Lifestyle Poland slow travel travel

A sneak peek into life in Gdańsk

It’s been nine years since we moved out of Poland so it was about time we go back and see how life looks like there now. We’re both from the South-East, both lived in Kraków for a long time. Gdańsk, located at the other end of Poland, always seemed different and enticing. That was the only reason we chose to go there this May.

Budapest treated us to some beautiful spring weather in April and we were really looking forward to Gdańsk – a seaside city sounded like the perfect place for relaxing afternoons spent on long walks and in outdoor cafes. I’m sad to say, Gdańsk (and Poland in general) had different plans.

After two weeks I really wanted to leave. My nose was runny all the time, I was cold every day (had to buy a sweater) and just really miserable. The weather forecast pretty much every day was the same: high of nine degrees Celsius, strong wind and rain. I cried but there was nothing we could do – all accommodations and flight were planned and booked in advance so we had no other choice than to spend another two gloomy weeks in Poland and try to make the most of it. (I must add that no matter where in Europe we would go, it was a similar story – May had terrible weather all over the place)

Our neighbourhood & accommodation

We had a nice, modern apartment in a new building. It was much smaller than the one in Budapest but it was enough for the two of us. There was also a small balcony, which didn’t get much use. I really enjoyed a built-in Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom and spent most mornings dancing and singing in the shower to boost my energy and endorphins.

There was a huge hypermarket just 5 minutes walk from the apartment and a shopping mall with a cinema across the road. It was a bit far from the Gdańsk’s Old Town (about 30 minutes by tram) but, as it’s the Tricity, we had more options around and it was just 15 minutes from Sopot. The seaside was reachable on foot, although involved a 30 minutes walk.

There wasn’t much to do in our area. It was strictly residential, with mostly communist era concrete apartment buildings dotting the entire suburb. The quarter called Zaspa was the most interesting thing there. It’s a huge set of concrete condominiums which were built on a place previously occupied by an airport (it’s also the place where Lech Wałęsa lived during Solidarity times). Now almost all the buildings are decorated with large scale murals, which are really worth seeing.

Impressions about Gdańsk – likes & dislikes

Old Town

Gdańsk’s Old Town is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and definitely one of my favourites in Poland. It’s made up of some stunning, colourful merchants houses as well as many important buildings like the Crane – one of the symbols of Gdańsk. The Old Town was badly destroyed and then razed to the ground during World War II but the city worked hard on rebuilding it.

Nowadays, there are some new developments in the area but even the modern buildings bow to the past and take inspiration from the shapes of old merchants houses.

Trams

I usually prefer trams to buses but in Gdańsk, I was scared of them! At every turn, I thought they were going to derail. They’re also rather loud and it’s hard to have a conversation.

Everyone on a bike

Rain or shine, bikes seem to be the preferred mode of transport. There are some bike paths in the city and along the sea through lush parks and forests. Unfortunately, when there’s no bike path in sight, people tend to ride on footpaths and are aggressive towards pedestrians (although not nearly as much as in Berlin).

Plastic is not fantastic

Gdańsk seems to pay a lot of attention to recycling plastic as well as educating people on how to lower their plastic use. I’ve seen many posters promoting the plastic-free lifestyle and I approve of this message.

a poster promoting the plastic-free lifestyle. There are 10 "life-hacks" on how you can change small things to be using less plastic on daily basis.

Water

Maybe it was just our apartment or neighbourhood problem but tap water was truly disgusting. There were a lot of ‘things’ floating in our kettle after we boiled the water and every cup of tea had a ‘crust’ on top. After discovering that I switched from tea to beer as much as I could. No complaints there.

Language

If anyone thought it’s finally a country where we wouldn’t have any language problems, I’m sorry to disappoint. An unused language gets easily forgotten.

I’m ashamed to admit there were many situations I couldn’t find the right word in Polish and had to use Google Translate. Polish words for ‘roasted’, ‘sparkling’ (which are two different Polish words when it comes to sparkling water and sparkling wine) or ‘grind’ are not used by me on a daily basis. Then, I had the same problem when it came to talking to a doctor – these days I usually talk about my symptoms in English, so this time doing so in Polish (and with high fever) wasn’t easy at all.

Polish is a hard language to learn and I really admire everyone who even attempts to learn the basics. Like our friend, Tom, noticed even the names of Gdańsk’s neighbourhood are complicated – Wrzeszcz for example.

Prices

Exchange rate

In May 2019 100 PLN cost us around 37.65 AUD (at the same time, it would be around 25.90 USD).

Grocery prices

For day to day grocery shopping you can see the prices on supermarkets’ websites. We usually shopped at Auchan, Lidl or the Polish favourite – Biedronka.

