Elblag – east of Gdansk

Seldom people go there. Even the Poles consider the town to be not interesting.

And it is on the contrary.

Elbląg has been nearly completely destroyed not only by the Soviets during the last stage of war. But also by Poles – right after the fights. The still existing buildings, that survived the Red Army’s wild march were pulled down, and the good quality brick has been taken to rebuild Warsaw and Gdansk.

Such was the sad story and fate of many towns and villages in former East Prussia.

World War II did not effect the region – until the end of 1944. First there was the German frenzy of evacuation in winter 1944/1945 – sentencing their own people to death (winter and dreadful conditions) and then the march of the victorious Red Army. And finally the new people, who were settled here by the communists after the war. They were the people who were expelled by the Soviets from the lands seized from Poland after WWII… It was not their history, not their place on earth.

Still not everyone understands the rich and complicated history of this land. Still there is a lot to do as far as rebuilding is concerned (I also mean rebuilding the mentality).

But what has been already done is amazing.

For years Elbląg has been one of the biggest in Europe proving grounds for the archaeologists. Here for the last ca. 20 years the digging and research has shown such incredibly rich face of the city, that we sometimes are surpised.

Also the area – the near and far vicinities of the town revealed the secrets of the past. Some of the artifacts can be found in the Town Museum. It has been organized very interestingly – so it is worth visiting.

Elbląg today is a town often visited by Mennonites (it has still two former Mennonite Churches). Why Mennonites? Well, the land around the town we all owe to those People of Hard Work.

It also was a very important place in the earlier times.. Not speaking of the Teutons, who built here a mighty castle. Some historians say that this was to be the capital instead of Malbork. But it was important also later – in the 16th and 17th centuries it was a site of the Eastland Company… No wonder therefore that there were so many English surnames in the history of this once Hanseatic town… The history is so rich and complex, that it definitely is worth visiting the town, at least for a day, or two 😉

Today Elbląg has many fine small hotels, spelndid cuisine, and geographical situation such, that it is near everywhere from here.

Many of my tours start from Elbląg – heading to the east or nort-east of Poland.

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Gdansk – neither rash nor timid

Gdansk is a city with a long and very interesting history.

Its beginnings date back to the 10th century – when the first written mention about the city appeared. It was here that the part of the famous ancient Amber Route ended.

Gdansk went through good and bad times in its history – twice had been a Free City, and for a long time was the most important and the wealthiest in the former Polish Kingdom. The town belonged to the Hanseatic League, and was a site of the Eastland Company for some time.

Gdansk – former name Danzig – very much contributed to the history of Poland as well as Europe.

Here the August strikes of 1980 happened, the Solidarity Trade Union was established as a movement, which completely changed the political status of Eastern Europe. It was here that the effect of domino started…

The Berlin Wall would have collapsed anyway – as Europe’s mentality has changed… But it might have taken longer to happen – if not for Gdansk.

I realised the importance of my City – when the Berlin Wall was falling. My boss (I was working then at the Gdansk Television Dept.) asked me to organise accomodation for journalists from Gdansk. Nobody wanted to talk to me in Berlin. It was a day or two before the great ceremony. I said I called from Danzig, where the struggle for freedom started, from the town of Lech Walesa

And.. I got the accomodation at once!

Come and see the City of Freedom, the City of magnificent history and architecture. It is a perfect start for tours, it has many hotels, and pensions, good restaurants and cafés. And what is most important – it has an international airport 🙂

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 11:49  Leave a Comment  

Gdansk – a good apetizer

“Gdansk as an appetiser” tour is perfect for people coming just for a day or two. It is perfect for those who want to see the most significant places of Gdansk, and maybe visit one chosen museum.

The highlights of Gdansk show the best parts of the city in the limited time one has, and gives the opportunity to say “I have been there”, or “I saw its beauty”. . .

I tailor the tour so that unforgettable memories will be taken home. And definitely one will want to come back when having more time.

Besides – I was born in Gdansk, and my family (part of it) settled here in the 17th century. So WHO better could show the beauty and magic of this town 🙂

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 11:12  Leave a Comment  

German Concentration Camp – Stutthof

Today Stutthof is a little village on the Vistula Spit, and a summer resort.

It has a long, turbulent and very interesting history. In the past part of it had belonged to the Schopenhauer family (the parents of the famous German philosopher).

In 1939 however the Nazi regime changed the sleepy village into a nightmare. They prepared a camp first for the Polish intellectuals from the region – but soon it became an international extermination camp.

Poland was attacked in 1939 first by the Germans and then by the Russians. Both were well prepared to the occupation of the Polish state. The Germans opened and organized the concentration camps in the occupied Poland, the Russians sent Poles into Russia.

The Germans aimed Stutthof to be the concentration and death camp for the people living in the eastern-central Europe. The detailed history can be seen in the Museum.

In the area of 120 ha about 110 000 people were kept prisoner: men, women and children; citizens of 28 countries and over 30 nationalities. 65 000 lost their lives as a result of tortures, malnutrition and other inhuman conditions.

The camp was freed on the 9th of May 1945, by the 48th Army of the 3rd White Russian front.

Today it is a Museum of Martyrdom.

