It’s starting to feel predictable… cloudy skies, mid 40s, light rain. Today I woke up early to take a stroll around the town of Gdansk. The morning was quiet and most streets I had to myself. I walked to the end of the old town so I could walk up and down each and every street like one does a grocery store when you want to see every aisle.
The streets were all cobblestone and building fronts were a uniform 3-4 stories high with painted facades renovated to resemble the olden days. Gdansk once was the Free City of Danzig not tied to either Germany or Poland. However when things started heating up in Germany rumor has it the first shots that started WWII happened here in Gdansk. Most of the old city was demolished. Lots of money and dedication later and today it looks as beautiful and quaint as ever.
However just an hour outside the city lies one of the first concentration camps, Stutthof. I debated long and hard whether I was up for a visit, but realized not going and trying to hide from the pain was only letting all those people die in vain. I had to go, for them, to show I cared, to remember, to honor them.
Not seeing any good option for how to get there I broke my rule of super budget except for dinners…I ended up having to take an Uber. The taxis were 2x the price and tours 4x. The Uber driver was beyond awesome. As we drove on the freeway far outside the city for 30 min then turned on windy side streets for another 30 minutes, I started to realize how remote it was and how few options for a return might exist. I was so lucky the driver was willing to wait 1.5 hours for me to tour the site as I have no idea how I could have managed back as there were no taxis or Uber’s anywhere nearby..
The museum was free, just a tiny charge of less than 1 USD to watch the film about the camp. Omg. Definitely watch the film. They show footage from when it was still intact, so sad. The gas chambers…the lethal injections…the living quarters…it’s unbelievable humans did this to other humans. Following the video we walked around all bundled up still shivering and I wondered what it must have been like to be without a coat, in just light clothes, not having eaten well, without the warmth of body fat how it would have felt. Freezing. Unbearably freezing.
Just beside the living quarters was the morgue. Literally next door. Can you imagine as your friends starved to death they just got put in the ‘house’ next door. Tragic. Though that’s not even the worse, I’m not entirely sure who made it to the morgue as in the video and literature it seemed as though everyone was either locked in a gas chamber or injected with poison. Then their bodies incinerated, either in the ovens or fire pits. The stench had to be horrendous.
How awful it must have been to know what was going on, but trying to stay in denial as you keep working away, starving and cold. The fumes of burning bodies of your friends ever present. I can’t even imagine. It breaks my heart. Sorry for the completely down note, but I know not all of us get the opportunity to see it first hand and thought you’d appreciate.
On the drive back my mind wandered to how a person can be so evil, how a society can be so corrupt as to follow the evil, and how awful it must have been to have to choose between death and obeying the Nazis. I feel so blessed that my biggest worries don’t even compare.
When I got back to the city I packed up my bag to check out then wandered and took some last photos of the old town. I made an early dinner reservation at Restauracja Metamorfoza, which came recommended by Michelin. For the first hour of dining I was the only patron. Talk about being spoiled. The server was amazing and explained every dish and was completely dedicated to my experience. I had my own personal sommelier who gave me a full description of every wine. Mind you I don’t speak Polish so all this beautiful narration was them taking on the burden of speaking my language.
The restaurant did only set menus, I chose the 5 set menu with the wine pairing. The food was exquisite. Having been to a handful of 3 Michelins and countless 1 Michelins, I’m baffled they don’t have a star, they certainly earned it. After my satisfying meal, I lugged my duffel over to the train station and boarded the 3 hour long train back to Warsaw. This time 2nd class was more like a nice bus with 2×2 seats. Luckily it was practically empty so I had the row to myself.
Once we pulled into the station, me and my duffel made our way a few blocks over to the bus station to catch the overnight bus to Vilnius, only to find out the station on Google was not where the buses were, it was the corporate office. Eeks. At 9pm at night there were no info booths speaking English open, I searched long and hard to find a person who spoke English, however he hadn’t heard of the bus to Vilnius but luckily he had Internet. Hooray. Turns out the bus station was directly behind the train station. After a couple hours in the low 40s with light rain waiting in the dark for the bus, it arrived. We nestled in for the 8 hour journey, completely packed like sardines. The bus was nice, seats reclined well, it had wifi and personal TV screens with American movies, not bad. Here’s to hoping I can actually get some sleep!! Next stop Lithuania!