Gdańsk, Poland today is a busy tourist destination: near a beach, low cost for its euro zone neighbors, filled with good restaurants, great museums and a casino or two. In August the main streets of Gdańsk were filled with people celebrating an end to Covid-19 restrictions.
When I arrived bands were playing from city hall steps. Teenage vendors were selling balloons tiny kids “had to have.” Long lines were found at every window where ice cream was sold. It wasn’t always like this.
World War 2 began here on September 1, 1939. Germany’s first invasion was an effort to reclaim territory it had lost at the end of World War 1. Gdańsk then was the German city called Danzig.
Before the war ended most of Danzig/Gdańsk was completely destroyed. But here, as in other places in Poland, something amazing happened. In the years after the war ended in 1945, Gdańsk was rebuilt. I’ve learned that the city leaders decided to duplicate the buildings that had been lost. It was a wise decision.
Under the thumb of the Soviet Union, in post-war poverty, the new city duplicated the pre-war Hanseatic League city. The replacement buildings give every indication of having been built in the 17th century, not the 20th. They are narrow and 5-stories-tall. On the main streets of the city center apartment homes rise above commercial spaces. The ancient city hall was rebuilt. The famous, enormous brick basilica was rebuilt. The city gates were rebuilt. And every one of the reconstructed buildings is a true copy of those that were destroyed.
Being in modern Gdansk is walking through a minor miracle. I’m looking forward to returning.
And smarty-pants teenagers on the streets!