How much do groceries cost in Gdańsk? For example:

  • 1.5L sparkling water: 1.69 PLN = 0.64 AUD
  • 6 eggs: 3.89 – 4.84 PLN = 1.47 – 1.83 AUD
  • 250g pack of cherry tomatoes: 4 PLN = 1.50 AUD
  • 100g of fancy ham: 5.29 PLN = 1.99 AUD
  • butter: 8.69 PLN = 3.28 AUD
  • craft beer: 4.90 – 9 PLN = 1.85 – 3.40 AUD
  • kabanosy (thin, dried sausages with chilli which we got obsessed with): 4.94 PLN = 1.87 AUD

How much you should expect to pay for:

  • one small flat white in a cafe: 9 – 12 PLN = 3.40 – 4.50 AUD
  • a fancy restaurant meal for two with drinks: 135 PLN =  50.74 AUD
  • 0.5L beer in a beer garden or a pub: 12 PLN = 4.50 AUD
  • a doughnut: 3.50 PLN = 1.30 AUD

How much we spent in 4 weeks (2 people)

Accommodation: 4 055 PLN = 1 505.95 AUD
Groceries: 1 177.56 PLN = 443.33 AUD
Eating out (we went out for meals or snacks 8 times): 1 275.20 PLN = 478.98 AUD
Coffee: 402 PLN = 151.55 AUD
Alcohol: 839.81 PLN = 316.91 AUD
Transport (public transport, Uber, Taxi): 224.70 PLN =  84.98 AUD
Entertainment (cinema, museums, tours etc): 233 PLN = 88.08 AUD
SIM: didn’t buy one, we’re still using our Hungarian cards

Total: 8 207.27 PLN = 3 069.78 AUD

Random thoughts

Customer service

An award for biggest improvement goes to Polish customer service. In all seriousness, it used to be really bad. I’ll yell at you for not having the correct change kind of bad.

Food

It’s not just Gdańsk and Tricity but a lot of Polish chefs are really impressing me lately. The culinary scene is thriving, the chefs get more and more adventurous and it’s really a pleasure to dine out and admire their creativity.

Self-awareness

People in Poland really should work on their self-awareness. Not everyone on a tram needs to hear about your diet consisting of kisiel (kind of a thickened fruit juice dessert) and beer or your doctor appointment.

Personal space as well as looking out for other people around them is also a discussion topic that someone should start. Example? One day we were in Lidl and one of the workers was cleaning/re-doing the green salad section. She threw a box of salad right under my feet without even noticing it.

Drivers

Oh my, some Polish drivers are terrible and Gdańsk may have one of the biggest concentrations of them. There are many scratched cars around and I had to flee for my life at a pedestrian crossing quite a few times. Now I’m pretty sure most videos on the Polskie Drogi YouTube channel must come from Gdańsk area.

Trust issues

Everyone is a thief and a liar – that’s most likely what security personnel of shopping malls and supermarkets has as their motto. They won’t trust you no matter what. You want to enter the shop with that small backpack? No way, put it in the locker. You’re buying this tiny $7 candle? Wait a second until we disarm it because it’s protected better than our president.

While we travel, we’re often in situations where we say “that wouldn’t work in Poland” and it was sad to see that’s still the case.

No-shopping Sundays

One of the stupidest things arranged by the current government? No-shopping Sundays. There are still one or two Sundays when shops are open but you need to consult with a special calendar, most likely available with your local church magazine.

Happened this month

Before Gdańsk

For a week before arriving in Gdańsk we were road tripping Poland with our friend Tom. Together, we went to Kraków for some good food and drinks, then to southeastern Poland to visit our families (where I got sick and had to get antibiotics). Then we partied at the wedding of our dear friends from Queensland – Juli & Sam (me still on antibiotics). And finished the big tour with a detour to Białowieża to see the primaeval forest and bison.

Girls trip

We started this new tradition with my Mom two years ago with a trip to Singapore and Thailand and I really hope to continue it. Just the two of us for two weeks travelling together. This time we traded the tropics for the Polish seaside (Mom’s never been before!). Despite the sh*tty weather, we had a lot of fun.

Yoga classes

I found a nice little yoga studio just a short walk from the apartment and signed myself up for regular morning classes. It was so nice to finally properly stretch and move a bit more than usual.

Malbork

Finally! I’ve seen Malbork castle through a train window many times and finally got a chance to visit. It took us almost five hours (including lunch break) to see it all and listen to the very detailed audioguide. It was fascinating and definitely, a must visit.

Next month: Bologna

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