Amsterdam and Poland 2017

Day 13, Friday, June 16
Torun to Gdansk


 This morning we had to have our bags out by 8:30.  We met our city guide for a two hour walking tour of Torun. Torun has a very fine wall around most of the city, so we followed that for a while. It had sprinkled a bit when we started out and then rained harder for a few minutes, then the sun came out.  Near the wall were the ruins of a castle of the Teutonic Knights.


It is one of the oldest of the castles of the Teutonic Knights.  Building began in the middle of the 13th century. In the late 13th century, the main castle building was erected inside the walls of brick and stone.

The South wing contained the chapel, refractory and dormitory, the area used by the monks for community prayer, meals, and sleeping. The chapter house was situated in the east wing.

 Towards the end of the 13th century, a high octagonal tower with a dungeon, as well as a cloister was erected in the courtyard. To the east, by the stream, was built the “Gdanisko”, a defensive tower connected to the main building.

 On 7 February 1454, the citizens of Torun attacked and captured the Castle, thus giving the signal for insurrection against the oppressive rule of the Teutonic Knights throughout their territory. The next day the Town Council authorized demolition of the Castle into a rubbish dump.

 Today we can only see the  ruins of the castle moat and walls, the lower parts of the main castle building and the “Gdanisko”.



Copernicus was born in Torun, and we walked past the house of his birth. There was a long line waiting to get in. It was not part of our tour. It was an interesting looking house from the exterior. 

 Copernicus’ house is a medieval burgher’s house, which belonged to the Copernicus family in the 2nd half of the 15th century. Many historians point to the house as the birthplace (1473) of the renowned astronomer Nicholas Copernicus.

The present appearance of the Copernicus House comes from the 15th century. The façade features a pointed Gothic arch portal, brick friezes and vertical niches adorned with painted two-colored patterns characteristic for medieval Torun. The house, like houses in other Hanseatic League towns, served simultaneously as a residence and a storehouse.

Currently, the house and the adjacent Gothic building house a branch of the District Museum called Nicolaus Copernicus' House. The house displays a medieval layout, interior decorations and furnishings typical for the period from the 15th to the 18th century. Apart from the Copernicus family artifacts, it features a collection of various editions of Copernicus' groundbreaking work called "De Revolutionibus" and objects documenting the diverse interests and activities of the great scholar in the first half of the 15th century.


The Gothic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist received its present-day shape as a result of the multi-stage construction which was interrupted at the turn of the 16th century, after 200 years of work. In the Middle Ages it was the most important church in Torun. It brought together worshippers from the entire town.

In mid-16th century it was temporarily taken over by Lutherans, later, for several years, it served as a place of worship for both denominations as both the Protestant and Roman Catholic services were held there. From the late 16th century to the second half of the 18th century the church was in the possession of Jesuits. In 1992 the church received the status of a cathedral basilica – the main church of the Torun diocese formed by the Pope John Paul II.

The spacious interior of the church is filled with masterpieces of sacred art. There are 14th century Gothic paintings depicting the patron saints of the church – St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, as well as a monumental, multi-theme medieval painting showing the Last Judgement. The high altar of St. Wolfgang, the stained-glass windows and the soaring vault also date back to the medieval times.

The nave and the aisles of the cathedral contain several Renaissance and Baroque altars and numerous epitaphs of Torun burghers and noblemen from the surrounding area.

 We spent some time on our own exploring the cathedral. After walking around a little more of Torun, we boarded our bus for the 2 hour trip to Gdansk.


 Our first stop, as we approached Gdansk, was Westerplatte where the first shots of WWII were fired against Poland by the Germans.  The first battle of World War II started on September 1, 1939, at 4:48 am, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein let loose a barrage of artillery onto the Polish naval depot, Westerplatte.

 Even though Westerplatte was tiny and poorly guarded, it was a surprise to few that this would become the site of the first battle of a war long in the making. Within the Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk, today), Nazi support was at an all-time high among the largely German local population, which Hitler’s government had been trying to annex into the Third Reich for years. Westerplatte was the location of the only Polish military presence in the area.


Provisions stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles limited the strength of the Westerplatte compound to just 88 Polish soldiers. Against the treaty and in preparation of the ensuing violence, the Polish naval garrison began reinforcing their meager existing fortifications with machine guns, mortars, and antitank weaponry while the number of soldiers stationed there was nearly tripled.

The Germans won the battle, but against all odds. The outnumbered and outgunned Polish soldiers were able to keep a force more than ten times their number at bay for seven days. In the end, of the 3,400 Germans who took part in the battle, 300 died. Only around 15 of the 210 Polish forces perished.


Next we stopped at the Solidarity Museum which was designed to look like rusted metal. 

 The Solidarity Museum is just to the north of the city center. It is dedicated to the Solidarity movement, that was created by the former ship yard worker Lech Walesa.

 The museum is housed in a futuristic five-story building which contains a permanent exhibition about Solidarity and the opposition, that led to the Democratic transformation of Poland and Eastern Europe. The building is built with rust colored sheet metal reminiscent of a ship’s hull. We only had a short time to visit inside the museum, but what we saw was very interesting.

 Outside there are several interesting statues and monuments. There is a large monument composed of 3 crosses with anchors attached known as the Solidarity Monument. It symbolizes the workers struggle and is a memorial for the ones who died during the strikes. The Solidarity movement was created by Walesa to protest the poor working conditions for the workers at the Lenin shipyard (today, Gdansk shipyard) in the early 1970s. In 1980 the big strikes at the shipyard led to protests all over Eastern Europe, and finally led to the fall of the communist regime in Poland. Solidarity became a political party with Lech Walesa as its leader. Between 1990 and 1995, he was the president of Poland.

From the Solidarity Museum, we went directly to our hotel which is a five-star Radisson.  We had a very attractive large room

 We had some free time before dinner, so we walked around. 


We were just a few feet from the gate that leads to the river and the famous section of the waterfront that I have made the model of. CLICK HERE TO SEE MY MODEL.   It looks just like the model--










We walked on the opposite of the river inorder to photograph all of the buildings and the famous crane.

The Gdansk crane dates back to 14th century.  It goes back to the time when Gdansk was in the Hanseatic League, and could load and unload four tons of cargo. SEE MY MODEL


The power came from humans, as groups of men would walk inside two large wooden wheels, as if they were hamsters.  The crane also doubled as a waterside city gate. Note the two wheels above the folks going through the gate.

 We came back for the group dinner in our hotel.  It was a buffet with fish, chicken, potatoes, pierogis (like dumplings filled with good things) and green beans.  There was a huge salad bar and two delicious pastries for dessert.  After dinner we walked along the river and got back to the room about 9:00.

 We sure do a lot of walking on this trip. We walked about 5 miles today.  Sometime we think that we are getting too old for such activities, but we are having fun.  Tomorrow we have the whole day in Gdansk. 


Day 1 - Amsterdam

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Day 3 - Amsterdam

Day 4 - Amsterdam

Day 5 - Warsaw

Day 6 - Warsaw

Day 7 - Warsaw

Day 8 - Czestochowa and Kracow

Day 9 - Krakow

Day 10 - Auschwitz and Wroclaw

Day 11 - Wroclaw

Day 12 - Poznan and Torun

Day 13 - Torun and Gdansk

Day 14 - Gdansk

Day 15 coming soon