Poland: From Gdynia to Hirschberg – five tips for city trips

Polen is practically on the doorstep – and has a number of special cities to offer that are unfairly overshadowed by Warsaw or Krakow. We offer five suggestions for a short trip to the neighboring country.

Szczecin: tradition and new beginnings

A pinch of Hamburg, a touch of Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg from the nineties: this is how locals describe the new spirit of the old Hanseatic city of Stettin, which is now called Szczecin and is the capital of the up-and-coming West Pomeranian Voivodeship. In fact, the former German, now Polish Baltic Sea port city is different from visitor magnets such as Gdansk and Breslau, whose historical centers were also destroyed during the war, but were then quickly and completely refurbished according to the old model.

Szczecin, on the other hand, located close to the border, still shows breaks in the cityscape.


Hamburg: Ex-SS security guard sentenced under juvenile justice

The court found the ex-SS guard Bruno D. guilty. The 93-year-old was convicted under juvenile justice. He doesn’t have to go to prison.

Former SS security guard Bruno D. was sentenced to two years suspended by the Hamburg district court on Thursday. The judges saw it as proven that the 93-year-old had been a member of the Stutthof concentration camp guards for several months as a teenager in 1944 and 1945. He was guilty of murder aid in 5,232 cases and attempted murder in one case.

At the time, the 17- to 18-year-old D. had served on the watchtowers around the camp near Gdansk; there were no direct participations in killings in the proceedings that had been going on since October. In Stutthof near Danzig, the SS imprisoned more than a hundred thousand people in miserable conditions during the Second World War, including numerous Jews. An estimated 65,000 died. A gas chamber and a neck shot system were also in operation in the warehouse.

The public prosecutor applied for three years of juvenile detention, the defense an acquittal. D. himself apologized for the crimes in Stutthof in his so-called last word in court. This should “never” happen again, he said. At the same time, he emphasized that he had not volunteered for service in the SS or a concentration camp. He had been assigned and had no way to evade it.


What are we doing in Poland?

MIttenten in the tourist mile, on Zielony Most, the “Green Bridge”, says the fourteen-year-old teenager: “Hey, why is it so perverse here? I don’t actually feel old-fashioned things like that, but it’s cool here. ”Amazing words from a young person who, due to his age, spends most of his time complaining or silent.

A stone’s throw away is the Black Pearl Ship, an historic galleon. Seagulls circle above the Green Gate, which leads to the old town. One hears, typically Poland, just church bells. We are in Gdansk, a city like a doll’s house, just right for a long weekend with the kids. Admittedly, my three children just didn’t want to go to Poland with Papa. And maybe they just reflect a common stance. It can hardly be said otherwise, the relationship of the Germans to their second largest neighboring country is disturbed. A recent study showed that Poles are learning German less and less at school. And in our news there are two main things from Poland: State-sponsored homophobia, which is otherwise only found in religious dictatorships. And constant nagging at the EU, which Poland still wanted to join in 2004.

Search for the tin drum

The Republic of Poland is still a popular destination for us. Poland receives about 19 million tourists a year, about a third are Germans. And a lot connects the two countries. Sometimes it is Günter Grass, born in Gdansk. We get into the so-called Bernsteingasse, the Ulica Mariacka. The yellow stone in the shops everywhere in showcases, the dealers made of amber even build racing cars. But in the middle of it, a cast iron sign says: “Biblioteka”. Books are stacked and lined up on high shelves, an old wooden staircase leads to the upper floor, it looks like “Harry Potter” (and that’s why the children go in with it). Inside, a middle-aged man sits behind the counter. On an old shelf, next to a historical globe: the white and red striped tin drum. “It’s the original,” he claims. “From the film.” And then he pulls one large volume after the other off the shelf and shows old pictures of his Gdansk. “From Günter Grass’s estate,” explains the librarian. He thinks about what might interest the children. The Hevelianum, the children’s museum – unfortunately closed. “Just go for a walk!”

And we do that every day. The old shipyard is in the north of the city, dilapidated and unguarded. The strikes of 1980 began there, the Solidarność union was created around the labor leader Lech Walesa. The historic site can be visited by simply climbing through one of the smashed windows. The children immediately disappeared into the ruins. There are a few information boards for adults. Everything seems highly improvised. Flowers, old photos of the demonstrations on the site, and a picture of the Pope at the time are still hanging on the shipyard gate.

A few steps further, in the Museum of the Second World War, you can put on VR glasses and experience as a resistance fighter how a friend is shot. But then how the Poles courageously kill a few Nazis from the sewage system. I only think about the question of whether it was good to put these glasses on a twelve-year-old. The children want photos next to the real tanks. The museum is not convincing. The world war becomes a dark experience. Get out quickly.

Queues stand for a delicacy

Strolling on the streets of Gdańsk sometimes seems like being in Eckernförde in winter: it is very quiet. The city of 600,000 inhabitants is a sleepy nest. Good for us: one of the central attractions is a children’s carousel. The Karuzela Gdańska has two floors, is eleven meters high and can carry 78 young passengers – on horseback or in gondolas.

A somewhat improvised memorial: Solidarnosc graffito on the Gdańsk shipyard.

And then there is the Pączki. A kind of Polish donut that is sold in a street kiosk. You have to stand in line for a long time, two young bakers knead in the shop window behind glass and repeatedly push gigantic trays into the oven. The particles are sweet and salty, in a number of variations. On the second day, the children can say “Wisnia”, which means: cherry. And anyway, the food: not a day without the milk bar “Neptune”. The classic Mleczny bar is a kind of upscale snack bar in Poland, where the poor eat – and do it well. We eat there every day, sometimes twice. The place is reminiscent of a theater canteen.

The main thing is waffle machine

In the evening it gets very quiet in the city. Anyone who reads “Tripadvisor” and the like comes up with suggestions such as: Kalashnikov shooting without a gun license. Luckily that you are always reserved with children and go to the hotel early. The new Holiday Inn Danzigs is mercilessly modern, with rocking chairs hanging on thick ropes, ideal for hipsters, but none of them are around. The house is one of the old warehouses at the harbor, the historic walls have been integrated into the building. The bar on the top floor offers a view of the entire city. And if you are bored, you can get annoyed by the very weak service all day.

The children don’t care: there is an American waffle machine at the breakfast buffet, a “Golden Malted Waffle Baker”, the dough flows from a large dispenser, a large waffle iron is baking next to it, you serve everything yourself, all kinds of syrup is available. “This is,” the children clarify, “the best hotel in the world.”

Very white, very new: The Holiday Inn in Gdansk.