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Photos from our exhausting trip which started in Kaohsiung with the bus trip to Taipei Airport, and ended at the railway station in Gdynia, near Gdansk in Poland. It took 40 hours. We traveled by bus from Kaohsiung to Taipei, then flew from Taipei to Frankfurt in Germany, then caught a high speed train from Frankfurt to Berlin, a regional train from Berlin to Angermunde near the Polish border, (which we only caught with 2 minutes to spare), then another German regional train from Angermunde to Szczecin, just inside Poland, then finally a four hour trip on a Polish train from Szczecin to Gdynia, near Gdansk. Our China Airlines flight flew over Northern Siberia inside the Arctic Circle, so you will see photos of Northern Siberia still covered in snow despite it being late Spring. Also, even though we left Taipei at 11:45pm, just before midnight, three hours later the sun was rising over Eastern Siberia, and from that point we only saw darkness again about 24 hours later, just before we got to Gdynia.

150 files, last one added on Jul 05, 2008



Finally we are in Gdansk, in the suburb of Oliwa where our friends Barbra and Marek live. Barbra is an Aussie English teacher who I met in Radom in 2004, while I was teaching English there, and Marek was my flatmate there from December 2004 to July 2005. I ended up introducing them, and now they were getting married on the 31st May. The park near their flat was Park Oliwski or Oliwa Park, a very beautiful park.

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Our first visit to the beautiful town centre or "centrum" of Gdansk. The city where the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe was spawned with the creation of the Solidarity Trade Union by Lech Walesa, the shipyard electrician, and the first shots of World War II were fired. This album features the Mariacka or St Mary's Cathedral, with it's magnificent views from it's baszta or tower. When it was first built in 1493, after construction was started in 1343, it was a Catholic church, but then from 1529 to 1945 it was Protestant. After being destroyed in World War II, like 90% of Gdansk's Centrum, it was rebuilt and reverted back to being a Catholic church after more than 4 centuries. Furthermore, the whole of Gdansk's Centrum was reconstructed after the War exactly as it was before.

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Poland's Trojmiasto or Triple City is made up of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia. Sopot is a beautiful Baltic seaside town with the beautiful Grand Hotel built in 1924. Sonia and I had lunch there, ...well sort of. We ate crackers there on the park seat, the only way we could afford to have lunch there. Barbra told us that she once paid 20 zloty or $10 Australian for a lousy cup of tea with a tea bag in it at a job interview, as it was the only thing that was affordable on the menu. But that aside, it is really beautiful along with the parks which looked just gorgeous in the Polish spring. One photo shows a sign saying "Zakopane 790 Km", which is of course on Poland's southern border with Slovakia in the Tatra mountains. In other words, on the opposite side of the country. Near the end of our trip we would make it to Zakopane which had the corresponding sign in it's Centrum: "Sopot 790 Km"!!

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Our second day at the Gdansk Centrum. We first visited St Bridgette Church, which was the church of worship and sanctuary for the members of the Solidarity Trade Union. Inside is a monument to Father Jerzy Popieluszko , who was murdered by Polish Secret Police in 1984. Next we visited the Post Office Museum, which was the scene for some of the most dramatic events of the first days WW II. For 15 hours the postal workers resisted the Nazi onslaught on the 1st September 1945, before being overwhelmed. The museum commemorates their heroism. However, photos were hard to take, with various KGB minders telling us at first we can't take photos, then saying we could, then saying we can't. Personally, I could not see the problems with taking photos, as most of the museums allowed you to photograph, albeit sometimes minus the flash

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The magnificent Teutonic Knight's Castle at Malbork, about one hour's train ride south of Gdansk. It was built in the early 1300's and in 1309 it was made the capital of an independent Germanic state setup by the Teutonic order. In 1457 the castle was taken by Poland and used as a fortress. This castle is one of the grandest in Europe.

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The beautiful Oliwa Cathedral which was very close to where we stayed with Barbara and Marek, and to the lovely Oliwa Park. Sonia thought it was one of the most beautiful churches she ever saw. The angel held high above the altar is awe inspiring and was the first thing that struck me as we entered.

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Oliwa Park on the same day as we visited the Cathedral. Photos of the church are the Oliwa Church, which is separate from the cathedral, and where Barbara and Marek were married.

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Our train trip to Hel, yes Hel, but with only one 'L'. Hel township is at the point of the Hel peninsula, north of Gdansk, and north east of Gdynia. From Gdynia it is only 15 minutes by water taxi, but that will set you back 600 zloty or $300 Aussie. So we opted for the two and a half hour train trip from Gdansk, which was free for us on our Poland/Germany Eurail Pass. There is very reasonably priced Catamaran service to Sopot, Gdynia and Gdansk, but it only operates on weekends, so that option was not available to us, as we visited it on a Monday. As for the town, it is one of Poland's premier tourist destinations, but for us, having such incredibly beautiful beaches in Australia, it did not impress us that much, although it still had it's charm. The tall lighthouse inside the National Park was an impressive site and gave you a good view of the peninsula's surrounds and the town centre was rather quaint. In the end, we could say that we've been to Hel and back, although, Hel, in Polish does not mean anything in particular, but since many people in Gdansk said that "You have to go to Hel", who were we not to comply?

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Tuesday is Tourist Day in Gdansk, meaning that many museums have free admission. This was the day to go and see some of Gdansk's famous museums. The first of which was Arthur's Court or Dwor Artusa, which was a meeting place for the wealthy burghers of Gdansk, who were inspired by the chivalrous traditions of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was absolutely brilliant, especially with some of the magnificent huge paintings echoing centuries of history. Next was the Old Town Hall, which was almost as impressive, with the glorious view of the town centre from the baszta or tower. One interesting historical artifact was some old German currency, with notes valued as high as five million marks!!!! Yes, five million marks, which I imagine date back to Germany's chronic inflation in the early 1920s, brought about by the forced reparations it was forced to pay after World War I. Later, we visited Uphagen House, acquired by Johann Uphagen, a town councillor in 1775. Of Belgian/Flemisch descent, he had it demolished and a new residence put in it's place, which, after the destruction of World War II, like much of the Centrum, was beautifully recreated.

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Once joined to the mainland, Spichlerze Island was created when the new Motlawa Canal was dug in 1576. To get to it, you cross over the Motlawa River from the Green Gate on the eastern side of the the Centrum. Some of the ruins from World War II are still standing, and a good view of the Centrum's water front and the great old Gdansk Crane, built in the 14th Century can be taken in. Later, more shots from the Centrum, including the quintessential Gdansk icon of Neptune.

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The beautiful village of Kartuzy, only 30 Km west of Gdansk or 40 minutes by bus. The Collegiate Church dates back to the 1300s and is situated close to it's smaller lake "jezioro Klasztorne Male" or "small Klasztorne Lake" just south of the town centre. Kartuzy is the capital of the Kashubian Region and the town also has a small but delightful little Kashubian Museum. One photo shows the prayer the "Our Father" in the Kashubian Language, which to me looks similar to Polish, but is clearly is a separate language. Fortunately, we had a beautiful late spring day to enjoy this delightful little village

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