Polish Tourist Trap

21 08 2008

Gdansk, Poland

If you want to know what Gdansk is like, then just picture a Polish San Diego. The place is flooded with both Polish and International tourists, which succeeds in packing the beaches and inflating the prices. But as with all popular tourist destinations, there’s a reason that it’s popular. Gdansk is definitely a beautiful and lively city located within an easy train ride to Sopot, clubbing capital of Poland. Thanks to the clubs and beaches, it’s easy to find young half-naked people milling about. Budget friendly it was not, but we did find that it was worth the visit (though maybe next time not in mid-July).

We kind of messed up on the hostel end of things because we reserved a cheap place that ended up being far enough outside of town that we had to take a bus to get into town. Adding on the bus fare to and from the city and it made up for any money we had saved. Oops. One odd experience was that our hostel was filled with Polish travellers. I guess I just think of hostels as where poor foreign budget travellers stay, but the Polish are practical people, so they grab up cheap dorm beds just as fast as the foreigners. In fact we had an entire family complete with a cute little curly blond kid and another family with some teenage boys staying there. Quite different from the family vacations I remember. Despite the non-stop raucous atmosphere we did make fast friends with some cool Finnish med students and a Slovenian history teacher (who all happened to be star Foosball players).

Gdansk was just as crowded outside of the hostel thanks to a crafts and beer festival. Much to Gage’s dismay, there turned out to be many more crafts than beer. The festival crowds moved down the street as fast as cold molasses, so we tried to avoid those streets as much as possible. Though we did brave the masses when we realized that there was some reasonably priced barbecue in the midst of the fray. Exceptions can always be made for food.

The busy streets and warm weather often led us to seek indoor refuge. This helped us to discover our fave aspect of Gdansk: the awesome cafes. Granted I haven’t been to Asia yet, but as far as I can tell this city has really mastered tea. Their coffee and hot chocolate is also beyond phenomenal. After a day of walking around the hot city streets, we popped into Pi Kawa where we relaxed on comfy chairs and Gage sipped coffee spiced with cardamom and cinnamon while I enjoyed some crazy green tea concoction with ginger, cinnamon, and several citrusy bits floating around in the cup. We stayed for two hours:)

Perhaps it was the crowds inside and outside of the hostel, or the tourist price hike, or the general craziness of Gdansk, but it only took two days before we started missing Torun. We just kept thinking of our last conversation with Monika when we said that we wished we could find a place in Torun to rent for a month and she said, “Or you could spend a month with me.” Well, long story short, after 5 days in Gdansk we turned back south to return to the lovely land of Gingerbread, with a quick stop in the Teutonic city of Malbork, but that’s for the next post.

Gdansk Suggestions:

  • If you want to avoid the heavy crowds on the beaches and hostels, visit Gdansk on the summer shoulder seasons of May and September. Otherwise you’ll want to book all accomodation early and expect to pay at least $20 per bed.

  • Avoid the inflated prices of at the English Unlimited bookstore and head to PolAnglo on Podwale Staromiejskie where you can find a good selection of classic and contemporary novels for reasonable prices. Or look for stores that say Antykwariat which sell used books. They often have at least one shelf of English books.

  • While the teahouses/cafes in Gdansk are excellent and often provide a great atmosphere, some have insane prices. Avoid the cafes on Dluga street and head to Piwna Street where you can find great places like Pi Kawa.

  • The milk bar on Dluga street is crowded and is the most expensive milk bar you’ll every visit. You’ll find more reasonable prices at the milk bar on the corner of Szeroka and Weglarska.




One response

21 08 2008

Talk about experiences! The domicile there in Gdansk sounds like it was, ah, interesting.

Your bunking with two families, to include young children, got me thinking about how the root of the word hostel and the word hostage is exactly the same.

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