Touring Gdansk

I hate touring, the act of being a tourist. I don’t enjoy museums, I find live history to be duller than books on the subject, I think movies and pictures are fine representations of physical beauty, I think amusement parks are overrated, and have no desire to check off been to X, on a bucket list. To sum up, I’m generally unimpressed by being in the presence of things. To misquote Jana, the Knights Hall mom, “I’m just a Meh person.” I say meh to most things and touristy things tend to fall heavily into the meh bucket.

I thus expected to find touring Gdansk to be mildly distracting at best and painfully boring at worst. The first day met my expectations. We wandered through Old Town, a section of the city rebuilt from WW2 bombing to give a semi medieval or Renaissance..(ian?) look, before grabbing diner at a traditional Polish restaurant. The buildings were beautifully painted, with gorgeous architecture and statuary, some of which was no replica but actually hundreds of years old. The streets were cobbled and there were all sorts of different looks from era’s long gone and places I’ve never been. The food, perogies, something I’ve never had before, is highly acclaimed by everyone I’ve asked. Overall I found it slightly better than watching an rerun of Friends.

Some highlights, Polish restaurants keep blankets on their patio seating in case you get cold. There were four lion carvings that looked like the artist got progressively lazier as he went along, giving the last one so simple a look it made it gave the lion the personality of a country bumpkin. The women.

Yup…Like I said, not into touristy things.

I assumed the next day would be similar as we had plans to take a boat tour and visit the Solidarity museum. I was determined to go along despite a general disinterest as I figured perhaps I would find a liking to these activities, particularly since it was another country.

The day started off far better as we got to watch a local polish man barge into a groups breakfast, down a few small bottles of vodak, wander off with two full glasses of beer, and turn into every drunken american stereotype.  Shirt comes off, tattoos displayed and he begins to yell at every passerby, clearly looking to start a fight, before giving up and stumbling away, abandoning his shirt, but not his jacket, and booze in the middle of the street. It was glorious.

That gave way to the boat tour. Now while I tend to hate sight seeing there is one visual that always pulls at me. Urban..decay for lack of better word. The truth is the area doesn’t need to be abandoned as a building of going up that is bare concrete and steel girders, an architectural skeleton missing it’s skin and meat, is equally appealing. Graffiti, abandoned streets, broken buildings, hell even litter to some extent, so long as it looks like a city dying, it all has this happiness inspiring property in me. And Gdansk has alot of that.

I don’t know if  it was the poetic justice of seeing mans arrogance destroyed by man in the wreckage still left from WW2. The empty half built structures; resemblance to dystopian fiction of my formative years. My love of nature rejoicing in earth reconquering ground it once lost or some other cause giving me the possibly perverse pleasure from seeing a metro diseased and ending. Regardless the city offered me plenty of vistas to my particular interest along the river and I found myself quite happy wandering towards the museum.

I knew nothing of the movement, hell I didn’t even realize Poland had still been Soviet in the 80’s so I was going in with little organic interest. The building when we got there was made in the brutalism style(I learned that word today) and looked like it was falling apart. This was both good and bad. Good in that I liked looking at it but bad in that it hinted at a poorly maintained exhibit. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was the opposite.

The museum doubles as a research center, library, memorial, and meeting place for discussing political movements. Inside was quite modern looking and what was really cool was they had turned alot of the open areas into gardens, and were even growing vines up the wall. Really neat design that blew me away as soon as I walked in. It didn’t continue to impress at the level right away. The first two rooms were somewhat interesting providing some nice context to the revolution and movement I had no idea of. But it wasn’t till near the end that I really found myself being drawn in. There were a number of exhibits on the art, music, and humor of the movement and I was able to really begin to relate to the people. I know it’s shallow but surprisingly being born a rich white male in a prosperous New England town make it hard to relate to the suffering of people willing to put their lives on the line in order to get wages enough to eat. But music, art, humor, that’s all something we all share and with it I was finally able to get some idea of the feeling. Obviously not the true level of suffering but it began to click.

Unfortunately we ran out of time and head to get some of our companions back to make a train. On the way back I began to find even the more traditionally enjoyable things inspiring. As I walked by the a canal I got an inspiration for a town to use in the RPG I’m running that has created canals as highways. Not Venice per-se because it won’t be a port on an ocean, but a city that is built around 6 major rivers that meet up and flow off to different locations. An internal transportation hub.

Later I passed a statue of two giants. I don’t know much about art movements, but I think it was in the cubism style. It was all hard angles and shining metal. There was a man sitting on the ground and his arm and chest were crumbling apart. There was a woman above him looking like she was merging with a ship. I have no idea what it was or what it represented, but for once, I actually care. Also I don’t know how but I guarantee that’s going to spawn some cool monsters, races, cultures, and spells for world building in the future.

I don’t know that this trip has turned me around on tourism. I still wanted to get off the street and go write rather than see more after dinner. But I do think I’ve now found a few ways to make it more enjoyable and embrace the experience. Yay finding more joy in the world

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