GDAŃSK is a name known all over the world, but in Poland itself it is more common to refer to the area as the Tri-city, as it is composed of three cities that border on one another: Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia. Each city has its own distinct history and unique character: magnificent, historic GDAŃSK, the fashionable seaside resort of SOPOT and the bustling modern seaport of GDYNIA; and each commands a fierce local loyalty in its inhabitants.
Situated between the sandy beaches of the Baltic coast and the green hills of Kashubia, GDAŃSK is a fascinating city with a long, often turbulent history. Strategically located at the mouth of the Vistula, it was destined to become one of the largest and wealthiest trade centres on the Baltic coast. Its past grandeur as well as past scars are clearly visible in the historic centre of the city, which boasts impressive entrance gates and municipal buildings, imposing red-brick Gothic churches and elegant Renaissance patrician houses, carefully reconstructed after the fires of WWII. As a member of the Hanseatic League and the principal port of the powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Gdańsk was always a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. In its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, it attracted Dutch, Scandinavian, Scottish and English newcomers, who settled here, adding to the already multicultural mix of the German, Polish, Kashubian and Jewish population. Gdańsk’s connections with English literature date back to Shakespeare’s time, when the city had an Elizabethan theatre stage that was used by English itinerant players. This tradition is continued today by a Shakespearean theatre constructed on the historical site, which is host to the annual Shakespeare Festival. In the 20th century, Gdańsk was the scene of events of international importance. It was here that the first shots of WWII were fired on 1 September 1939, while more recently, the 1980 strike in the Gdańsk shipyard gave rise to the Solidarity movement, which was to bring about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
OLIWA, now a suburb of Gdańsk, used to be an independent town which had developed around one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in Poland, established in 1188. It is to the Cistercians that Oliwa owes its prime attraction: an austere Gothic cathedral housing a magnificent 18th century organ which, in addition to its 7,896 pipes and 110 registers, features moving, trumpet-blowing angels. The surviving monastery buildings date from the 14th to the 18th century, and include a delightful rococo Abbot’s Palace which is now a Museum of Contemporary Art, exhibiting works by modern Polish artists. The cathedral and palace are set in a beautiful park, parts of which date back to the 18th century. Oliwa is 10 minutes by tram from the conference venue, and on summer evenings there are regular organ concerts in the cathedral.
SOPOT, the smallest of the three cities, a fashionable spa and seaside resort, is 10 minutes away by a suburban train (SKM) from the conference venue. Sopot boasts not only beautiful beaches and Europe’s longest wooden pier, but also Monciak, the most fashionable pedestrian street in Poland, lined with restaurants and cafes. As the centre of nightlife in the Tricity, and the summer capital of Poland, Sopot may sometimes seem impossibly crowded, but if you stray off the beaten track you will discover a quiet, leafy town, with beautiful Art Deco houses set in lush green gardens. The forest that hugs Sopot from the west hides another of its attractions: a recently modernised open air amphitheatre, before WWII home to a Wagnerian festival and after it host to a song contest fondly remembered all around Eastern Europe.
GDYNIA, a quiet fishing village until 1921, was built from scratch in a mere five years as a Polish port to compete with the nearby Free City of Danzig. With its wide thoroughfares, impressive modernist architecture, and breezy waterfront promenades, Gdynia is an outstanding example of modernist urban and architectural planning. Today, Gdynia is a bustling modern city, offering not only beautiful beaches and walks, but some of the best restaurants and nightlife in the Tri-city.
For more details, as well as the most up-to-date information on accommodation, restaurants and cultural events, see: http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/gdansk (In Your Pocket also provides websites on Sopot, Gdynia and Kashubia).