As I mentioned yesterday, Westerplatte is the site where World War 2 began. The Westerplatte is a peninsula opening out to the Baltic Sea. Originally a local swimming spot, in the early 1800’s a health resort sprang up with close to 140,000 visitors a year. The resort included many medicinal baths used in the treatment of all sorts of ailments. It remained popular until the outbreak of World War I, where numbers started to decline before the League of Nations plans for the area put a final nail in the coffin.
I caught the bus out to what seemed quite a remote location. If it wasn’t that the buses were packed with people heading to the area, I would have been deeply concerned at the route the bus was taking. It seemed to be well out in the back-blocks.
I had no idea where to get off the bus, so I took the lead from a few others, which turned out to be the stop before Westerplatte and actually a great place to start exploring. It’s actually refreshing to see a historical site which remains relatively untouched, bar the explanatory noticeboards.
Speckled along the waterfront are out old bunkers, footings and a watchtower. People wandered here and there, climbing over and around the relics of the past, children and adults alike clearly wow’d by this hands on view of history.
At the end of the path, the area opened up to a carpark and closeby, a memorial stood awash with remembrance flames, candles and flowers.
In the carpark, the Museum of Gdańsk had a display of different war vehicles and you were allowed to climb all over them to get a good look. I’m not going to lie and say the sound of the rumbling tank didn’t excite me.
Further on from the tanks, uniformed persons were gathering to prepare for a re-enactment. I nestled myself into the front of the roped off section, securing myself a good spot for the show.
What a way to end my time in Gdansk – reliving the moment that changed the course of my family’s history forever.
For the rest of the day I wandered around Gdansk’s waterfront. Redevelopment was afoot and intermingled with old staples like the Crane and the Old Town Square, were new apartments, new roads and new development.
I made a final visit to the supermarket where I was complimented on my Polish skills (amazingly!) and picked up several Polish beers and headed back to my apartment to pack.
Five weeks in Poland was coming to an end. Time felt like it had gone quickly and slowly at the same time. And while I didn’t find out as much information on my grandparents as I would have liked, I saw and experienced their country. I experienced their lives before the war, I walked where they had walked and see some of what they had seen. I couldn’t have got closer to them if I tried.