Day 04: Sopot and Gdynia

I can't even get all of St. Mary's into the frame.  See Jim in the doorway?

I can’t even get all of St. Mary’s into the frame. See Jim in the doorway?

We were up and having breakfast this morning by 9:00, ready for another full day.  Our first stop was to the ginormous church next to our hotel, St. Mary’s (6zl each/$2; link to sightseeing tab on website that is in Polish only).  In our travels we’ve seen a variety of houses of worship, and now find ourselves being slightly more exclusive as to which ones we visit.  There needs to be a particular draw that interests us, otherwise one could spend all day, every day, touring churches, cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, etc., without getting much else done.  And let’s be honest, many of them have similar qualities on the inside.  However, St. Mary’s was on our To-Do list simply because… wait for it… it is the largest brick church in the world.  Well now, how could you not?  It is said that St. Mary’s can hold 25,000 people inside, but we had a hard time picturing that.  Regardless, it is one very large brick church and as hard as we look, we will never see another one quite so big anywhere.

Inside St. Mary's.  The man on the ladder to the left was dusting.

Inside St. Mary’s. The man on the ladder to the left was dusting.

After visiting St. Mary’s, we stopped at the TI to try to get more particulars on the Veolia Bus to Torun the following day, since our first two attempts of getting tickets at the bus station were unsuccessful (we had tried the first day and again another time we were at the main train station, but to no avail).  The TI guy pointed us in the direction of a small travel agency across from the train station that would sell us tickets, which we found without problem and they got us seats on the 13:15 bus (25 zl each/$8 plus 10zl/$3 agency fee).

The main train station, Gdansk Glowny

The main train station, Gdansk Glowny

Bus tickets now safely in hand, we carried on across the street to the #8 tram stop in front of Gdansk Glowny that we would take to the very last stop, Jelitkowo.  Jelitkowo is a neighborhood along the Baltic Sea and our plan was to walk seaside for a few kilometers (3 or so) to the next town north, Sopot.  I had seen a recommendation for this walk on TripAdvisor before we left, and the really nice front desk clerk at Gotyk House had also said it was one of her favorite things to do on a nice sunny day, which it was.  She also seemed a bit surprised we’d heard about it, and was happy that we were going to do the walk rather than take the SKM train to Sopot as most people do.

Our ride

Our ride

For a bit of background, Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia form the Tri-Cities, each of them being on the Baltic Sea.  Gdansk is the largest, Sopot seemed to be sort of a resortish, seaside destination and Gdynia seemed to be more business-oriented.

The tram took us up to the very nice neighborhood of Jelitkowo and as we were nearing the terminus, the driver parked the tram at the penultimate stop, hopped out, and raced to a nearby deli for what we think was a ham sandwich and chips before racing back to the tram to carry on to the final stop.  It was quite comical and he was very expedient about the entire process.

Onward to Sopot

Onward to Sopot

The tram drops you off alongside a park that leads to the sea, so it was easy to get our bearings here and find the correct path that would take us north to Sopot.  It was a lovely, sunny day and we really enjoyed ourselves, admiring the nice homes in the area and marveling at what a nice path it was.  It isn’t exactly a “seaside” walk, however, in that in between the path and the sea is a berm topped with trees that impedes the view, save every 50-100 meters or so where there is a path that takes you to the beach and gives a glimpse of the sea.  The berm seemed to be necessary, however, as I would imagine the weather this far north can get rather testy during the winter and that sand can probably whip around pretty good.

That's the longest wooden entertainment pier in Europe, my friend

That’s the longest wooden entertainment pier in Europe, my friend

About 45 minutes later we strolled into the Sopot harbor area where, spread out like an arm right in front of us, was the Sopot Pier, and yes, it is the same Sopot Pier that is Europe’s longest wooden entertainment pier at 1,600 feet long.  Phew, we were ticking off boxes left and right today.  As we really wanted to take in the pier at its fullest, we decided to make a coffee stop to a restaurant at the start of the pier that had a terrace upstairs overlooking the sea and every last inch of this lengthy constructed marvel.  After we had caffeinated, we walked the length of it out over the sea, where we saw many swans, many people out for a stroll, and many workmen sprucing up the pier for the busy season.  And because it was a clear day, we were able to look south and see Westerplatte and the Gdansk shipyards in the hazy distance.

