After exactly 4 thousand 4 hundred and 44 kilometres, we found ourselves suddenly in the heart of Gdansk. The stage there was long for us (about 90km). Oscar had carefully planned the route so that we would encounter as little traffic stress as possible when entering the city (he couldn’t have known that we would have to drive over 10 km on uneven concrete slabs). But when out of nowhere we caught sight of a city gate, all was quickly forgotten and forgiven. When we saw the mileage on the computer it was complete.
We ate a nice ice cream and looked for our flat.
Gdansk is an old Hanseatic city and phenomenally picturesque. Actually, it is pretty much all “fake”, as 90% had been destroyed after World War II. They then rebuilt (or meticulously reconstructed?) the entire centre in original style. Nevertheless, fantastic to be there and walk through.
Since Torun (that came through the wars unscathed, so still original), the architectural style of churches and other “official” buildings is different from earlier in Poland. We are in the easternmost region of old Pomerania. Teutons and Prussians ruled here in different eras. Germans, in other words, and this is reflected in the architectural style. Robust brick buildings with stepped gables and similar finishes.
Wouter told us that Teutons were German knights who needed something to do after the last crusades and were sent by the pope to attack the then pagan Prussians. That was a tribe in northern Poland. We’re talking 12th or 13th century or so. There was an (already Christian) Polish ruler in the south who even invited them to come! And so they came and, as in the Levant, they massacred anyone who refused to become a Christian… And of course they didn’t leave and they didn’t recognise the authority of the Polish king either… but founded their own state. That caused fuss and bother and in the end the Polish king won.
The Prussian era plays from ~1700 onwards. No idea if they are really descendants of the original tribe. Anyway, Prussia managed to conquer much of the Baltic coast and hold it for say 125 years (until World War I).
Gdansk’s glory days, however, fell in the 15th and 16th centuries when the Dutch, with their thick-bodied and narrow-decked flutes, paid good money for the grain the Gdanskers gathered from their hinterland. Because the Danes levied tolls based on the width of the board, the Dutch were able to trade that grain at the best price in the rest of Europe and become very rich from it themselves. This laid the foundation for the Dutch golden age. win – win, in other words, for Holland and Gdansk.
Gdansk was doing so well then that the city operated more or less independently of any monarch. It is that period that the city’s rebuilders wanted to revive after World War II had in mind. The result we see today.
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