IF YOU LIKE CULTURE, ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT, YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A FISH IN THE WATER HERE. PRACTICALLY ALL YEAR ROUND, POMORSKIE HOSTS WORLDCLASS CULTURAL EVENTS TO SATISFY EVEN THE MOST DEMANDING AUDIENCES. CULTURE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.
HERE IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
It is here in Gdańsk, in 1980, that the Solidarity Independent Self-Governing Trade Union began communist-oppressed Poland's road to freedom, when political demands were included in the demands of the striking workers. After two weeks of strikes, the Polish government signed an agreement with the workers. It was just then, at the Gdańsk Shipyard, that the ideals of solidarity began their long road to change the face of Europe and the world. The Solidarity of Arts Festival, held at the turn of August and September, is an artistic tribute to these events, famous for the world's largest open-air jazz concerts. Today, the word about the Solidarity heritage is spread by a dedicated institution located in the post-Shipyard area. It is the European Solidarity Centre, which organises exhibitions, concerts, debates and educational activities.
Another place where history changed its course. It was here, on 1 September 1939, that the Second World War began; here, the soldiers who defended Westerplatte became a symbol of fearless resistance and the lonely struggle of the Polish nation. Today, where these events took place, a monument to the Defenders of the Coast stands, whose shape resembles a chipped bayonet driven into the ground.
PEARLS OF HERITAGE, AMBER, ARTISTIC GEMS
To stand before this judgement is an artistic experience extraordinaire. That is because Hans Memling's Last Judgement is a genuine masterpiece of the Early Renaissance. It took the artist almost four years to paint it.
The triptych, which fell prey to the Gdańsk-based privateer Paul Beneke, travelled a remarkably long and interesting road to finally become the pearl in the collection of the National Museum in Gdańsk.
The Artus Court (Dwór Artusa) has its own pearl: the Great Stove, rightly considered to be the pinnacle of Renaissance handicraft.
The Diocese Museum in Pelplin presents another unique piece: a Gutenberg Bible. The two-volume edition, comprising of 641 leaves in the original 15th cent. binding, is one of the most precious books in the world. It was Europe's first-ever printed volume.
Next to its precious pearls, Pomorskie also has its gold. Amber, also known as the Gold of the North, is a highly valued jeweller's material. It formed more than 40 million years ago and is a fossil resin of coniferous trees. The artists of Pomorskie have reached true mastery in its crafting and application. You can find out about the history of amber in the region's museums, especially in the Gdańsk based Amber Museum. If you're hungry for adventure, you can find this precious material yourself during Pomorskie's Amber Fishing Championships.
ON THE GOTHIC TRAIL
Our region's most famous Gothic structure is the Malbork Castle. Built by the Teutonic Knights, it is impressive in both its size and architecture. From 1309 to 1457, it was the seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and, together with the town of Malbork, it performed the function of the capital of the Order's state. In 1997, the Castle was entered onto the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the largest Gothic castles in the world.
With regard to Gothic, it would be difficult not to mention monumental churches, such as St Mary's church in Gdańsk, which is Europe's largest brick church with a capacity for 20,000 people.
These two extremely well-served ships could tell us many a gripping story: over the 55 years of its service in the Polish Merchant Navy, the huge three-mast Dar Pomorza, now a museum ship, made 102 training voyages, covering half a million nautical miles. Today, it is one of the world's most visited sailing ships.
Built before 1939, the destroyer ORP Błyskawica originally came from England. It can be seen at Kościuszki Square, Gdynia, where the new seat of the Polish Navy Museum is located.
THE REGION'S IDENTITY – THE KASHUBIAN HERITAGE
In Pomorskie you don't need to go back to the roots because they are always alive. The Kashubian people who live here are the largest ethnic group with a distinct and unique language, original customs and colourful folk art.
The oldest archaeological artefacts which testify to the existence of a seal hunters settlement from the 5th cent. BCE are located near the Rzucewo Manor.
The stone circles preserved in Odry and Węsiory are the burial grounds of the Goths – a Germanic people who came from Scandinavia at the turn of the 1st and 2nd cent. CE. The Kashubian Region is also where the characteristic half-timbered building style can be found.
The open-air museums of Pomorskie are a veritable goldmine of knowledge about the history and daily life of past generations. Among them, it's worth noting: the Kashubian Ethnography Park and Museum in Wdzydze Kiszewskie – Poland's oldest open-air museum, the Pomeranian Folk Culture Museum in Swołowo, an open-air ethnographic museum in Nadole, Słowiński Countryside Museum in Kluki, where in the summer open-air events are held, including the "black wedding" (a peat digging festival), bread baking workshops, wicker basket weaving.
THE REGIONS OF KOCIEWIE, POWIŚLE, ŻUŁAWY
An invaluable asset of Kociewie is the diversity of its landscape – from almost flat lowlands along the River Vistula, through the hilly lakeland with a variety of forest complexes to river gorges. There are more than 200 lakes in Kociewie. The people of Kociewie are a separate ethnic group, with their own dialect, traditions and legends. The subregion's capital is Starogard Gdański.
Powiśle is a historical and geographic territory, located along the lower River Vistula, formed under the influence of the Old Prussians. Its most interesting cities with multiple tourist attractions include Kwidzyn, Malbork and Sztum.
The Żuławy Lowlands (Żuławy Wiślane) are located in the Vistula Delta. The tradition and culture of this area was shaped by Dutch settlers – the Mennonites. Picturesque gothic churches have survived until today, with characteristic wooden towers, arcaded houses, beautifully situated cemeteries and preserved village layouts.