On day 86, a period started in which we circled around Gdansk and Tricity (Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia) – during 9 hiking and 7 rest days. We took a train from Elbląg to Gdansk and stayed there for six days. While still based in Gdansk, we did our first hiking tests after José’s foot treatment, starting from Krynica Morska on the Vistula Spit. We reached Gdansk again on day 93, this time on foot, and continued our way North crossing forests and fields in the Tricity region. When we had almost reached the Baltic coast on day 98, we had a three day break close to Gdynia. We had the pleasure of spending a day with José’s colleague Piotr and his family, then we picked up José’s brother Jorge at the airport, who came to visit us on the hottest weekend of the Baltic summer. During this time, we stayed in the house of another Piotr, also colleague of José, who luckily was in Poland those days.
All clear? No? Then you will have to read the long version of our adventures in and around Gdansk.
In the first days in Poland, we realized that we had to do something about José’s foot, otherwise we risked having to stop our hiking adventure. Gdansk seemed like a good place for that, as we could combine business with pleasure and explore this beautiful city while getting a doctor’s appointment. We arrived in Gdansk on a rainy Saturday. For Sunday to Friday we had booked a holiday apartment, so there was only one day to cover. Little did we know that this was one of the busiest weekends of the year. Summer holidays had started and Polish and foreigners alike were streaming into the city to enjoy St. Dominic’s Fair, one of the biggest public events in Europe – second only to the Oktoberfest in Munich. So we went up and down the stairs of every hostel on our way, only to discover they were fully booked. We arrived at one where a Brazilian backpacker informed us he just got the last place, but we decided to check anyway. The lady had a close look at us (probably evaluating our age and economical potential), before she told us we could have the last double room – at an exorbitant rate, but at that point we were happy to get a place at all.
Backpacks in the room, we set off to stroll through the old town and admire the beautiful architecture. We also enjoyed the buzz of thousands of people passing through the narrow medieval streets and hundreds of stalls selling food and handcraft of every imaginable kind.
These impressions of Gdansk were photographed at different moments of our several visits to the city:
The next day, we moved into our base for the coming 6 (!) days. The apartment was really great: 20 minutes by tram from downtown, close to a huge shopping area, and fully equipped from the kitchen to the living room. And it had a washing machine! The only thing missing was WiFi, so we went to the nearby mall to update the blog or check what was going on in the world.
José managed to get an appointment with an English speaking orthopedist already on Monday. He diagnosed plantar fasciitis and prescribed some medicine and special insoles to reduce and hopefully eliminate the pain. On Tuesday, José went again to fit the insoles into his new hiking boots – the outer soles of the old ones had been worn out on one side, which would aggravate the problem.
Moiken was already getting restless and suggested to test the result of the treatment on the following day. We still had our base in Gdansk, so we only had to carry our day packs, get on a bus and start with easy 10 km hikes on the Vistula Spit. We could take the bus back to Gdansk at any point, as in Summer it was running every hour. To our relief, the medicine and insoles had a good effect and José could hike every day a bit more without any pain. Well, not entirely, as he was breaking in his new shoes and they were causing blisters in the beginning.
This track was part of the E9, only instead of arriving in Krynica Morska by boat from Elbląg, we arrived by bus from Gdansk. From there, we hiked along the marked trail mostly in the forest, but every once in a while we could get a glimpse of the sea or the Vistula lagoon.
On Friday, day 92 of our hike, we checked out of the apartment and went for another day of hiking on the Visula Spit, this time with the backpacks. We reached Orle after a difficult hike – José’s new shoes were resisting the breaking in process and blisters were tormenting him.
