Friday, 31 August 2012

Poland's Most Beautiful Street is in Gdańsk

Gdańsk is city for which I have recently acquired a strong liking, so it's good to get the chance to pay a visit and spend time wandering around the Main Town (Główne Miasto), as the old part is called. The Gothic architecture, with many buildings going back to the 15th Century, has been well preserved, and the vistas are outstanding.

Below: looking down ul. Kramarska towards ul. Piwna ('Beery Street'). The pink building is the Dom Adwokata ('Advocate's House'); above it looks the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Below: looking down ul. Kaletnicza towards the Marian basilica again, which dominates the historic centre of Gdańsk.

Below: More mediaeval high-rise; we emerge from ul. Pończoszników ('Hosiers' Street') out onto Długi Rynek ('Long Market'), the main drag of the Main Town. Again, the splendour of the architecture is spectacular. This is European culture at its finest; civilised life - 'civilised' in the meaning of 'urban'. It was in Europe's historic cities that thinking flourished alongside commerce. New ideas, new wealth.

Right: looking into what must be Gdańsk's - if not Poland's - most beautiful street, ul. Mariacka. Today it is full of shops selling amber jewellery, but it is for architecture that we must consider Mariacka. It is narrower than the other Main Town streets, cobbled, with steps leading up the front doors (stoops). Most houses have little patios, well-suited to outdoor tables for the restaurants bars and cafés that exist alongside the amber shops.

Below: a general view of ul. Mariacka, looking up towards the Marian basilica. The amber shops will usually have illuminated display cabinets out on the street which add to its charm.

The best time to catch the klimat on ul. Mariacka is not on a hot, cloudless day in high summer, with one side of the street bathed in strong sunlight and the other in deep shadow. No, it is at its finest in late afternoon-early evening, in mid-autumn. When the sun sets around the same time as the amber traders are closing for the day, the street lights come on, and yet there's still bustle in the streets. A light drizzle, enough to moisten the cobbles and reflect the lights off the roadway, improves the klimat immensely. And coming here just as it's getting dark and the first snow-flakes of winter are settling must be entirely satisfying to the soul.

Can anyone rise to the challenge I offer here by nominating Gdańsk's ul. Mariacka as Poland's Most Beautiful Street? Warsaw can't beat it; Kraków and Wrocław come close... Do you have any nominations? Maybe from some smaller town off the tourist trail?

This time last year:
Getting to grips with phrasal verbs

This time three years ago:
What Putin wrote about Molotov-Ribbentrop

This time four years ago:
Summer Sunday in the city

This time five years ago:
Last bike-ride to work of the summer


Decoy said...

We visited Gdańsk a few days ago, and stumbled along ul. Mariacka and was very glad we did. We travelled from the river towards the church and while it wasn't in the dusk time, it was still recognisably beautiful, and no coincidence that there was an architectural school at the start of the street.

For alternatives, some of the streets in Wrocław, particularly on the Rynek Głowny are pretty also, but I don't think they still can compare with ul. Mariacka in Gdańsk

Easteconomist said...

Polish old cities are amogst the most beautiful in the World. For me the best town in Poland is Torun. In Gdansk I was in 2004 and I remember that it was very nice. Also Warsaw old town is nice. amd Krakow, Lublin, Wrocław. Po prostu znakomite!¨I hope I will visit Poland soon again.