Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Today I caught a bus from Kraków to the town of Cieszyn (Polish) or Český Těšín (Czech). The border between Poland and the Czech Republic runs through it, along the Olza River. Before WW1, as part of Austria-Hungary, it was known by the German name of Teschen. The architects of the post-war boundaries drawn up in 1920 between the newly created countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia, with the wisdom of Solomon, decided to split the nationality of the town in two. Fortunately, nowadays the town’s residents and visitors can move freely from one side to the other with no border checks. Polish currency is used on the Polish side and Czech currency on the Czech. I walked from the bus station in Czieszyn to the railway station in Český Těšín over this rather unprepossessing bridge.


As near as I can tell, the next photo shows me standing with my left foot in Poland and my right foot in the Czech Republic!

I had been thinking about walking between two countries (Slovenia and Italy) at one stage, but it never happened. But now I can boast that I have!

There didn’t seem to be much else to detain me here, so I caught the train to the Czech town of Olomouc. I have previously been to the Czech Republic, but only to the capital city Prague, in the region of Bohemia, whreas Olomouc is in Moravia. By the way, I find it annoying to have to say and write “Czech Republic” all the time. The alternative “Czechia” has been suggested, even by the Czech Government, but it hasn’t caught on in English. It looks and sounds odd somehow.

See you next time in Olomouc (pronounced “ollo moats”).


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Kraków 5

Saturday, 3 July 2010

It was great to come back to Kraków, one of my favourite cities on the whole trip.

I hadn’t realised, but the 10-day 20th Kraków Jewish Cultural Festival is finishing this weekend. One of the final events was a free concert tonight in Szeroka Street in Klazimierz, near my hostel, called “Shalom on Szeroka Street”, advertised as “the Jewish Woodstock”, so I went along to check it out. The headline band was “Septeto Rodriguez Cuban-Jewish All-Stars”.  The street was packed and enthralled, listening to the wonderful musical combination of Jewish klezmer melodies and latin rhythms.

At one stage Roberto Rodriguez (drummer and band leader/composer/arranger) exhorted the audience to “Shake your … toucan!”.

At least that’s what it sounded like to me. Could have been my hearing or his Cuban accent though. Anyway, I shook mine!

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Gdańsk 5

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Today I went for a day trip to Westerplatte, the site of the Nazi attack on 1 September 1939 that was the first battle of WW2. I could have got there slightly more cheaply by train, but it’s not every day you get to ride on a replica Spanish galleon (and it was only about A$15 for a return trip). I spent a few hours there and caught the next Spanish galleon back (40 minute trip).


The sign says in Polish “No More War”.

I am catching a sleeper train tomorrow evening to revisit Krakow, as I plan to eventually wind up back in Budapest from where I fly back to Oz (on 20 July).

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Gdańsk 4

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I followed the Roads to Freedom walking trail that led from a fragment of the Berlin Wall to the Monument to the Shipyard Workers.

Then I went on a day trip by train to the nearby beach resort of Sopot to get another look at the Baltic Sea (my first was in Lithuania).

At the train station was this sculpture.

It commemorates the Jewish children sent away from Gdańsk withut their parents (many to England) when the Nazi invasion seemed inevitable.

The pedestrian street leading down to the pier (the longest in Poland) and beach, with the “Crazy House”.

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Gdańsk 3

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I took an early morning train from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof station and arrived in Gdańsk in the afternoon. My hostel was near the attractive riverside waterfront. This is the Vistula River which has its source in southern Poland, in the western part of the Carpathian mountain range, flowing through Krakow, Warsaw and Gdańsk to the Baltic Sea.

Here is a potted history of Gdańsk.

In 1308 the Teutonic Knights seized Gdańsk from Poland. In 1466 the Knights were defeated and Gdańsk was returned to Polish rule.

In the 18th c., the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which for 200 years had been one of the most powerful states in Europe, found itself in a serious crisis. This led to its partition by its increasingly mighty neighbours, Russia, Prussia and Austria. Gdańsk came under Prussian rule in 1793.

In 1807, during the Napoleonic wars, Gdańsk was proclaimed a free city under the guardianship of Saxony and Prussia. In reality however the city was controlled by the French. On May 27 1807, following a two month seige the French captured Gdańsk. The French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte made a ceremonial entrance into the city through the Upland Gate (as he also did through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin).  Following Napoleon’s defeat in Russia, Gdańsk soon found itself in the middle of military conflict again. The  Gdańsk fortress held out against the Russians for 10 months in 1813.

The Congress of Vienna gave Gdańsk back to Prussia in 1815. In 1871 Prussia became a united Germany, a period during which Gdańsk became a beach and spa resort (Danzig) visited by German and Polish holidaymakers.

After WW1 Germany lost Gdańsk Pomerania, Greater Poland and part of Upper Silesia to Poland, which was reestablished as a nation (on 11 November 1918). The Treaty of Versailles established the Free City of Gdańsk on 28 June 1919 under the protection of the League of Nations. Poland represented the  Free City of Gdańsk in the international arena and also contolled its customs, postal and telecommunication functions.

East Prussia, around Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad) was consequently separated from the rest of Germany to the west of  Gdańsk. But independent Poland had regained access to the Baltic Sea only through Gdańsk. In May 1933 the Nazi Party came first elections in Gdańsk, winning power in the city. The Nazis organised rallies demanding Gdańsk’s incorporation into Germany and shouted anti-Jewish and anti-Polish slogans. On 30 June 1933, Adolf  Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich and created a totalitarian state. On 26 January 1934 Hitler signed the German-Polish non-aggression pact. On 23 August 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a German-Soviet non-aggression pact which contained a secret protocol to conquer Poland and partition it.

On 25 August 1939  the battleship Schleeswig-Hollstein arrived in  Gdańsk harbour on the pretext of a courtesy visit concealing hundreds of soldiers below deck. In the early hours of 1 September 1939 it started shelling Westerplatte, which was defended by Polish troops, proving to be the first shots of WW2.The next day dive bombers joined in the attack. The Poles resisted for a whole week until their surrender on 7 September 1939. On 21 September 1939 Hitler arrived in Westerplatte to announce that  Gdańsk and Polish Pomerania had been returned to the Third Reich. The rest of Poland quickly succumbed to a German invasion.

After defeat of  Germany in WW2, much territory in the former east of Germany (including  Gdańsk) was awarded to Poland, which lost territory on the other side (including the city of Lwow) to the Soviet Union.

In post-WW2 communist Poland,  Gdańsk and especially its shipyard workers were prominent in opposing government policies. 44 workers were killed in riots in December 1970 and a monument was erected to their memory in 1980.  The Solidarity trade union movement established during the 1980s was instrumental in the downfall of the communist government by 1990.

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

I have been in Gdańsk (Danzig in German) for three days. I am taking the sleeper train to Kraków tomorrow evening. Gdańsk has been pleasant and interesting. The internet connection in my hostel is a bit dodgy so I will wait until I get to Kraków before I do a full post with pics.

I am planning to work my way back to Budapest where I have booked my flight back to Melbourne on 20 July (arriving 21 July). I hope to spend the whole last week before my return in Budapest.

I am quite looking forward to my second winter this year. I am told it has been rather colder than the last few. But with my European winter (with  snow!)  experience, and all the warm winter clothes I have collected, I think I will breeze through! I will miss the European hot-water-pipe-central-heating-system though. I will buy a couple of hot water bottles as number one priority.

Do widzenia!

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