To explain our route on day 93, we need to use a model:
We walked until Mikoszewo, the last place on the Vistula Spit and took a ferry over to … Gdansk! Well, not downtown Gdansk, that was still 40 km away, but the neighborhood Świbno on the Sobieszewo Island. From there, we walked on a beautiful forest trail along the coast to the other side of the island, called Gorki Wschodnie. Unfortunately, there was no bridge or ferry to cross the 500m to the other side, so we had to take a bus back to Gdansk. After the 40 min bus ride, we were back in town, but hadn’t finished our track yet. Anyway, as we were again arriving in Gdansk on a Saturday, we decided to first look for accommodation before setting off for the last part of our hike. Luckily, we found a hostel with two free beds and checked in. Then we took a different bus, which would take us after another 40 min to the other side of the straight, Gorki Zachodnie. From there, another marked trail led us to the city beach of Gdansk, Stogi Plaža; probably the only blue flag beach with view to a huge industrial zone. We walked on along the shore and into the forest until the trail finished at a tram station. The E9 would only continue on the other side of Gdansk, so we took a tram into town to be fresh for the next day of hiking…
… which started with a big surprise: Right behind the busy main train station of Gdansk, we were in a huge green area. We climbed the hill on which 150 years ago the Prussians had built a fort and enjoyed the beautiful view of the city.
Soon we were hiking in dense forests and after a lot of ups and downs over 20 km we arrived in – Gdansk! After all this walking we had just reached one of the outer districts, Oliwa. A quiet neighborhood with lots of trees, parks and century-old buildings, which on top of it all is home to the best pierogi restaurant in Poland!
During the following four days, we were hiking on the E9 over 80 km on different local trails without getting much closer to the coastline. Even though we had left Gdansk, we were still in the Tricity area. We finished the hike in Mrzezino, where we would go back to our track four days later.
But first we could enjoy three rest days in excellent company. Piotr M (to distinguish from Piotr J, who we would meet two days later) picked us up at the end point of our hike on day 98 and together with his mother we went to his in-laws’ holiday home close to an idyllic lake. It was one of the last days of his and his wife Ewa’s vacation in Poland, so a never ending array of homemade food was served in the garden for them, their friends visiting from Berlin, and these two lucky hikers. We spent the whole evening eating, talking, and sampling delicious liquors made by Ewa’s father. What a great experience!
The next day, we had a relaxed breakfast with Piotr M, Ewa, and their German friends, before Piotr dropped us off at the airport, where we waited for the arrival of Jorge. José’s brother had spent a few days in the UK and was pleasantly surprised with the heat wave which hit Poland on that very weekend. José’s other Polish colleague Piotr (J) had been so kind as to offer us to stay in his house in Gdynia, even though he wouldn’t be there most of the time. Not only didn’t we have to search for affordable accommodation in crowded Gdansk (St. Dominic’s Fair was still going on), we were staying in a beautiful house, with good public transportation to the Tricity.
It was a good feeling to unpack the backpacks that day, knowing that we didn’t have to pack them already the next day. Once we were settled, we went for a visit to Gdansk with Jorge. We took a train into town and got off at Oliwa to – you guessed it! – take him to the best pierogi restaurant in Poland. With temperatures not falling below 30 degrees even after sunset, we joined the crowds at the St. Dominic’s Fair and in the old streets of Gdansk. To get an idea of the number of people enjoying the fair, have a look at these pictures:
The following day was a Saturday and the forecast announced record temperatures. Good thing we were only a bus ride away from Sopot, a popular beach resort in Tricity. When we arrived, we first noticed the very well preserved 19th century buildings and the somehow elegant atmosphere. We decided to get into the spirit by having our breakfast in a classy café at the main promenade. Then we went to the beach. The wealthy guests of the traditional Grand Hotel enjoyed their beach time separated from the rest, nipping cold drinks under white sun umbrellas. Us normal people joined the crowds occupying almost every remaining inch of the 2 km white sand beach. We found a good spot and cooled down in the blue waters of the Baltic Sea. It was a great day and finished even better. We did some shopping in the afternoon and had a nice dinner with Piotr J, who had arrived from his family visits. Later, he took us to Gdynia, where we enjoyed the mild summer evening drinking a cool beer at the beach.
We had one more day to spend with Jorge, as his flight was leaving late at night on Sunday and Piotr had kindly offered to take us to the airport. We went another time to Gdansk, for the really last visit! On our way, we had a pleasant surprise: We met a Portuguese couple, Fiama and Paulo, who were doing their Erasmus semester in Poland and happened to be visiting Gdansk on that day!
We walked around the town and finally found some amber – in the Amber Museum located in the Foregate, a former prison tower: