Powstał projekt osiemnastu tablic edukacyjnych, które będą przybliżać mieszkańcom i zwiedzającym historię Dolnego Miasta.
Opływ Motławy jest bardzo charakterystycznym punktem na mapie Gdańska. Leży na granicy Dolnego Miasta i Olszynki, w bliskiej odległości od tętniącej życiem Drogi Królewskiej. Fortyfikacje wraz z dawnymi fosami i Śluzą Kamienną stanowią cenne dziedzictwo kulturowe i przyrodnicze.
Baza wiedzy historycznej i przyrodniczej
Projekty tablic – autorstwa Stowarzyszenia Opowiadacze Historii Dolnego Miasta w Gdańsku oraz zaprzyjaźnionych z nimi fotografów i przyrodników – zawierają w sobie, oprócz ciekawostek historycznych, fragmenty publikacji z przedwojennych gazet czy wspomnienia mieszkańców sprzed kilkudziesięciu lat, które są cennym źródłem wiedzy na temat tego miejsca. Opisano także nieistniejące już obiekty, jak np. skocznia czy kąpielisko miejskie przy istniejącym do dziś stadionie żużlowym (rejon ul. Zawodników) oraz ciekawostki dotyczące tutejszej roślinności i zamieszkujących te tereny zwierząt – w szczególności ptactwa. Całość dopełniają wyjątkowe fotografie – również historyczne – oraz mapki. Dodatkowo na projektach tablic umieszczono kody QR odsyłające do stron internetowych poszerzających podejmowany temat („QR WIĘCEJ”) oraz do tłumaczeń treści w języku angielskim („QR ENG”).
Przedsięwzięcie powstało na zlecenie Biura Rozwoju Gdańska.
001 Nasz Bastion / Our bastion
The mountain (St. Gertrude's Bastion) has a long history. The evidence of this can be found in the various discoveries made there. At one time cannonballs were dug up. On other occasion rifle remains were found. Bayonets and as well as bullets and casings. Kids used to find such treasures there and play war.
In the past, when the inside of the mountain was not secured, you could go inside, chase around in the dark and scare each other. In the winter it was warm inside and in the summer pleasantly cool. Only sometimes the water dripped on your head. The place had remarkable acoustics and echo. Many corridors - some narrow others wide. High walls. Stone stairs. You only had to watch out for the bats.
The slope of this mountain was the place of many children's games of tag or scavenger hunts. Bicycle races. Time runs. In winter it was time for sledge rides and in the summer for rides on flat cardboard boxes.
At the bottom of the mountain there was a good place for fishing. On Saturdays and Sundays anglers sat side by side fishing for tenches, crucians, pikes, eels. Beautiful specimens were caught there. In winter they also fished on ice. This was also the best place for ice skating. The skates were clipped to boots and go!
And at the top ... there was a brilliant vantage point. You could stand there for hours and watch what was happening all around. On one side, the marshalling hump. Wagons of various shapes and purposes. In the distance, trains going to the nearby South Railway Station or turning toward Blaszanka or the Meat Works. On the other side, passenger trains rushing on the tracks. Road traffic through the Lowland Gate. Every Monday and Thursday, horse carts going to the nearby market square in Chmielna St. Trucks from Unimor. Buses to Olszynka. Physical education lessons on the pitch of the nearby Mechanical and Electrical Continuing Education Center. And a striking steep tower on the grounds of present Provincial Police Headquarters, which during World War II was a part of the Paweł Benke Youth Hostel on Biskupia Górka.
“We had a place in Wałowy Square where we used to throw autumn leaves. Later there was a lot of earthworms there. We used them for fishing. (...) We played football in the back of the bookstore. Sometimes, when the ball fell on the roof, we had to climb those stairs. (…) There used to be a carpentry shop near the bastion. You could walk over and ask for sawdust for rodents. (...) One of our neighbours made a skibob and in the winter he took every kid for a downhill ride. (...) Every year, on Children's Day, there was a fair at the Żabi Kruk Marina. Jumping in sacks. Racing. Carrying an egg on a spoon. Slalom. And at the end, a kayak trip with the employees ”.
002 Plac Wałowy / Wałowy Square
In the foreground you can see the warehouse facilities of the town pawn shop opened in 1867. It offered fair loans against collateral. An attentive observer will notice the coat of arms of Gdańsk at the top of the side wall of the pawn shop. After the war, one of the branches of the Gdańsk Graphic Works, and later the wholesale store "Dom Książki" operated in the same building.
