It was a cold windy day, with occasional rain and with the sun sometimes peeking out from between the clouds. So it felt very nice when we would stop to see a sight while being in the sun. This was the case when we stood on the bridge on the river Motlawa outside the Green Gate – which was at the end of the main street (Long Market). It was built in the 16th century.
Green Gate and Palace
It includes a palace which was made for the king. Funnily – neither the gate was green nor the king ever stayed in that palace! Why you ask? The gate probably got its name from the wooden draw bridge that used to be on the river here which must have been mossy, hence green. As for the king not staying there – that is more easy to guess. The place had fishermen selling their fishes, hence, it must have been very smelly. Sulphur was a major item being traded – another smelly issue. And thirdly, the place was lined with taverns where loud, brash sailors would spend their time when in town. Definitely not a place fit for the king. So the palace was there just for namesake.
Thereafter, we moved along the river, towards another landmark of Gdansk – the Crane.
It had two huge wheels that we could see. Four heavily built men used to stand in each wheel (probably like a hamster), and thus, the wheels rotated (gravity played an important role). The chains linked to the wheels thus, uploaded or offloaded the cargo from the boats. It was a legit job at the harbor – no prisoners or slaves were involved. The workers got a daily payout of money and beer! Yes, you read it right – beer. The reason being the high calories in beer which were required to replenish the energy for the workers (besides being better than unclean water).
While walking on the streets we also got to know about some of the famous people born in Gdansk – Fahrenheit being one of them. The current President of the European Council – Donald Tusk is from there.
On that note, let me come to the 20th century. We reached this building which was the Post Office of Free city of Gdansk established in 1920, after the Treaty of Versailles. Now this post office was unusual than others because it was not just for post. The postal workers were secretly trained for defending the city.
And on the 1st of September, 1939, 4 AM, the fears came true when the German army invaded Poland. So this became the place where the first shots of WWII were fired. The German army was taken aback because they were not expecting any resistance, it being a post office with just 56 people! The battle continued until 3 PM when the Germans declared a ceasefire, expecting the defenders to surrender. The brave defenders decided not to surrender, unaware (because of the phone and electricity lines having been cut by the Germans already in the beginning of the battle) that the whole country was under attack by then and the army won’t be able to come for their help. But they couldn’t continue for long, after the basement was filled with gasoline and set to fire with a grenade! First the director came out with a white flag – shot by the frustrated German army, then the commandant tried again with a white flag – same fate as the director…then the rest were allowed to surrender. The German army had brought along journalists, thinking they would have occupied the post office in no time and could use this for their propaganda material. But the bravery of the soldiers didn’t make it that easy. What came out of this was the coverage of the whole battle. Not that it helped Poland but just that this unfortunate time of history was recorded in pictures. The surrendered soldiers were not immediately slaughtered but later were court martialled and put to death.
Fingerprints of surrendered soldiers on the left wall and the photo of that event straight ahead
After that we all know what happened in WWII.
At this place, the tour ended and we thanked our guide and took our leave. I wanted to go look at the second part of the history – post war and hence, the Solidarity Museum but unfortunately, it being a Monday, the museums were closed. Now that I think of it, I could have taken the walking tour about it but I was tired and cold. May be some other time for that. So I went to get myself some lunch and looked around a bit, went inside the church, braved the rain, got some Amber and then went back to my hotel. Relaxed there for some time before taking off for the flight that I had to take to go to my next destination – Krakow. Thus, comes to end my very slowly performed Polonaise.