Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the center of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area. The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay (of the Baltic Sea), in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population of over 800,000. Gdańsk itself has a population of 455,830 (June 2010), making it the largest city in the Pomerania region of Northern Poland.
Gdańsk is situated at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, whose waterway system supplies 60% of the area of Poland and connects Gdańsk to the national capital in Warsaw. This gives the city a unique advantage as the center of Poland's sea trade. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also an important industrial center.
Early settlements in the area are associated with the Wielbark culture; and after the Great Migrations, they were replaced by a Pomeranian settlement that probably dates back to the 7th century. In the 980s, a stronghold was built most probably by Mieszko I of Poland who thereby connected the Polish state ruled by the Piast dynasty with the trade routes of the Baltic Sea. The first written record of this stronghold is the vita of Saint Adalbert, written in 999 and describing events of 997. This date is generally regarded as the founding of Gdańsk in Poland; in 1997 the city celebrated the millennial anniversary of the year 997 when Saint Adalbert of Prague baptized the inhabitants of the settlement on behalf of Boleslaw the Brave of Poland.
In 1569, when Royal Prussia's estates agreed to incorporate the region into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by way of a real union, the city insisted on preserving its special status within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, went through the costly Siege of Danzig in 1577 in order to preserve special privileges, and subsequently insisted on negotiating its issues by sending emissaries directly to the Polish king.
The city also endured heavy Allied and Soviet air raids. Those who survived and could not escape had to face the Soviet Army, which captured the city on March 30, 1945. The city was heavily damaged. In line with the decisions made by the Allies at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, the city became part of Poland. The remaining German residents of the city who had survived the war fled or were forcibly expelled to postwar Germany, and the city was repopulated by ethnic Poles, up to 18 percent (1948) of them had been deported by the Soviets in two major waves from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union, i.e. from the eastern portion of pre-war Poland.
|The Grand Mill|
- St Mary's Basilica. The Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to be the largest brick church in the world. Its construction took place in two stages, beginning in 1343 and ending in 1502. The church contains many important works of medieval and baroque art. These includes a stone Pietà (from approximately 1410), a copy of Hans Memling’s The Last Judgement and an astronomical clock from the second half of the 15th century constructed by Hans Düringer over a period of 7 years. The church is 344 ft long, including the tower battlements, and the vaults soar 95 ft above floor level. The solid main tower is 255 ft high and crowned with a viewing gallery, from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
- The Crane. Built in the first half of the 15th century between the pylons of Brama Szeroka (the Wide Gate), became the city’s symbol. In the Middle Ages it was the largest port crane in Europe, used for moving goods and raising ship masts. It was able to lift 4 tons to an altitude of 36 feet, and was powered by workers walking inside two tread wheels. The crane is currently part of the National Maritime Museum.
- The Grand Mill. The Grand Mill was erected by the Teutonic Order in 1350. It was powered by the Radunia Channel with its 18 waterwheels, each 16 feet in diameter, and is an exceptional construction for the time. The mill's functions included a storehouse and bakery. After modernisation in the first half of the 19th century, the mill was in use until the end of World War II.
- Oliwa Archcathedral is a church located in the Oliwa district; dedicated to The Holy Trinity, Blessed Virgin Mary and St Bernard. The archcathedral is a three-nave basilica with a transept and a multisided closed presbytery, finished with an ambulatory. The façade is flanked by two slender towers, 46-metres tall each with sharply-edged helmets. In 1224, during the pagan Prussians crusade the first Romanesque oratory was burnt. The church was rebuilt and extended in 1234 (or 1236) to be soon destroyed by another Prussian crusade. In 1577, during the rebellion of the city of Gdańsk the Gdańsk mercenary army attacked the monastery and burned it to the ground. The church was rebuilt between 1578 and 1583. On the 25th March 1992, Pope John Paul II issued a papal bull by which he established the Archdiocese of Gdańsk with the seat in Oliwa and raised the basilica to the dignity of an Archcathedral.
- Westerplatte is a peninsula at the mouth of the so-called Dead Vistula river. It was here, on September 1, 1939, that the first shots of World War II were fired by the German Battleship Schleswig-Holstein. A Polish garrison of just 205 ill-equipped soldiers held out against two warships, aircraft, heavy guns and over 3,000 German troops for a week, losing only 14 men and killing 300 of the enemy. In 1966 a Monument to the Coast Defenders was erected there and stands to this day. It’s 82 ft high (plus a 66 ft high base). The shape of the monument resembles a serrated bayonet plunged into the ground.