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

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

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:26

Beyond the Green Gate is the waterfront of the Motława (Mottlau) river, which flows into the western arm of the Vistula (Wisła, Weichsel) just before it reaches the Baltic. The Motława was once a busy trading centre, but is now mainly a tourist precinct. In the distance can be seen the Gdańsk Crane (Żuraw Gdański, Krantor). Completed in 1444, it was the biggest crane in Europe, able to lift loads of up to 2000kg, and is the oldest of its type in the world.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:27

One block north of the Royal Way is the massive bulk of St Mary’s Basilica (Bazylika Mariacka, Marienkirche), the largest brick church in the world. It took nearly 150 years to build, assuming its present form in 1502. From 1572 to 1945 it was a German Protestant church. Since 1945 it has been the centre of the Catholic Church in Gdańsk, but not the city’s cathedral – that is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Oliwa, about 9km from the city centre.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:28

Because St Mary’s is hemmed in by the narrow streets and tall facades of the old town centre, it is difficult to take a photo that conveys the church’s astonishing size. It’s 105m long and 66m wide, and comfortably holds 25,000 people.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:28

Just to the north of St Mary’s is the Royal Chapel (Kaplica Królewska, Königliche Kapelle), designed by Tilman van Gameren in Dutch Baroque style, and completed in 1681. Danzig at that time was a strongly Lutheran city, and the erection of a Catholic chapel was unpopular, but since the city was still part of the Kingdom of Poland at that time it had to be accepted. This is why coat of arms of Poland, but not of Danzig, appear on the façade.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:29

Gdańsk is a city in three layers. The core is the restored mediaeval and Renaissance town, in which all the buildings which I have shown and described above are located. Surrounding it is 19th century Prussian Danzig, built mostly in the red-brick gothic revival style typical of north German civic architecture of the time. And beyond that is communist-era Gdańsk, built mostly of drab grey concrete to uninspired functionalist designs. Here is a typical example of the latter, of which no more will be said.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:30

The administrative centre of German Danzig stood to the west of the Old City near a north-south avenue called Promenade, which no longer exists but corresponds in part to the current Ulica 3 Maja. The prewar seat of the Danzig Volksrat (People’s Council), the Landeshaus, stood to the west of this street and was demolished after the war (a sad loss since it was a beautiful building). The current seat of the Gdańsk city council (Rada Miasta Gdańska), the New Town Hall (Nowy Ratusz, Neues Rathaus), now stands on Ulica Wały Jagiełłonskie.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:30

The Landeshaus building, which stood on what is now the corner of Ulica Nowe Ogrody (Neugarten Strasse) and Ulica 3 Maja.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:31

The New Town Hall (Nowy Ratusz) is the seat of the Gdańsk city government. Before World War I, this building was known as the Generalkommando, and was the seat of the Danzig district military commander. During the period between the two world wars, when Danzig was a Free City under League of Nations administration, this was the seat of the League’s High Commissioner (Hoher Kommissar) for Danzig.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:33

A closer view of the entrance to the Town Hall is instructive. In the postwar years the new Polish authorities in Gdańsk were keen to obliterate any sign that the city had once been ruled by Germans. Here we see that when this building was reconstructed in the 1950s, it was carefully “rebranded” as a Polish building. At the top are the two crosses of Gdańsk, topped by a Polish royal crown. Beneath that is the Polish name of the building, Nowy Ratusz – although Ratusz appears to be a phonetic rendering of the German Rathaus – and beneath that is the white eagle of Poland.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:34

North of the site of the vanished Landeshaus stands the Gdańsk railway station (Gdańsk Główny, Danzig Hauptbahnhof) on Ulica Podwale Grodzkie (Stadtgraben), one of the most striking buildings in the city. I became very familiar with this building while waiting five hours for the Olsztyn train. It was designed by Alexander Rundel and Paul Thomer and built between 1894 and 1900 in a sort of fantasy gothic style. Its clock tower deliberately resembles the tower of the Rathaus in the Old Town.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:34

At the peak of the facade of the station building is a sculpture of a winged wheel. I took this to be the symbol of the Polish state railways (PKP), but old photos reveal that it was there before the war. It was in fact the semi-official symbol of the Reichsbahn, the prewar German Railways.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:35

This is the other side of the station, facing onto the platforms, showing more of the ornate fantasy gothic detailing.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:35

To the west of the railway lines is a hill called Góra Gradowa, which in German times was called Hagelsberg – “hagel” meaning hailstones, but also grape-shot. On the slopes of Góra Gradowa is a fortified area which dates back to the 17th century and which was besieged by Napoleon in 1813. Before World War I this was a military training complex that included a shooting gallery and rifle range. This building was the Kriegsshule (war school), a staff training college. In 1911 the young Erwin Rommel trained here. After World War I it housed the Danzig Tax Office. It’s now a government office of some sort.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:36

Just north of the Old Town is the Market Hall (Hala Targowa, Markthalle) on Ulica Pańska (Junkergasse), another work of Prussian red brick fantasy gothic, built in 1895. The Gdańsk coat of arms is set in stained glass in the round window above the doorway. After many years of neglect, during which it served mainly as a nesting place for pigeons, the hall has recently been restored and is now a fashionable shopping place for residents and tourists.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:37

This imposing building, in a more orthodox gothic red brick style than the railway station, is the former Danzig headquarters of the Reichsbank. (Some old photos also identify it as the West Prussian Credit Bank, Westpreussische Landschaftliche Darlehnskasse. Possibly it housed both – it’s a big building.) After Danzig was separated from Germany in 1919, it housed the Bank of Danzig, central bank of the Free City of Danzig. Today it is the Gdańsk offices of the Bank Gospodarki Żywnościowej (BGŻ), a Polish commercial bank. Old photos show that this building looked rather more ornate before the war. The square tower, for example, rose to a point.
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