Saturday, January 31, 2015

21 January 2015 - Sightseeing in Gdansk, a little bit of both worlds

Only two other travelers were present in my hostel room, even though there was space for seven more. They didn't snore, which made me have a comfortable first night sleep in Gdansk. After a simple breakfast I got ready for a snowy day of sightseeing, now for the first time in rather greyish day light. Nevertheless, the wealth of colors covering the entire old town was marvelous. Gdansk somehow feels familiar, so I've been thinking what exactly it could be that makes this place so comfortable. In my opinion the tall mansions to be found in Gdansk's historic city center resemble the ones in Amsterdam, however, the colors used to decorate these mansions and the abundance of sculptures adorning the house fronts do not particularly fit this Dutch style. The intense colors can be seen in for example the suburbs of Estonia's second biggest city Tartu; these just not that ordinary colors that make you frown for a while and think "alright, that's something else, nice!". The ornaments, especially consisting of serious faces, reminded me of the Art-Nouveau capital of the North: Riga. When getting off the beaten tourist tracks into the suburbs of Gdansk I felt like walking around in my student city Kaunas. This raw edge and not too perfect architectural esthetics do have something charming though. So, basically Gdansk managed to unite a little bit of my roots with a little bit of the Baltic area I feel so much at home because of the large amount of study and work experiences gained there. 

It was not really that crowded on the streets, maybe because of the weather and the fact that most people were at work. In order to warm myself a bit I had a look at a large shopping mall. There was nothing really exciting to check out, as most of the shops consisted of what I would call disposable clothes. I was surprised (or, actually not) to see yet another branch of the German drugstore chain Rossmann. They seem to have conquered a monopoly position in Poland when it comes to selling shampoo's and creams, to be found on basically every single corner in town. I enjoyed strolling through a supermarket located in the basement of the shopping center. It's always fun to check out foreign diary, chocolate and bakery sections.

On my way out to the coldness again a salesman managed to get me to his stand. Fully passionate he told me about his titanium plated hair straightener and how cheap (from 200-something to 100-something euro's) it was. He guessed I was from Norway because of my hair color and outdoor shoes. Almost. When he discovered I'm Dutch he started off telling about his trip to modern Rotterdam. In the meanwhile he straightened my hair. I already own a proper hair straightener, so I knew already that I wouldn't buy anything. I could imagine though that some people would feel so pitiful for this kind guy that they would buy one anyways. All of a sudden a red faced drunk guy mingled in. He started shouting about voluminous hair out loud and then disappeared, being all confused. 

Along with my fancy hair and without having bought a hair straightener I discovered a touristy street packed with amber jewelry. As if I had not seen enough of that stuff in the Baltic countries yet. There were no tourists around, so the street looked like an abandoned film set. Every single door had an own stairway and every drainage tube was turned into a dragon face spitting out the melted snow from the rooftops. With the unavoidable darkness being in sight and the amber colors decorating the windows it turned out to be a magical place. Guess this whole atmosphere will be different during the busy summer months. Time for a soup-bowl sized cappuccino and the discovery of many free wifi signals in order to read about Gdansk's past.

That evening an orange blanket of fog covered the city center. I couldn't even see the tops of the churches anymore. What a mysterious yet safe little place. After all the walking that day I decided to get into bed early. I had the room all for myself, and with two low Polish male voices in the background I dozed off after a comfortable day of sightseeing in Gdansk.

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