Gdańsk with a population of just under 500 000 is situated on the Bay of Gdańsk and the Baltic Sea, beside the delta of Poland’s longest river, the Vistula. The site has been inhabited since the 10th century. Today it is the main center of an urban complex that also includes Sopot and Gdynia, an urban agglomeration that stretches picturesquely along the coast. Since the very beginning of its history, Gdańsk has been one of the most important commercial and industrial cities on the Baltic Sea. The city became a member of the Hanseatic League, the most powerful trade organization in northern Europe at the time, in the mid-14th century, which ensuring the city prospects for rapid development and power.

Gdańsk’s greatest period of prosperity lasted until the end of the 16th century. In those days, 75 percent of Polish exports went through the port of Gdańsk, chiefly grain, which went to all the countries of Europe. Nationalities from throughout Europe came to the city, including settlers from areas that are today located in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scandinavia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Italy. The city’s political system resembled mercantile republic. Beautiful buildings were erected in Gdańsk, designed by the best northern European architects of the time. During World War II, which actually began in Gdańsk with the attack of Nazi forces on the Westerplatte peninsula, the city suffered greatly. It was bombed by the Red Army in 1945 and many buildings were utterly destroyed. Many of Gdańsk’s historic buildings were rebuilt after the war.

The more recent history of the Tricity area comprises an essential part of the Polish consciousness. It was here that the strikes of 1970, 1980 and 1988 began, ultimately leading to the destruction of the communist system. Lech Wałęsa led the 1980 strike at the former Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, which became the cradle of the Solidarity social movement. The trade-union leader went on to become a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and president of Poland. Memory of the past is very much alive in the city today. Three large crosses stand at the attract lots of guests.

Very intriguing are the smaller “beads” of the Tricity necklace on the Gdańsk-Gdynia route. Wrzeszcz has an atmosphere from the late 19th and early 20th century, including eclectic style houses and Vienna Secession-style villas. Sights worth seeing include a 19th-century brewery and a settlement of workers’ cottages. This is the hometown of Günter Grass, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Oliwa, site of the International Organ Festival, is famous for its cathedral, containing an original Rococo organ. Unusual spectacles and concerts The Tricity is well known for its unique theatrical performances. The summer stage of the Municipal Theatre in Gdynia operates next to the pier in Orłowo. Its “foundations” are immersed in the Bay of Gdańsk and viewers are able to admire performances from the beach.

The Atelier Theatre is located on the beach next to the historical Grand Hotel in Sopot. In summer, André Hubner-Ochodlo, a German artist with Ukrainian roots, comes here to present Polish-German-Jewish repertoire. The Theatrum Gedanense Foundation, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, organizes Shakespeare Days and the National Shakespeare Festival in Gdańsk. Also active in Gdańsk is Schola Cantorum Gedanensis, considered the best Polish choir, and Capella Gedanensis, which specializes in the music of old Gdańsk. The historical organs of the Oliwa Cathedral, St. Mary’s Church and St. Nicholas’ Church attract many outstanding musicians. The Forest Opera in Sopot was the venue for Wagner festivals before World War II, while today it hosts concerts and the International Song Festival.

Something for gourmets The Tricity is famous for fish. The Fish Hall in Gdynia offers all kinds of seafood. The Polish Baltic coast is rich in herring, cod, salmon, eel, turbot and flounder. Hel hosts an annual competition for the most interesting herring dish. Beer famous across Europe has been brewed in Gdańsk for centuries. Other local specialties include Goldwasser – a clear herb liqueur with gold flakes, Piołunówka – a modern version of absinthe, and Dzika Pszczoła (Wild Bee) – a honey vodka with forest herbs. Amber is a typical souvenir from Gdańsk. If you fail to find any on the shore, there are ready-made amber decorative items and jewellery on sale at numerous souvenir stores in the Tricity.