On the left hand side you can see an outline of the Small Armoury erected in 1643-1645. Both light arms and cannons were stored there. It was the only building that sustained extensive damage during the World War II. Since 1993 it is used by the Faculty of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk.
In the distance on the opposite side of the pawn shop there are buildings of former Wiebe’s barracks built in the middle of the 19th century for Prussian infantry and grenadiers. In the 1950s Gdańsk Radio T-18, later renamed Gdańsk Electronic Plant Unimor, began operating there. Currently located there amongst others are the Marshal's Office and Tax Office.
The Town Pawnshop, the Small Armoury and Wiebe's Barracks are all connected by the place where they are located. This place is Wałowy Square. The square received its name in 1805 from the nearby embankments. At the end of the 19th century in the recreational area of the park paths connecting central points around the square were marked out, benches were set up, gas lanterns installed and flowers planted. A picturesque fountain was placed in the centre point.
After the FETA festival moved from the Main Town to the Old Suburb and the Lower Town, the Wałowy Square became its central point. A point beyond which you were already sure to find yourself in an area dominated by street theatres. Here, in the shade of trees, intimate performances took place while the audience - as customary at the FETA festival – sat on the grass; people were swarming around the information point and having received the program of the event continued on their way in search of more performances.
In the years 1972/73 I worked at the Provincial Communications Company Gdańsk-Gdynia in the truck taxi department, which was located on the premises of the Small Armoury at the Wałowy Square. At that time, no one was interested in its historical value, the tiles were greasy and the walls were saturated with exhaust fumes. The now restored Gdańsk coat of arms was then as grey as the entire building.
003 Bastion Żubr / The Żubr Bastion
Standing in this place and looking ahead you can see a hill. It is the Żubr Bastion (The Bastion of the Bison).
It was firstly named Auerochs-Wohnung, which meant the house of the auroch, later it was Maidloch and presently Żubr (the Bison).
Built in the Old Dutch style in the years 1622-1623, as one of the 14 bastions forming the southern fortification line. Situated on the western edge of the fortifications, it is connected to the St. Gertrude's Bastion by a curtain and the Lowland Gate (built in 1626). It is a three-storey structure, consisting of a low embankment at the base, a high one in the middle and a cavalier at the end of a serpentine road. The cavalier was added at the end of the 17th century and later lowered in the Napoleonic times). The low embankment has a slope surrounded by a brick wall.
In 1625, the Żubr Bastion was equipped with a short postern, that is an underground passageway, which during World War II was converted into an air-raid shelter. It is relatively the best preserved bastion out of the remaining 13.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a railway track from the first South Railway Station in Gdańsk was led through the right side of the bastion. A brick Railway Gate was also built there.
In the winter, we used to sledge down the mountain. There was a gutter and a ski jump. And in the summer, during haymaking, we would take a sack, go up and slide down on that sack. And if we had no sack – we would use the hay. And down we went. After such games we would go and light a bonfire near the wall remains on the railway bridge. We would go up the hill to watch the wonderful view of Gdańsk. I would sit down there and dream - what will I do when I grow up. Nothing came true. But the view was beautiful. It always delighted me.
004 Brama Nizinna / The Lowland Gate
The name of the Lowland Gate comes from the fact that it leads to the Żuławy lowlands (and in the immediate vicinity - to Olszynka and Orunia). It is a brick, vaulted and deep gate. It has a simple facade clad with granite blocks with the completion date - 1626 and a simple coat of arms of Gdańsk on it. The Lowland Gate is presently the only Renaissance defensive gate in Gdańsk, which is still connected to the embankments. It was designed by Jan Strakowski. Together with the Long Gardens Gate, they are the last two surviving gates of the line of Dutch-type fortifications built in 1623–1638.
Entering the gate, you can still find and read 19th century inscriptions, most likely carved by guards or other soldiers.
During renovation works at the end of 1960 a trace of water level from 1829 was discovered on the outer wall of the gate at the entrance to the city on its left side (on the western pillar). The marked visible line was engraved with the date April 12, 1829.
In the second half of the 1960s, the local teenagers, with the support of adults, decided to transform the Lowland Gate into a club-café. It operated for the next few years. It was a meeting place for young modelers, photographers, enthusiasts of walkie-talkie, board games and sports as well as a place for playing and listening to popular youth music.
At the beginning of 1978, the Art Works ZPAP “Art” moved to the Lowland Gate. They were known for the production of stylized Gdańsk furniture and numerous conservation works, especially on Długa Street. They also run commercial activities, among others at the Contemporary Art Salon at the Armoury as well as at the Art Gallery and the Photography Gallery at Piwna Street.
In 1983 the premises were taken over by State Enterprise „Polish Art”. But soon they found their way back to ZPAP. For some time it also housed the Multimedia Academy - a school offering art courses.
Here, in the early 1970s, together with a group of friends from neighbourhood we started the adaption of this gate. We decided to make ourselves a club here. We had two large rooms. There was a stage - the guys played the guitars there. We organized dance evenings. Upstairs there was a place for young radio enthusiasts and people interested in radio matters. We got some spare parts from Unimor. We could DIY and make schematics for electronic devices there.
005 Bastion św. Gertrudy / The St. Gertrude's Bastion
Standing here and looking ahead you can see two hills. The further and higher one is Biskupia Górka (The Bishop’s Hill). The closer and lower one is St. Gertrude’s Bastion. (German: Bastion Gertrud).
The bastion was built between 1607 and 1638 in the New Italian type. It was named after the hospital of St. Gertrude which was established there around 1342 as a hospital for travellers. The hospital was moved around 1563 to the vicinity of Old Suburb (between the moat of Old Suburb, Mostowa Street and the St. Wojciech's Route next to the bastion). It is the last bastion of the western fortifications and the only one to keep its original shape. It is currently part of the Old Suburb (the name has been in force since 1949). The Lowland Gate (built in 1626) connects it to the Żubr Bastion. The Bastion was designed by Antoni van Obberghen.
The interior of the bastion contains casemates, i.e. underground corridors and brick-wall room. It was initially used as gunpowder and ammunition stores and artillery coach house. The bastion with its artillery and observation posts was an element of the permanent fortification erected on the plan of a pentagonal massif with high cavaliers. The Bastion of St. Gertrude, as well as the other 13 bastions that fortified 17th century Gdańsk, were surrounded from the outside by a double zigzag-shaped moat. Later the outer moat was drained and the remaining inner moat is now the Motława Channel. After 1920, the defensive and fortress area changed into a recreational and walking one.
The bastion was entered in the register of monuments in 1967. After World War II, the casemates were used as warehouses for the Dagoma Fruit and Vegetable Processing plant, as well as the nearby Unimor plants. Currently, they are used as a conservation repository.
It’s the late '90s. We go inside the bastion. We go down. We see a corridor with several niches. And a vent. We go further. In front we see new bricks – their colour stands out from the rest. If we go left there is a long corridor with large rooms on both sides. At the end we turn left again. And we go out to the side where the water flows outside. A long and wide corridor, which narrows and lowers, leads us to a barred exit at the very bottom. Or we go right, find the stairs and walk towards an arch (there must have been an exit to the south side of the pool). On the way, we pass a narrow corridor leading to the vent at the top. At that time there were very narrow, white chimneys on the bastion. Even now I still know the interior of this bastion by heart.
006 Fortyfikacje Dolnego Miasta / Lower Town Fortifications
The construction of fortifications is related to the situation of the 16th century Gdańsk, which from 1563 was involved in the First Northern War on two fronts with Russia and Sweden. The conflict with Stefan Batory was also of great concern for the authorities of Gdańsk. Additionally the fortification system that existed before 1454 proved to be obsolete in the 16th century and therefore was changed and reconstructed over the next several hundred years.
In 1547, the construction of modern bastion fortifications began. They stretched along the western side of the Old and Main Town and from 1593 - the Old Suburb.
The line of fortifications on the south and east side was created in the years 1622-1636 on the basis of a plan by Cornelius van den Bosch with the cooperation of the contractor Peter Jensen. At that time, 14 bastions were built, connected with each other by curtains and preceded by a zigzag shaped double moat filled with water. Together with the Stone Lock complex and its most picturesque element, the Stone Maidens (4 towers topped with Baroque domes), they formed a unique and effective protection against invaders' attacks. The fortifications were extended and modernized many times until the nineteenth century, when they lost their basic defensive role. Partly dismantled because they were believed to hold back the development of the city. Nowadays they are used for recreational purposes.
I envied my older friends who used to swim in “the Deep”, near the Stone Lock, and decided to learn to swim at all costs. Kids who didn’t know how to swim, only bathed in Baczek. Parents took care of this bathing area. Every summer day, mothers and children spread their blankets around the water. Dads bravely fought the reeds that were overgrowing the shore.
Eureka! One day I discovered that the Styrofoam floats on water and deduced that if I held onto it, I could also float. I had a bowling packaging at home. What luck! It was made of Styrofoam. Without much thinking, I put the box in my pants and ran to Baczek. Earlier I observed my older friends to see they did with their arms and legs so I lay down on the water and moved like they did and surprisingly … I was floating on the surface.
After a couple trial days, I noticed that my box had disappeared somewhere and I was swimming! I was a proud 8-year-old.
“The Deep” was waiting for me !!!
P.S. Only later did I find out that I was learning to swim in the former… inner moat.
007 Dworzec Południowy / Southern Railway Station - Gdansk contour
On 5 August 1852, at 4:00 p.m. (other sources say 4:30 p.m.), the first train officially entered the Eastern Railway Station (that was the name initially given to the Southern Railway Station). On that day the train brought here the Prussian King Frederick William IV himself. The station was the last stop on the dead end of the railway line running from Berlin through Tczew east to Królewiec. The station itself consisted of the passenger check-in room, a restaurant and post office rooms with a telegraph office, a locomotive depot, wagon works and coal storage. At that time passengers could get to the centre of Gdańsk by carriages and later by a special tram line running through Toruńska Street.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the station handled both passenger and freight traffic. After the opening of the Main Railway Station, it lost its importance and handled mainly freight. At that time, it was often referred to as the Railway Station at the Gdańsk Brama Nizinna (Leegetor Bahnhof).
After World War II, here at the so-called Kłodno Railway Station was the last stop for trains bringing repatriates. Many of them settled here and lived in this part of Gdańsk for the rest of their lives. This was also a journey starting point for emigrants.
Freight traffic with varying intensity was handled at the Gdańsk South Railway Station until 2006. Bricks and lime, furniture and fruit, porcelain and herring in barrels, wicker baskets and beer mugs were transhipped here. Also since the mid-1970s containers were stored in a large railway square. The station handled bulky goods such as tram cars, carousel elements and circus equipment. Soldiers arriving for tactical exercises from various parts of Poland would come here with all their equipment. And the tankers from the Lower Town barracks would load their gear here and head south. After the flood of the millennium in 1997 goods for the flood victims were gathered at this station. The last to leave this station were the coal trucks delivering coal to nearby warehouses in Toruńska Street.
I remember when we came from Vilnius to the Kłodno train station. Our train stood closer to the Toruńska Street. A special unloading ramp was located there.
I lived at Grodza Kamienna and then I could travel by train directly to my house. I attended primary school no. 50 on Grobla IV. When I was returning home and didn't want to wait for bus 131 or 123 I would get on a tram that was going to the nearby depot. I knew the time when the freight train from Blaszanka would be going to the station. I would jump on the steps and in just a few minutes I was at the Kamienna Śluza (Stone Lock). I got off at the Żubr Bastion and was almost home.
008 Urokliwe przyrodnicze kadry / Charming natural scenery
Cormorants like this part of the moat. They are typical fish eaters, so they found themselves a convenient place to feed and stay. It’s wonderful to see their great periscope silhouettes emerging from the water surface. They are great hunters, eating around 0.5 kg of fish a day. After hunting, they spread their wings to dry their feathers and sit lazily in such a position in the trees by the Stone Lock.
River terns dive from height to hunt for small fish. They are birds with shapely, slender, swallow-shaped silhouettes and a dagger-like, quite long beak. Agile and lightning fast in attack. Terns always guarantee spectacular hunting scenes. We will meet them here only in late spring and summer.
All year round, we have a chance to observe kestrels. These small falcons have adapted to city life. They prefer feeding grounds in open areas. We can get a closer look at them looking from the tops of the bastions. The kestrel hovers motionless while hunting. For this manoeuvre to be successful, he has to flap his wings quickly while lowering his tail. When the falcon sees the victim, he dives sharply for it. Its delicacy are rodents, insects, small birds such as: sparrows, tits, thrushes.
In summer, after aerial ornithological observations, it’s interesting to take a closer look at aquatic plants, commonly known as water lilies. Thanks to their large leaves, white water lilies and yellow water lilies create charming floating carpets. The white flowers of the lilies have a short lifespan of only 3 to 5 days. If you want to enjoy a closer view, you should admire them from your canoe.
There are streets in the Lower Town – Jaskółcza (Swallow), Szczygla (Goldfinch), Wróbla (Sparrow) and Kurza (Hen). But in the old days, there were many more bird streets. Especially when the main streets run along the banks of the canals and each bank had a different name. For ezample one of the banks of Jałmużnicza (Alms) Street used to be Papuzia (Parrot) Street. And one side of Szuwary (Reed) Street – Kaczą (Duck). One bank of Przyokopowa was Żurawia (Crane). And one of the banks of the Councilor – Kukułcza (Cuckoo) or more precisely Kukułkowa (Cuculidae). Whereas two streets – Dolna (Lower) and Królikarnia (Rabbit Warren) were called Stork streets with the appropriate numbers 1, 2, 3. However, the most bird streets were connected with Łąkowa (Meadow) Street. Once, divided into smaller sections with transverse channels, it had, among others, the banks with the names – Gęsia (Goose), Łabędy (Swan) and the aforementioned Wróbel (Sparrow).
009 Owadożerni / Insectivorous
Insectivorous allies of man
Day and night in the area, you can meet animals which during flight catch mosquitoes, blackflies and midges. These winged friends are the natural recipe for the reduction of insects that people so dislike. You will observe them in the spring and summer. In the daytime mainly swifts and swallows, most commonly martins. They are the ones that build semi-circular, closed nests out of clay. They place them on the outer walls of buildings, next to windows and the roof soffit. They also hatch under a colourful bridge. This area is also a good feeding ground for barn swallows with a characteristic forked tail.
Swallows are often confused with swifts. Swallows have easy to notice white body bottoms. In flight, they flap their wings quickly. Swifts are brown and black. Their flight is accompanied by a loud swish and the sight of sickle-shaped silhouettes in the sky. They never bend their wings. They wave them deep and fast. They are record holders in many ornithological fields! It is a pity that swifts migrate in the first half of August, heralding the rapidly approaching end of summer.
When it gets dark, bats take over the sky. In the moonlight, just above the open water surface, you will see the spectacular feeding performance. In flight, making tight circles and characteristic eights, bats catch water insects and their larvae, less often moths and blackflies. They sweep them up with their wings and tail membrane. He also spectacularly grabs victims with his feet. Before dawn they will hide in one of their summer hideouts: hollows or cracks in trees or shaded bridges.
For me they have always been a symbol of the approaching summer and holidays. They attract attention with their characteristic squeaking noise they make while hunting for insects. Sometimes they fly so high that it is difficult to spot them in a cloudless sky and sometimes when you look out the window in the evening you have the impression that you will be able to grab them in flight. They are masters of flying. When they go away in mid-August it gets quiet and sad. The prospect of the upcoming autumn is depressing. I look forward to seeing them again next spring, when they’ll cross the sky with a squeal, catching mosquitoes and other small insects and give me the pleasure of their presence. They are my favourite birds. And probably not only mine.
I will tell you a story. I had a cat that behaved like a dog. He greeted everyone at the door, rubbing against their legs, purring loudly. One time a few year ago, I came home around 11:00 p.m. It was a warm summer evening. Open windows - like always in the summer. I entered the apartment, but this time the cat did not greet me at the door. I was scared that something might have happened, maybe he fell out of the window (I live on the 3rd floor in an old tenement house in the Lower Town). I put down my purse and shopping in the kitchen and went in search of the cat. I found him in the bedroom. The cat was sitting in the corner of the room. He had his eyes glued to a little black point. The cat was so preoccupied that he didn't even notice that I had returned home. I went closer and saw what it was ... It was a little huddled bat. I was scared that the cat had hurt him. I went to the kitchen, grabbed thick rubber gloves, picked up the bat and carefully checked the wings - they were intact. I was disappointed that I didn’t have my camera at hand. I went back to the bedroom, switched the light off and opened the window wide. The bat flew away, safe and sound. I breathed a sigh of relief. And the cat? He woke up and greeted me.
010 Kamienna śluza / The Stone Lock and Spare Mill
The Stone Lock
The Stone Lock is part of the fortifications. The contract for its construction was signed with the Dutch in 1619. 80 workers were employed. The first two and a half years were devoted to drainage works. The actual works began in 1622 and were completed the following year. Materials were specially imported from the Netherlands. The lock received its present shape and appearance at the end of the 17th century when the two hundred-metre-long bulkheads, also known as steering wheels (they directed the water of the Motława to the lock and protected the lock devices), and two islands at their ends called “pig heads” were constructed.
The most characteristic element of the lock complex are four turrets called the Maidens. They owe their name to their structure. The bulkheads in the middle of the turrets' perimeter make it impossible to pass through them without being noticed. The final appearance the Stone Lock obtained at the beginning of the 18th century thanks to the works directed by Jean Charpentier. The Stone Lock owes its name to the materials used in its construction. In 1806, the lock underwent a general overhaul. In April 1829, the high water level and the hurricane blowing from the north-east broke the dike in the vicinity of Ptaszniki and Gemlice thus flooding three-quarters of the city. The lock gates were also destroyed. A plaque in German commemorates this event.
The Spare Mill
The mill was built in the same year as the Stone Lock, that is in 1623. It was of strategic importance, as it served as a backup mill, powered by the waters of the Motława, as opposed to the mills within the Main and Old Town, powered by the Radunia, with its source outside the city. This independence was crucial during the city siege, as the invaders usually cut off the water supply from the Radunia Canal which caused the mills to stop working. In such a case the mill at the Stone Lock could be used. Although this only occurred a few times in the entire history of the city. The entire mill together with the devices for opening the gates and the lock itself were renovated at the end of the 19th century. Until 1945, there was a pottery workshop in the mill building. The mill was destroyed during the liberation activities.
We had a lot of fun on those islands. We walked over the wall. We hung on the Water Maidens. And on this side there was a place where the guys used to flex their muscles in front of the girls while they admired them.
011 Historia Bastionów / The History of the Bastions
The line of south-eastern fortifications consists of seven bastions. They are: the St. Gertrude’s, Żubr (Bison), Wilk (Wolf), Wyskok (Leap), Miś (Teddy Bear), Królik (Rabbit) and Ogrodów (Garden - also known as Roggego's Bastion or Żbik, the Wildcat Bastion). The fortifications surround the following districts: Old Suburb, Lower Town and Long Gardens. Bastions are connected with each other by curtains and preceded by a single moat filled with water (the second line of the moat has been filled up).
The Żubr Bastion is connected to the St. Gertrude’s through the Lowland Gate. Both of the bastions are distinguished by their height. St. Gertrude was built in the old Italian system. It has brick wall casemates, used as gunpowder and ammunition stores as well as artillery coach house. The bastion with its artillery and observation posts was an element of the permanent fortifications, erected on the plan of a pentagonal massif with high cavaliers.
The Żubr Bastion was built in the Old Dutch style. It is three-storey structure, consisting of a low embankment at the base, a high one in the middle and a cavalier (added at the end of the 17th century).
The Wilk, Wyskok, Miś and Królik Bastions are two-storey structures (low and high embankments). They never had casemates. Equipped only with gunpowder stores and guardhouses, which were transformed into air raid shelters during World War II. After the war, the embankments were partly transformed and the interiors were built up. The characteristic zigzag shape of the fortifications can still be admired nowadays when flying over this area of Gdańsk - the air corridor runs directly over it.
The system of fortification built in the years 1622-1636 consisted of 14 bastions: St. Gertrude’s, Żubr (Bison), Wilk (Wolf), Wyskok (Leap), Miś (Teddy Bear), Królik (Rabbit), Ogrodowy (Garden), Wół (Ox), Lew (Lion), Jednorożec (Unicorn), Młyński (Mill), Grad (Hail), Ryś (Lynx) and Lis (Fox). The first six have survived to the present day. The rest were dismantled. Currently the fortification grounds serve as recreational areas.
In the old days there used to be frosts ... there used to be winters ... there used to be ice floes ...
When the former town moat on the border of the Lower Town and Olszynka became covered with a thick layer of ice, cutters would start working, entering the frozen water surface and chopping the white frosted sheets into smaller pieces. Then they had to be directed towards the bastions, where other workers pulled them ashore with the help of elevators. And then, most likely, they transported them to the nearest ice houses. This type of work during the season, which usually lasted 4-5 weeks, was undertaken by about 60 workers and had to work hard at it. Especially since the area penetrated by them at that time was quite large. It started at Kamienna Śluza (Stone Lock, Steinschleuse) and ended at the stadium. When a few months later, when unbearable heat began pouring from the sky, the ice earlier stored and secured was sent to the basements of Gdańsk dairies, restaurants and butcher shops, where it was used to lower the temperature of food products.
Prepared on the basis of a press announcement published in “Gazeta Gdańska”, No. 15 of 17th January 1935, p. 8
012 Szuwary / The reed
A relatively wide strip of vegetation growing on the coastal part of the river bed is called the reed. We can find here the common reed, narrow-leaved and broad-leaved cattail, yellow iris, calamus or simple-stem bur-reed. The easiest way to spot the last mentioned is when you canoe, as they grow on the edge of the reed visible from the water side. The simplestem bur-reed owes its name to its characteristic thorny inflorescence and infructescence. Besides its decorative value, it also serves as a refuge for many species of underwater fauna and birds.
Another attractive looking reed plant is the pink blooming butomaceae. It is a honeycomb plant with edible rhizomes and leaves used in braiding.
