Gdańsk, Poland

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The Road to Freedom

Gdańsk doesn't spring to mind as a postcard-perfect European city, or one that's central to much of recent European history. But it's both beautiful and important. Its inlet at Westerplatte was the location of the starting gun for the destruction of World War II. Fifty years later Gdańsk's port was the starting gate in the destruction of the Soviet Union, a movement that was constructed in a shipyard, by an electrician who lit up a revolution.

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Second Wind in front of the Crane
The medieval working crane was once the largest working crane in the world. Now it's the signature building of Gdansk. And we had a front row seat.
Diving contest
Cranes can be used to lift objects or to drop them. Moments after our arrival, there was a diving competition from the high platform of the crane into the river below. No hoist required.
Borscht
Poles consume a lot of soup, winter and summer. In hot weather, they like their borscht chilled, with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill. It's hard not to order it, actually.
Armory
This lovely edifice was intended to house ammunition, which seems a little incongruous. The arsenal is decorated with coats of arms and statues, including a figure of Athena, goddess of warfare.
Artus Court
Artus Court was built in the heyday of this Hanseatic city as a meeting place for merchants and a commercial exchange. Its name is an homage to King Arthur. The legendary Round Table was the model envisioned for the meeting of powerful minds here.
Facades
Long Street is bordered by dozens of eye-popping façades on houses originally built by rich burghers. Now the first floors house cafés and shops.
Green Gate Royal Residences
The Green Gate marks the end of the Royal Way to the royal residences housed inside. Though no royals have actually stayed inside these quarters, it always provided a barrier to entering the Old Town with its ability to raise the adjacent bridge over the Motława River.
Sunflowers
We were intrigued by the ubiquitous display of dried sunflower heads in produce stands. People buy them and cradle them like schoolbooks in one arm, picking out the seeds with the other hand. It's a snack in 100% biodegradable packaging.