A bit delayed, but we’ve been pretty busy. A few weeks ago, one of Zach’s co-workers, Anna, kindly invited us to tag along with her and her boyfriend, plus a few others, on a kayaking tour of the canals of Gdańsk. The day of, Anna and I got a bit carried away with sending memes back and forth about kayaking. As it turns out, my flash flood meme was quite fitting because there were some flash floods in Gdańsk a few days before.
Our tour began by paddling towards the edge of Stare Miasto, where we saw the remains of the old bastions that were part of the city’s defense system by land. The canal system near the bastions also included a mechanism where the lowlands outside of the city could be quickly flooded to impede an invasion.
After seeing the bastions, we made our way back towards the Old Town to start our loop around Wyspa Spichrzów (Granary Island). The island was carved out of the mainland near the harbor to store and trade grain coming from the grain growing regions of Poland. The island contained 300+ granaries and serviced about 200 ships per day. The Granary Island did not escape the destruction of WWII and only 3 granaries survived bombings and fires throughout the centuries. Restoration projects began several years ago to rebuild more granaries and transform them into new housing, hotels, museums, and restaurants.
After passing by the granaries and the main part of Stare Miasto, we started paddling towards the shipyard. For those of you who do not know, Gdańsk is known for its cranes, old and new.
The first crane that Gdańsk is known for is the Zuraw Crane, which is known for being the oldest and best-preserved wooden port crane in Europe. Built between 1442 and 1444, the crane had a lifting capacity of 4 tonnes to a height of 11 meters.
The second batch of cranes that Gdańsk is known for are located in the Stocznia Gdańska, or Gdańsk shipyard. This shipyard was founded in 1946 on the sites of 2 former German shipyards that were used during WWII. Throughout its history, the shipyard has produced trains, trams, small cargo ships, fishing trawlers, and naval ships.
In 1980, the shipyard, then known as Wasterplatte Heroes, became the backdrop for the Solidarity movement during the Communist rule of the Eastern bloc. Solidarność became the first independent, self-governing labor union to be recognized by the Soviet Bloc. Led by Lech Wałęsa, Solidarność organized a strike of 17,000 ship builders against the state-owned shipyard and started the even wider Solidarity movement to push Communism out of Poland. But that is a story for after we (finally) go to the Solidarity Museum.
The cranes in the half-abandoned shipyard are both haunting and fascinating to me. They certainly make for some beautiful silhouettes against the sunset!