Westerplatte and the Gdansk shipyards

Westerplatte and the Gdansk shipyards

Our idea of a plan for the day included walking from Jelitkowo to Sopot (check), checking out the pier (check), wandering through Sopot itself, and then walking ourselves to the next town north that completes the Tri-Cities, Gdynia.  However, after stopping in at the TI to inquire where we’d pick up the walking path to Gdynia we discovered the path involved traipsing up and over cliffs in a bit of a circuitous route.  We were in stroll mode today, not hiking or trekking mode, so our very next inquiry was to find out where the train station might be.  We then strolled up Sopot’s main drag, Monte Cassino Heroes Street, to the SKM  commuter train station, which was a bit difficult to find due to construction in the area.  If you knew how small Sopot was you might begin to wonder how we made it this far in our travels or even managed to get out of the house.  But we made it… eventually.

Not Jim (left) and Jim (right)

Not Jim (left) and Jim (right)

Our train difficulties didn’t end there, however, as we got on at the Sopot station, knew we needed to take it to Gdynia Glowny station, and yet somehow wound up getting off the train one stop early.  This may or may not have been my fault, emphasis on may, as I had only glimpsed the station sign from the train without reading all of it, part of it said Gdynia, and many people were getting off so I jumped up and got off as Jim was saying, “I don’t think this…”.  As the next station was only a kilometer or two away I tried to convince Jimmy to walk but he was having none of it because the platform signboard indicated the next train would be along in 5 minutes.  We finally made it to Gdynia, where we promptly got turned around at the train station and wound up walking some sort of back way in kind of the direction we needed to go.  Man, this just wasn’t our day for directions.

This bakery saved the day

This bakery saved the day

After wandering through a local’s market where belts, wallets, and clothes were the big items for sale, we got back on our directional track but were feeling quite peckish.  This can be a dangerous time full of landmines for us as a couple, as hunger brings about crankiness, attitude, and sometimes stupid bickering just for the sake of being argumentative, so we needed to eat something STAT before our otherwise lovely day briefly took a dip into hunger-induced marital discord.  Fortunately for us, the Poles are big snackers and it’s fairly easy to find a quick nosh at either a piekarnia (bread bakery) or cukiernia (pastry shop).  As luck would have it, we found the latter and among her delectable-looking cakes and tarts was what I can only describe as Apple Wellington, half an apple (mine still had the seeds) wrapped in a delicate phyllo dough, then glazed with an egg white, sprinkled with a little sugar, and baked.  It was both delicious and healthy and perfectly suited the bill.  Crises averted.

Gdynia waterfront monuments

Gdynia waterfront monuments

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Gdynia, where we strolled down to the sea, took some photos, loitered a bit, and then headed back to the SKM train station.  Between the three cities Gdynia seemed to have the most “posh” residents, as there were a lot of fancy cars on the road.

The train back to Gdansk took about 35 minutes and when we disembarked we were met by two paramedics flanking a guy who was bloody as all hell.  Either he had been in a violent fight or tried to kiss a moving train, regardless he was a mess and we hope he was pieced back together.

Gdansk riverfront at dusk

Gdansk riverfront at dusk

We went back to the room for a much needed rest before going back out around 18:30 for dinner.  Tonight we did not have to endure a Dinner Stroll, we went straight to a place boasting Tex-Mex called Pueblo.  The food was good and our waitress was great, giggling every time we tried speaking Polish but helping us along by correcting pronunciation.

After dinner we took a stroll along the river and then went back to the room and closed out another successful and busy sightseeing day.

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2 Comments

  1. Did Jim wear his speed-o backward at the beach? Was the water balmy? I wanna see more pix of the beach!

    Reply
    • howieroll

       /  May 11, 2013

      I’m sorry, do I hear you saying you want to view every last one of our over 1,000 pictures, one by one in great detail? Perfect, we’ll rustle up a projector and be over shortly.

      Reply

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