It wasn’t the typical “see the view” tower that I’d climbed in so many other Central European cities. Taking on the lofty turret in St. Mary’s church proved a worthy opponent. The massive 14th-century Gothic basilica is the largest brick ecclesiastical structure in the world, and the 400 timeworn spiral steps to the viewing platform were almost double the number I’d come to expect.
Thighs burning, lungs heaving, sweat pouring, I persevered and reached the tiny terrace. I squeezed my way through the crush of people all vying for a prized Instagram spot at the edge of the platform. Once there, just a fence separated me from the dizzying, nearly vertical drop. The 360-degree view was worth the barely contained acrophobia – from the red-tiled roofs close enough to touch, the delicate light green spires and the deliberate Mannerist reconstructions just beyond, and the Motlawa River just visible on the horizon.
If I hadn’t seen the 80-year-old photos in person, I would have found it hard to believe. Gdansk was not just the place where World War II started, but it had been completely decimated by Nazi bombs. Having traveled extensively throughout Central Europe, I expected the rebuilt city to have the look and vibe of the lovely-but-typical Austro-Hungarian architectural period.
What I found was both visually and viscerally different. Gdansk was colorful and whimsical with a dash of defiance – an invitation to explore further. The way in which the citizens of Gdansk hoisted themselves up from World War II and the subsequent Soviet oppression is nothing short of inspiring.
[Read the rest of Why You Must Visit Gdansk This Year in GoNOMAD]
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Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of JayWay Travel during her stay in Poland, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.