Cathedral in the center of Gdańsk. The weather was kind of gray and cloudy,
but the views were still nice!
The photo on the left is an untouched photo I took from the top of the cathedral. It's a bit grey and drab--a combination of the poor weather conditions and crappy camera. The buildings in this area of Gdańsk were copied from Dutch cities like Amsterdam (I think it was a Dutchman who designed them?), so if you see a resemblance to Amsterdam, that's why!

But, for fun, I thought this might be a good photo to try to digitally manipulate with the tilt-shift effect which makes things look like a toy model. So I played around with it--saturated the colors, blurred the background and foregrounds, and it looks great! It totally looks like it could be a toy model! =)
Here's a bigger version of the photo, in case you wanted a better look at it. =) Just to remind you all, this is NOT a toy model! It's a real photo, of a real place that I digitally manipulated to look like an exquisitely-detailed toy model. =)
I was detained briefly for letterboxing without a permit, but eventually paid a fine and got out. (And if you believed any of that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you....)
I followed a seaside path walking to Gdańsk, and found these old military bunkers along the way. I wondered how much action these places saw during the Battle of Westerplatte.
The walk to Gdańsk along the water was a pleasant walk!
And included swans swimming and feeding along the shore.
The first shots of WWII took place just on the other side of this river.
It's a lot more peaceful now!
Is that monster sexually molesting the woman under this underpass?! Strange murals....
These large towers are a memorial about the Solidarity movement that began in the shipyards here.
This building was an old water-powered mill.
What the heck?!
These are the lions you saw me "napping" on earlier.
You can ride on old-fashioned sailing ships or a giant wheel! (I didn't do either. Sorry.)
A picture of that medieval crane--but on a clear day this time!
I found a Camino marker leading pilgrims through Gdańsk!
I could follow them all the way to Santiago! (But I didn't. Sorry!)
If some of these buildings make you feel like you're walking through Amsterdam, it's not a coincidence! These were very much designed to look like those found in Amsterdam.



A few miles to the north of Sopot is the second point of the tri-cities area with a population of about 250,000. It was nothing more than a small fishing village until the 20th century when it was developed into a small resort town. But the city didn't really take off until it was decided to build a Polish seaport here in the 1920s to get around the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk). Nowadays, it's known as the industrial town of the tri-cities, but there's still plenty of tourists on the beaches and shopping in stores!

The walk along the shoreline from Sopot to Gdynia is absolutely breathtaking!
Hint! There might be a letterbox nearby. ;o)
Plenty of views of the Baltic Sea along this walk!

My favorite places were these cliffside viewpoints!
I spent an hour with Andreas (another student at the school I went to who I mentioned earlier) goofing around at Jump City--a place full of trampolines that you can jump all over and help jump-challenged people like me totally dunk a basketball. ;o)
Gdynia also had its own old sailing ship on display.

I found this bed of flowers which I didn't think too much of at a glance until I noticed this sign on it.
The picture on the sign--that's how they arranged the flowers in the plot to look! =)
I had trouble getting a good vantage point to photograph the entire "mural," so this was the best I could do. But that sailing ship is clearly visible as well as the two birds in flight to the right of it. I bet it would have looked even better had the flowers been at their peak bloom, but I had no control over that!

Another after-school field trip included a trip to the Science Centre Experyment. Here, we had our heads superimposed on skeletons. The skeletons would actually move in the same way we did. (This place was a lot of fun and way cool! Totally worth it if you have the time and find yourself in the area. It's mostly set up for kids, but we enjoyed it!)
Karolina learns the proper way to brush one's teeth. =)
I try to push through a wheelchair obstacle course. I think the point of this exercise was to see the kinds of challenges people in wheelchairs can have getting around.

Another exhibit showed what I would look like when I turn 56 years old. OMG--that's only 15 years away and I'll look like that?! Yikes! Where the skin moisturizer! I need it NOW! =)
Oh, yeah... it gets worse.... *nodding*
I can't look anymore.... *shutting eyes* OMG--where did my eyes go?!
Do I lose my eyes in some sort of accident?!

They also had a camera set up to create simple, stop-motion movies. I had a much longer, more elaborate storyboard set up, but then I took 100 photos and the system stopped working. It had a 100 photo limit! So I had to edit my script much shorter. *nodding* I really want to do more of these, though. It was a lot of fun! =)



I've written about this town a bit already. It's the pip-squeak of the tri-cities with a population of about 40,000 and is known largely as a tourist hot spot, which is what it is! It has no large seaport or industrial areas like Gdynia or Gdańsk, and most maps I've seen that show all of Poland usually don't include Sopot. The Polish natives I talked to always knew where Sopot was located when I told them I had been there for five weeks, but other tourists and students I met while in Kraków usually did not. So it's a "famous" city, but not particularly famous outside of Poland. And I have some more photos I'll show of this area. =)

Remember when I first posted about Sopot and on my first day in town, I made a comment about all the people who were out, and she said that that was nothing--I should see it in the summer. Well, this is what it looked like shortly before I left town! It wasn't summer--not technically, at least--but it was a national holiday on Monday AND Wednesday, and a lot of people took off Tuesday from work to make themselves a five-day weekend. And these were the hoards of tourists that descended into Sopot that weekend. I have to imagine that THIS is what Barbara must have been talking about! I liked it better without these huge crowds, though.
That five-day weekend was really the start of the "summer tourist season." Not only did all those tourists invade the town, but this "pirate ship" started docking in Sopot to give joy rides around the Baltic Sea.
The pirate ship, "sailing" away. (Sorry the photo is so blurry. Not sure how that happened!)
I took this photo from the top of the lighthouse in Sopot hoping to apply that "tilt-shift effect" to the image, but it didn't really work out well. At least not as well as that photo from Gdańsk did!
Another view of the lighthouse, this time looking out over the Baltic Sea.
Another after-school activity with Karolina involved this nearby museum
that allowed us to dress up as warriors. Then Karolina and I staged a fight. =)

Karolina goes for the killing blow!

The fight with Karolina didn't turn out so well for me....
And there you have it.... plenty of fun things to do and see in the Tri-Cities area! Definitely well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Poland! =)


Grrly Girl said...

might it be this story?

Anonymous said...

Carolina...If you read this I want you to know I enjoyed your recent blog entry. ope you write more. I am enjoying learning about Poland.
Seagull ( my Letterboxing name)