The Hanseatic city of Gdansk, formerly the free city of Danzig, and Poland's oldest city, has changed hands many times in its 1,000 years of history. The Poles took turn with the Teutonic Knights, the Prussians and finally the Nazis. The first shots of WW2 were fired here. The original Old Town was largely destroyed in the last war, loving restoration has recreated an authentic setting whose beautiful monuments, historic gateways, imposing towers and medieval streets bring wonderfully alive the mood of a Hansa merchants' settlement.
You can visit the Maritime Museum, Neptune's Fountain, and the Church of the Virgin Mary, which seats 25,000 people. The large clock on the church tower dates to 1464. Still in working order, it displays the date, time, the moon's phases, and its position to the sun and zodiac signs. Nearby in Oliwa, an impressive 6,000 pipe organ can be found in the medieval cathedral. The hinterland countryside of Gdansk is lovely with rolling fields and bright blue lakes. You can explore the area known as Cashubian Switzerland, inhabited by the Cashubians, a Slav sect with their own culture and language.
The creation of Solidarity and the eventual talks between the country's former communist government had far reaching effects. It was the legalization of Solidarity as a trade union and the agreement to hold partiality free parliamentary elections that appeared to have opened a Pandora's box of radical shock waves that have made themselves felt all over the Soviet Bloc countries.
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