It is a difficult and hard tour, but a place worth seeing. To realize what a human can do to a human…

I do not attach any pictures of the today’s Museum – as I somehow did never think of taking any…

And one more – very important thing:

Very often especially the US magazines and newspapers tend to call the Concentration Camps that the Germans opened and run in Poland – the Polish Camps…

You can read here – how Mr. Alex Storozynski made it very clear that this is an unbelievable ignarance of history.

Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 09:52  Comments (5)  

Torun – come and touch the gothic

Torun is a jewel. Such can be the most succinct description of this unique town.

Torun is one of very few towns in Poland – not destroyed during the Second World War. And as such – it guarantees the same spirit as in the former times.

Torun is a town of exquisite details…

It also is known as the place where the famous astronomer – Nicolaus Copernicus was born. But not everyone knows about Frederic Chopin in Torun 😉

The history of Torun (Thorn) can be shortened to few sentences:

*   established by the Teutons,

*   flourished within the Polish Kingdom during the so called Golden Age,

*   taken from Poland during Partitions,

*   returned to Poland after WWI.

But Torun is about more than splendid history – now it is a city of a well-known University, and it is one of the Polish UNESCO sites. It has many small but cosy hotels, and very good quality cuisine.

Generally Torun is called the quintessence of gothic.

And – one more thing: Torun is famous for its … gingerbread.

Toruń is an absolute MUST when in Poland.

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Frombork – at the world’s end

Frombork is a little town inhabited by merely 2, thousand people…

This is the town where the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus lived, worked on his De Revolutionibus and finally died in 1543.

After his grave was found in 2005, this little town “at the world’s end” (quoting Copernicus) became popular among tourists.

Frombork is located on the Vistula Bay. Good transportation connection, and splendid location make it a good and interesting place to visit.

For more about this absolutely MAGIC place on Earth see HERE.

I have become bewildered by this place long ago, when I was preparing to some guiding exams. My love for the place has not changed since…

There are many details in the Frombork Kathedral  – which makes it unique on the art and architectural map of Europe. I would love to explainin this to you – as nowhere else in Europe you may find SUCH ideology. Medieval ideology….

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 09:00  Leave a Comment  

Elbląg Canal – sailing and riding the boat…

Elbląg Canal…

There is no other such place in the world.

Nowhere else – one can both sail and ride a boat.

The system of inclined planes and locks – built in the 19th century by Gearg Jacob Steenke, allows us to perform a trip which gives unforgettable memories. The total height of the 5 inclined planes is nearly 100 meters.

We are still awaiting the Canal to be listed by UNESCO as a memorial to world culture inheritances.

In the past it was called Oberland Canal, as it flows through the remarkable part of today’s Poland. It has an exceptionally rich history. It was not far from here that the Goths: the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths established a dwelling centre… It is still hard to believe that from here they wandered off to siege the power of Rome.

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 08:31  Leave a Comment  

Malbork Castle night tour

This tour one is really a hit !!

This is an absolutley private night tour of Malbork Castle. In the evening – the whole place is quiet. And dark… The only sound is the Gregorian chant from somewhere behind the thick walls… 🙂

It is easier to see the details of the castle in the evening – when the light is focused on them. With the darkness and night silence of the place – it also is easier to understand the phenomenon of medieval life. Some people say – it is easier to hear the sound of past centuries…

Of course the tour is available only betweem the half of Septemebr and half of April, but even though it is sometimes really cold – it still is an unforgetable event. It lasts about 1,5 hrs. It is also possible to arrange a dinner in the Castle Restaurant

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 08:00  Leave a Comment  

About TOURS

Steve Rudd asked me about my tours, where could he find some hints about where I guide…

And I had a problem – what to point. Because besides my short essays (or whatever I might call those scirbblings here) I have no place to direct to my tours. I tailor them – this is true. Everytime I do a tour precisely constructed to the needs of a group. However I also have some tours ready. I have been performing them for years, modifying them en route, but the general stem remains unchanged.

So here they are…

1. Elblag – east of Gdansk

2. Elbląg Canal – sailing and riding the boat…

3. Frombork – at the world’s end

4. Gdansk – a good apetizer

5. Gdansk – neither rash nor timid

6. German Concentration Camp – Stutthof

7. Malbork Castle (an absolute MUST when in Poland)

8. Malbork Castle night tour

9. Torun – come and touch the gothic

10. There are also tours in former East Prussia – i.e. in Poland’s northeast region. But those demand a bit of work to describe them 😉

Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  

Malbork Castle (an absolute MUST when in Poland)

Malbork Castle was built between the 13th and 15th centuries as a main site of the Teutonic Order. They established a monastic state – the only such entity in medieval Europe. With the capital in Malbork (Marienburg), it comprised of approximately 67 thousand square kilometres (I think it is ca. 25869 sq. miles). The power of the Black Crosses ruled until the Battle of Grunwald (known in the history as the First Battle of Tannenberg) which took place 15th July 1410.

I shall not write all the history of the Prussian Crusades here – as it is best to hear it in an entertaining manner while sightseeing with me.

Generally – the history of the castle very well illustrates the rise and fall of the Teutonic power. Today – it is one of Poland’s UNESCO sites. An absolute MUST when in Poland.

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Published in: on 12/12/2011 at 07:20  Comments Off on Malbork Castle (an absolute MUST when in Poland)