Dense reed vegetation is also home to many species of birds. With a bit of luck, we will see a small, woven basket on the reed stalks. It's the great reed warbler’s nest. If we could not observe the bird itself, we will definitely hear it. His loud and distinct screeching voice breaks even through the city buzz. The song of the great reed warbler is often imitated by words starting with „ryba ryba-rak-rak-rak…” (“fish, fish, crayfish-crayfish-crayfish…”).
A coot builds its nest on the surface of the water, using broken pieces of stalks, branches and dry reeds. This small, slate-black bird with a characteristic white shield on its forehead is often mistakenly called a duck. As it turns out the only common element with ducks is the habitat. The coot is more closely related to e.g. a common crane albo Eurasian crane. In spring, coots fiercely defend their territory chasing away other birds. We can often observe aggressive fights, including pecking and waterboarding.
013 Koszary / Barracks
In 1915 there were already three barracks in the Lower Town.
The first (“yellow") ones, currently housing the Academy of Music, were established between 1868 and 1873. They were named Reiterkaserne, although the name associated with riders or cavalry did not correspond to reality at all. Grenadiers from the 4th and 5th regiments as well as infantry from the 128th were stationed there. Between 1887 and 1889 the "red" barracks were built. They took the name Langgarter-Hintergasse-Kaserne and later Herrengarten-Kaserne.
Around 1914, as the last ones, the infantry barracks on the garden bastion were established. They were named the Kaserne Bastion Roggen.
Only those barracks from the 19th century survived to the present day. Now, in the place of the youngest ones, there is an office building.
After World War II, the People's Army of Poland stationed in all the preserved buildings. In the years 1977-2005 the barracks also housed the 2nd Degree Military Music School, which in 1984 transformed into the Military High School of Music.
At present, in the "yellow" barracks at 1-2 Łąkowa Street, there is the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music. The red barracks are private property.
For the soldiers stationed in the barracks in the Lower Town the nearest photographic studio was the Fritz Krause's atelier in Weidengasse (now Łąkowa St.). Here are some portraits of soldiers taken in that very place.
Why haven’t I heard form you for so long? Let me know – have you received all my previous letters? How do you feel? Please write to me – are you coming? I miss you so much. Please reply to my letter as soon as you can.
Warm greetings and kisses for your Leonie and the Durswell family.
With you to the end of the world.
Recipient of the card: Musketeer Albert Fritz.
2nd Platoon 1st Company of 1st Spare Battalion of the 128th “Gdańsk” Infantry Regiment (8th team). Gdansk. Equestrian barracks at Łąkowa Street.
014 Ptaki wodne / Water birds
Walking along the old moat, at any time of the year, we can easily observe the characteristic and well-known species of water birds, e.g. mute swans, mallards, coots or black-headed gulls. In spring and summer, with a bit of luck, we will notice birds sitting on their nests or rearing chicks. In winter, they shorten the distance and often go ashore in search of food thrown by people. Some of the birds we observe are visitors from the north who decided to spend the winter with us. Others are individuals that are waiting at their breeding ground for the next spring.
City water reservoirs freeze up much later and therefore are safer and more attractive for wintering birds. The constant presence of people and frequent feeding are also important. However, let's not forget about their proper diet. Feeding birds with leftovers from our table, often salted and seasoned or bread is unacceptable. A diet based on bread causes a number of digestive system diseases, immune disorders, acidosis, dehydration or incurable joint deformities, which make it impossible for birds to fly, the so called angel wing syndrome. Water birds, apart from cereal grains, various types of groats or oat flakes, will be happy to eat cooked, unsalted and sliced vegetables, Food should be laid out in a safe place on the shore.
Often an ornithological ring can be seen on a bird's leg. Each has a unique number, which is a kind of bird’s ID card and the name of the ringing centre. Each sighting and reporting it to the Ornithological Station (the ring number) to the Ornithological Station provides valuable information, e.g. about the age of the bird, breeding and wintering grounds or migration routes of particular species. Thanks to colour-marking the identity of bird can be established without the need for recapture.
015 Drzewa i krzewy / Trees and shrubs
Wandering along the old moat we can see how the nature intertwines with history and the present intertwines with the past.
