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Strictly come Gdansk-ing

Contrasting memories of Gdansk
Gdansk offers a remarkable mix of experiences and constantly comes up with surprises. There cannot be more contrasting ingredients in a tour than the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Oliwa and the Gdansk Shipyard.

The oldest part of the cathedral dates from 1186. It boasts a magnificent church organ and its recitals attract large numbers of tourists. How does this fit in with an event organiser’s requirements? Well, it is possible to book an organ recital specially for a group as part of an incentive or a leisure programme. The cost is only 200zl (£40) for a 20-minute programme that can be a medley of church and popular music. In company with scores of visitors, out little group was enthralled by Ave Maria as well as Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.

Without doubt the most memorable part of our visit to the Three Cities was the Gdansk Shipyard. It was special for me, in that I had been taken round the shipyard in 1966 in the depths of winter and in the depths of the Cold War. At that time thousands of men worked on shipbuilding and ship repair and engine building on a site of thousands of acres. It had been called the Lenin Shipyard. Now, in 2011 it is still a working yard employing about 1,700 men on ship repairs in a dry dock, but with extensive areas of derelict land.

However, it is a destination of pilgrimage for visitors from all round the world, as well as Poland. This is where Lech Walesa first worked as an electrician and then stood up to the brutal intimidation of the Soviet Union and made his union, Solidarity, a symbol of resistance that helped to release the iron grip of Communism on so many countries of Europe, not only Poland. The original shipyard bus rattles groups round to different locations on the site. One large multi-storey workshop serves as a gallery for budding local artists, but it is also the place where groups can see Lech Walesa’s original bench that still has his work tools. Here we were also able to watch a video composed of original news film from the stirring times of the 1980s uprisings.

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