The Baltic city of Gdansk is not renowned for being pretty, even if the Hanseatic period walled old town is certainly picturesque.
Entering the Golden Gate into the cobbled square of the old town, you get a real sense of merchants and rich cargo, a real display of wealth of bygone years.
You could imagine yourself in Amsterdam or Rotterdam as the typically Dutch style Hanseatic narrow buildings with their gabled roofs look down upon you.
Take a wooden masted schooner tour to Westerplatte, scene of the first angry shots of World War II or view the amazing man-powered hamster wheel winch that used to load and unload tons of cargo off tea clippers & grain barges.
My own personal favourite is a visit to the historic shipyards, home of the Solidarity Union, Lech Walesa and the labour protests that did so much to bring down the Berlin Wall.
What started as a dispute over the dismissal of an outspoken union member was to escalate into a huge pro-democracy movement across the Iron Curtain countries that ultimately led to the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
You are able to freely walk around the mud and grime of the working shipyard (zero health & safety consideration when I went) to watch ship repairs and dozens of cranes loading and unloading.
There is aso a small museum to Solidarity. The small gold statuette you can see belonged to Walesa and sat on the table in front of him as he successfully negotiated Poland’s independence. It is now therefore a symbol of freedom.
Gdansk is one part of what is known as the tri-city, encompassing Gdynia and the trendy beach resort of Sopot, all a stone’s throw from one another.
Finally, Gdansk is a gateway to the intriguing Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a three-four hour bus ride away (organise your 72-hour tourist visa first though).