Gathering the last of my things and closing the door to my apartment for the final time, I pull my suitcase towards the steps and drag it down the flights to the front of the apartment building.
My last glimpses of Warsaw are through the tinted windows of my transfer van. Where did those weeks go? There was still so much of Warsaw I hadn’t explored yet, I thought as the streets whizzed past. I was sad to be leaving Warsaw, and especially sad to be saying goodbye to my cousins.
Boarding my flight to Gdansk for my remaining days in Poland, I reflect on the last four and a half weeks. I’ve heard many Poles say that Poland is a beautiful country, but I didn’t see much of that beauty myself last time – as most tourists to the country wouldn’t during their whirlwind adventures. This trip round though, I can definitely understand what they mean and it has whetted my appetite for further visits.
This time of the year is a big deal for Gdańsk, so I couldn’t leave Poland without taking the short one hour flight to Poland’s north. In the scheme of things, Gdańsk had a lot to do with my family’s journey too.
I arrive at my Air BNB in Ulica Ogarna on the outskirts of the old town, and once I finally get inside the apartment building, struggling hideously with the code system on the front door, the most gorgeous little apartment awaits me, with a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge!
My funds are dwindling at this stage of the trip, so I will have to self-cater as much as possible for the next few days. I leave the apartment for a quick walk, hoping to come across a supermarket, and take in my first glimpses of Gdańsk at the same time.
I don’t have to go too far before I find a little Zabka, so I load up on cheese, bread, meat, eggs and salad vegetables with water, beer and a couple of snack bars. I’ve found it quite easy to make cheap, easy and quick meals in Poland. It’s helped me to maintain a tight budget so I can spend money on sightseeing and vodka. I’ve also found it a great way to practice my limited language skills. By sticking to the same one or two stores and making daily trips, the store attendants get used to me and learn to tolerate my language-mangling skills.
Groceries sorted, I set out for a beer in a place that my cousin Zuzia had told me about, a favourite cafe of hers, called Jozef K. Named after a character from a Franz Kafka novel, the cafe’s interior oozes a boho chic cross hipster vibe, with comfy sofa chairs and dim lighting. I’m unable to locate the beer I wanted on the menu, but when I asked for it at the bar, they served me one straight away. The beer was a light one, probably a pale ale, and was mingled with elderberry. A tasty combination for a summer’s day. I take a seat on the small alfresco balcony, looking around at the stunning rennaissance-styled architecture that surrounded me.
For the remainder of the afternoon, I explore Gdansk’s streets, seeking out all the things the city is known for – the Crane, mini Hewelions and those beautiful dutch-looking townhouses. One such icon is Neptune’s Fountain and the story behind it is very cool. It’s said that people used to throw gold coins into the fountain in the search for financial luck. Neptune got sick and tired of this and struck his trident down into the bottom of the fountain in anger, smashing the gold coins into gold dust. This, is how Gdansk ended up with its famed Goldwasser.
I stood some time under an archway listening to some brilliant local buskers, playing a piece that I knew and loved but whose name escaped me. It was all very romantic, but I had left Warsaw’s heat behind and the Gdansk afternoon was coming in cool.
My last stop of the afternoon was the tourist bureau where I picked up a folded tourist map that would come in very handy for what I had planned tomorrow. Back at my apartment, I cooked up a mini feast and settled in with my wine to watch Polish tv.