Saturday 20 November 2021


Once the weather seemed to stabilise, H and I took a short train journey to the seaside resort city on the Bay of Gdańsk to take in the sights and learn about the history of the place, first meeting the home army mascot Wojtek the Bear (more here) memorialised in the churchyard visited by John Paul II in 1999. Among the first spots in the modern era to cultivate thermal cures and health-tourism, Sopot / Zoppot recovered quickly from the war with enduring institutions on balneotherapy and reoccurring music festivals—from Wagner to jazz. The main, pedestrianised thoroughfare is dedicated to the memory of the Battle of Monte Cassino, the costly and destructive stand-off to break the Winter Line with the regrouped Polish II Corps joining Allied forces against Nazi Germany to advance into Rome—the tumult and violence later inspiring American bomber who participated in the razing of the ancient monastery to pen A Canticle for Leibowitz, and whose heroes counted among their ranks our above ursine friend. The main street includes several shopping arcades and Krzywy Domek (the Crooked House), a fairy tale-inspired mall and terminates with the lighthouse and similarly constructed Church of the Holy Saviour and Grand Hotel on the beach, yet extends over half a kilometre further out over the sea with the longest wooden pier in Europe and among the longest in the world.