Heading to Gdansk to see this month’s football? Check out our interview with Polish city guide and award-winning blogger Ewa Kowalska and find out how to spend your time in the city.
What do you think about Gdansk’s preparations for the European Football Championship 2012? Have there been any new additions worth visiting?
Festively-decorated Gdansk is ready and waiting for the guests! Along the main roads of the city, you can see colourful banners and flags of all the countries taking part in the championship. For the football fans of course, the most important sight is the “Amber” stadium, which opened last summer. There is also a new airport terminal, new hotels, and the infrastructure has been generally improved a lot. Since the beginning of June, we’ve also had new water tram connections to Westerplatte and the National Sailing Centre.
Regarding new tourist attractions, it’s hard to say for sure as Gdansk has been extending its offer for years. The latest attraction is the Maritime Cultural Centre, a branch of the Maritime Museum. For football fans who can’t watch the matches in the stadium, there is a Fan Zone, situated near the Main Train Station, on Plac Zebrań Ludowych.
For 172 weeks you’ve been documenting the construction process of the Gdansk stadium. Where does this fascination come from?
Indeed, for 3.5 years I’ve been creating a diary of the stadium construction. I was turning up every Wednesday in a forgotten district of Letnica and I was happily noting the changes this part of city was undergoing. Nearly boggy ground gave way to a beautiful stadium, and a district with a very bad reputation has been seriously revitalized. This process is still in progress. As for fascination, I’m interested in all changes in the city, but this one was the most spectacular.
You must be very much attached to this place. Are you going to any matches during the championship?
I am emotionally attached to the stadium, it’s obvious. An exhibition of my photographs and films, showing the process of the stadium construction will be shown in Artus’ Court (Dwor Artusa) until the end of September. The preparations brought back a lot of memories; it feels as if I knew every change in the construction. But I’m most attached to the people I’ve met.
My interest in the stadium doesn’t mean that I also like football. I’ve never been a supporter of this sport, so I’m not planning to see a match there. During the championship I’d rather spend time in the City Culture Zone at Obrońców Wybrzeża street, in Gdansk Przymorze; it’s offering plenty of art and entertainment events.
What are the most overrated tourist attractions in Gdansk?
I think that in this respect Gdansk is no different to other European cities. Usually, the historic centres are most popular. But on the other hand, it’s hard to visit Gdansk without seeing the Neptune Fountain or Zuraw – extraordinary symbols of the city
What places serving Polish cuisine would you recommend to foreign tourists?
I always take my guests to the restaurant in Wolne Miasto hotel, which not only serves refined Polish cuisine, but also has a very Gdansk interior design and it’s situated near Great Arsenal (Wielka Zbrojownia). Monk’s borscht with dried apricots and beans tastes excellent.
What tip would you give to football fans coming to Gdansk this weekend?
I encourage them to use the “mirror” method. It’s based on a rule that every smile evokes a smile. We’re a Slavic nation, open, and if we encounter a smiling football fan, we will respond with a smile.
You can’t leave Gdansk without a bottle of Goldwasser – liquor with golden flakes – and without a small amber souvenir, necessarily bought in a professional amber gallery.
Tell us something about Gdansk that Qypers probably don’t know.
“Gdansk is a key to everything” - said (allegedly) Napoleon, looking over the city at the beginning of the XIX century. Was he right? To find out, follow in his steps. It’s worth climbing the Grad Hill (Góra Gradowa) – just next to the train station. The view you can admire from the top speaks for itself…
You favourite place in Gdansk
Gdansk is a city on water. You can feel its charm on a beach, at the shore of the Gdansk Bay. However, I see the power of water on Motlawa Encicle (Opływ Motławy), the river flowing through the historic part of the city. Here, on the south fortifications of Gdansk, with a stunning view from the bastions over the city and the water, I feel at my best.