Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

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Adam Carr
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Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:16

In May 2008 I spent three weeks travelling in Poland. I was particularly interested to visit four major Polish cities which were once part of Germany – Szczecin (Stettin), Gdańsk (Danzig), Wroclaw (Breslau) and Poznan (Posen). I also passed through Olsztyn (Allenstein) on my way to the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg. I have previously posted some of my photos from Szczecin and Allenstein. These are from Gdańsk.

Gdańsk has a rich history, most famously being the bone of contention between Germany and Poland that began World War II more than 70 years ago. The city was almost entirely destroyed during its capture by the Red Army in 1945 and has been painstakingly restored by the Poles. Nearly all the historic buildings shown here are postwar reconstructions – I won’t keep pointing this out in relation to each photo.

This is the coat of arms of Gdańsk, inherited from German Danzig. The city’s motto, “Nec Temere Nec Timide” means “Neither Rashness nor Timidity”.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:16

The heart of Gdańsk is the Royal Way (Droga Królewska, Königliche Weg), which runs through the Old City from west to east. At the western end stands the Upper Gate (Brama Wyżynna, Hohe Tor). This was originally the western entrance to the mediaeval town, although the city walls are long gone. The current ornate gate was built in 1586, to a design by a Flemish artist, Willem van den Block.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:17

On the upper part of the gate are the heraldic devices of Prussia, Poland and Gdańsk. Here we see the crowned Polish white eagle, flanked by giants.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:17

Near the Upper Gate is a group of buildings dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. These include the Prison Tower (Wieża Więzienna, Stockturm) and the Torture House (Katownia, Peinkammer), which are linked and together form the Foregate (Przedbramia, Barbikan), and the Court of the Fraternity of St George (Dwór Bractwa św Jerzego, Hof der St-Georg-Brüderschaft). In this photo the Prison Tower is the taller tower on the right, with the Torture House to the right of it, and the Court of the Fraternity of St George is the smaller tower on the left.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:18

Just north of these buildings is the magnificent Great Armoury (Wielka Zbrojownia, Grosse Zeughaus), built between 1600 and 1605 in the Dutch mannerist style to a design by Anton van Obbergen. This is considered to be the finest Renaissance facade in the city. The city’s coat of arms appears above the two entrances. The domed structure at the front of the building is an elevator to lift barrels of gunpowder from their storage place in the basement. This is the eastern facade facing Ulica Tkacka (Grosse Wollwebergasse).
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:19

This is the same building viewed from the south-west, showing the western facade facing Targ Węglowy (Kohlen-Markt). Today the building is an art gallery.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:20

This is a prewar photo showing the façade of the Great Armoury. To the left is the Danzig State Theatre (Danziger Staatstheater), which was destroyed in 1945 and has been replaced with a modernist building.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:21

Here is one of the ornate gates to the Armoury, with the Gdańsk coat of arms above. Note how the double cross motif of the coat of arms is echoed in the brickwork separating the windows above the gate.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:22

East of the Upper Gate is the even more splendid Golden Gate (Brama Złota, Langgasser Tor). It dates from 1612 and was designed by Willem van den Block’s son Abraham. Above the arch is a two-storey glassed-in colonnade, topped with eight statues (four on each side) representing Peace, Liberty, Wealth, Fame, Wisdom, Piety, Justice and Concord.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:22

From the Golden Gate the Royal Way runs eastward before widening out into the Long Market (Długi Targ, Langemarkt). Here we are looking eastwards down Długi Targ, which is today lined with boutiques and cafes. In the distance is the tower of the Old Town Hall (Ratusz Głównego Miasta, Altes Rathaus), which dates from the late 15th century, although later baroque accretions date from the 18th century.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:23

A closer view of the Old Town Hall. On top of the spire is a gilded statue of King Zygmunt II August. In 1945 the building was a burnt-out shell and the Polish authorities considered it beyond salvation, but it was eventually successfully restored.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:24

In the Long Market is the Neptune Fountain (Fontana Neptuna, Neptunbrunnen), which dates from 1613 and is the oldest secular monument in Poland. Behind the fountain can be seen the baroque facades which line the street.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:24

It should be noted that when these buildings were restored after World War II, anything that was seen as “German” was removed – the restoration in fact represents the restorers’ conception of what Polish Gdańsk looked like before the arrival of the Germans. The streetscape is thus to some extent a falsification of history, because Poles and Germans always lived side by side in the city and it was their joint creation.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:25

A typical lavishly-decorated doorway to one of these 16th and 17th century business-houses. Before the war this was Raths Apotheke (Rath’s Pharmacy).
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:26

At the eastern end of the Royal Way is the Green Gate (Zielona Brama, Grünes Tor), which dates from the 1560s (and isn’t green). Above the stone arches are glassed-in colonnades and apartments where visiting Polish kings sometimes stayed.
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