Gdańsk (Danzig) is one of the oldest Polish cities. It is situated by the Baltic Sea on the Bay of Gdansk and has long been an important center of trade between northern and western Europe and the countries of East Central Europe. Considered to be the capital of Pomerania, this city is very popular among tourists and investors. As a sea port, Gdansk has numerous tourist attractions, golden beaches as well as countless monuments associated with coastal life and culture. Gdansk is also a royal and Hanseatic city, once the most populated and the richest in the Republic of Poland.
The greatest treasure of Gdansk was always amber and you can admire its beautiful specimens in the Museum of Amber, as well as in every jewellery store and booth. At the time of the Roman Empire, the famous Amber Trail led from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea. People of Pomerania paid for weapons, tools and materials with amber and therapeutic amber tincture. The famous Amber Room was built in Gdansk; unfortunately it disappeared during World War II and has not been found so far.
The first mention of Gdańsk comes from the year 997, a date which is conventionally accepted as the beginning of the history of the city, although there was a fishing village dating back to the seventh century. Gdańsk is considered the symbolic place of the outbreak of World War II and the beginning of the fall of communism in Central Europe.
Gdansk is the only city in Poland with such a turbulent history, mainly because of its advantageous strategic position. It has access to the sea, it is located near the mouth of the Vistula and is in the midst of very important trade routes. In the thirteenth century, the city and the whole Pomerania region was dominated by the Teutonic Knights, the Order of Brothers of the German House of St. Mary in Jerusalem. The Teutonic Knights settled accounts in a cruel way so that there was no possibility of any opposition, thus limiting the economic development of the city. However, they also erected a lot of great, impressive buildings during their reign. The main hall was built then as were the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Church of St. Catherine, Church of St. Nicholas, Artus Court, Crane, and the Great Mill.
The power of the Teutonic Knights began to weaken after the famous Battle of Grunwald in 1410. However, after Thirteen Years’ War (1454-1466) Gdańsk declared itself to be on the Polish side, which broke the power of the Teutonic Knights and liberated the city from foreign domination. For taking part in the war, the city was endowed with many privileges, and it became the main port of Poland and the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. In the sixteenth century the Swedish invasion took place and the second half of the seventeenth century was marked by a slow decline of the city. It was caused by the fact that Gdansk contributed to the war, as well as decreased interest in Polish grain in Europe.
The year 1772 brought the first partition of the Polish Republic, and unfortunately in 1793 Gdańsk was included in the boundaries of the Prussian state. This was an extremely painful blow to the once mighty city, as Gdańsk became a secondary port without any major trades. This state of affairs lasted until 1807, when under the provisions of the peace treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon Bonaparte created the Free City of Gdańsk. Six years later, the city was besieged by Russian troops and again returned to Prussia.
Germany’s defeat in World War I raised the problem of Gdansk’s membership. Finally, under the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, Gdansk adopted the status of a Free City for the second time in its history. Unfortunately, over time the Germans started to take charge once again, leading to free and unrestricted activities by the Nazis in the most important urban structures just before World War II. On September 1, 1939 the battleship Schleswig-Holstein started the attack on the Polish port of Westerplatte, which announced to the world the beginning of World War II. Germans attacked the city and made arrests among activists living in Polish neighborhoods.
The memorable heroic defense of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk by its employees is now part of historic lore.
The year 1945 brought the destruction of Gdansk architecture. The fierce defense of the German army, combined with the Red Army’s attack resulted in massive destruction of the city. Gdańsk was finally liberated on 28 March 1945, when the Artus Court hoisted the Polish flag.