It was a work friend who put me on to Poland as a holiday destination, back in 2018. She’s Polish, and like lots of other people she waxed lyrical about Krakow. She explained how newly easy it was to get there with Wizz Air’s new regular Poland-Yorkshire flight route. I was delighted, when I checked it out, to discover that Gdansk flights were even cheaper than Krakow ones. I got return flights for four of us for an October half-term quick two-day break, and had change from £150.
The city was rainy and cold when we arrived, quite late at night, into soggy darkness. It wasn’t the best start. My teenage children were tired and grumpy and there was no point in doing anything other than ordering a taxi. So that’s exactly what we did. Straight to the door of the booking.com flat, which I’d basically chosen by putting a pin in a Google map.
The apartment we’d rented was classic midcentury eastern European. Dark wood, high ceilings, bright fabrics. I loved the decor instantly. What I also loved was the fact that it was £25 a night. Poland, as we learned on that first £4 taxi ride from the airport, was – due to the exchange rate – an incredibly cheap place to visit.
On the first day, our priority was breakfast. We ventured out of the apartment into a wet, but surprisingly pretty cobbled street. There are little cafes and bistros everywhere, so we dashed – hoods up – into the nearest one with table space. Everyone had a big breakfast, with juice and hot drinks, and it was something ludicrous like £13.
As we left the cafe the rain was siling down, way more than an annoying bit of drizzle, and we knew we really needed to do something undercover for a while. Thankfully, we were but a hop, skip and rainy jump from the architecturally imposing, stylishly designed Second World War Museum. Fun times! Actually, it was a brilliantly curated museum. I’ve been to holocaust memorials in Berlin and Budapest, and the one in this museum was definitely the most educational. The teens were very taken with the virtual reality exhibition in particular.
After the museum, the sun broke through the clouds a bit. We had lunch at the apartment and then wandered around the town. It’s just so pretty. The pastel riverside buildings reminded me of Copenhagen.
In the evening, it was drizzling again so we found a restaurant quite close to the apartment. Beautiful food, and again, laughably cheap. £26 for four of us, including wine and beer for the adults. Then the teenagers went back to the flat and my husband and I found a tiny, dark little bar for another drink.
Day two had far better weather. We took the train (I love trains. Have I mentioned?) to Sopot, a beach resort about an hour from Gdansk. It’s like a Disney town, with colourful shop fronts, a wide white sandy beach, and classic shuttered buildings along the promenade.
Even in the cold weather, it was stunning. I’d love to go back during the summer. I’m sure it would be a hundred times more busy, but those beaches are something else. (So was the ramen we bought in a little noodle bar near the station).
After a long walk along the coast, back on the train we went for some more Gdansk sightseeing. The rain had well and truly cleared up now. We’d intended to go to another museum, but it was such a novelty to have clearer skies, we just wandered around a bit more and bought ice cream for the teens.
And that was Gdansk. We were only there two days, and on the first rainy morning, I did wonder if we’d done the right thing traipsing so far for such a small amount of time. In the end, though, we loved it. If travel ever becomes the taken-for-granted, easy luxury it used to be, I would love to go back for longer and in better weather.
I have deliberately said not one word, not one WORD in this piece about the miserable spectre of Brexit, which was looming when we visited but has now snapped decisively down while our backs were turned and our eyes were on the pandemic. One crisis at a time, yeah?