The hawthorns, growing here by no accident, are silent witnesses to history. They are the remains of the defensive hedges planted by the Prussian artillery in the early 20th century. Among them there are single-necked hawthorns as well as inter-species hybrids, e.g. rare large-fruited hawthorn. Thorny shrubs of compact structure formed a natural section of the city fortifications, which were insurmountable for a potential enemy. They were planted in accordance to the instructions, in two rows, each 2m high and 2m wide. Hawthorn is also a medicinal plant that has been valued for centuries as it has a particularly beneficial effect on the heart. It lowers blood pressure, has anti-thrombotic, anti-atherosclerotic and calming properties. Hawthorn preparations have also gained recognition in the cosmetic industry. They prevent rapture of capillaries and the formation of the so-called spider veins. They smooth, moisturize and make the skin more supple. It's worth taking advantage of its beneficial properties!
Strolling along the bastions, we pass elderberries. Their fruits are the delicacy for birds but for humans raw fruits can be poisonous. Before eating they should be thermally treated. The inflorescences are ideal for making of aromatic lemonade or frying in pancake batter. Black elderberry is one of the most important herbal raw materials. It is well known for its immunity aiding properties. It has a diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effect.
We will also see maples, both common and sycamore, lofty ash trees and willow trees, associated with water and catkins, the symbol of Easter. Willow bark extract contains salicylates that have an anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effect. Our ancestors drank bark infusion but today we buy synthetically obtained aspirin.
Trees and shrubs have many functions in nature, they delight us with their diversity and surprise us with their application possibilities. It is worth getting to know them and the program www.poznajemydrzewaikrzewy.pl can help with that.
In the autumn, when the chestnut trees were covered with beautiful spiky balls, hiding inside lovely shiny chestnuts - the spirit of the conqueror entered the children's minds and hearts. The prettiest, most ripe ones were the hunting grounds for each of us.
For us the most beautiful and inaccessible trees covered with chestnuts were located behind the Fire Brigade buildings on Wyskok Redoubt. The trees growing there at that time weren’t so tall (this was more than 50 years ago) and quickly became an object of our interest. Since no tree was an obstacle for me at the time, I climbed up without thinking. The aim was to reach the most beautiful chestnuts. Going up was easy … but unfortunately the way down was not so easy.
But the brave firefighters called by my hunting companions saved me from oppression. I wonder if any of them remember that incident.
016 Stadion, baseny, skocznia / Stadium, swimming pools, jumping tower
Behind the metal fence there are the sports facilities of the Zbigniew Podlecki Stadium. This is where our local team GKS Wybrzeże Gdańsk competes.
Earlier, there used to be the Wół Bastion (the Ox Bastion) there. The sporting history of this place began during the period of the Free City of Gdańsk. Already in 1920, these areas were selected as one of the first to build the new sports infrastructure, so much needed in the city. Finally, in the spring of 1925, the Lower Town Stadium (Kampfbahn Niederstadt) was opened.
Until the completion of the Jahn Stadium (from 1934: named after Albert Forster) in Aniołki, presently Romualda Traugutta St., the stadium in the Lower Town was not only the largest, but also the most important sports facility of interwar Gdańsk. It was mainly used for athletic competitions and football matches. The stadium had a 400-meter track, a jump and a full-size football pitch. As reported in 1926, it could accommodate 15,000 spectators.
After the war, the stadium very quickly resumed its sporting functions. Since then it has been repeatedly extended and modernized. The most important change was the transformation of the running track into a speedway racetrack in the 1960s.
In the moat by the Wół Bastion, in the second half of the 19th century, there was a military bathing area (Militär-Schwimm-Anstalt). You could get there going from the Long Gardens Gate, commonly known as the Żuławy Gate. Initially, it was used only by military units. Not only did the soldiers swim here, but. . . they could also take care of their personal hygiene. In the summer, the swimming pool was also available for civilians. However, it was not always free.
The swimming pool operated in this place until 1918. Two years later, demolition works began at the bastions. A few years later, at the back of the earlier mentioned stadium, in the area of the present Zawodników Street, two public swimming pools with appropriate infrastructure were built.
For several decades after the war, there were two more swimming pools at the stadium - a small paddling pool for children and a deep pool for adults. Near the bend of the moat there was a characteristic concrete jumping tower. There is no trace of these objects now.
The inaugural speedway competition took place in 1965. Since April 2008, the stadium is named after Zbigniew Podlecki, a Gdańsk speedway rider. I worked at the stadium for several years. I personally met the first track master of the facility, a man who prepared the track before each competition. I really enjoyed attending speedway matches ... the roar of machines, the smell of fuel combined with speedway dust, screams in the stands during the race. Before the competition, I liked to visit the machine park, where the competitors prepared their equipment. Focus, attention, welcome gestures with Cegielski, Rickardsson. I contributed to the construction of a mini speedway for young speedway adeptss. Now more often I watch the speedway competitions on TV but the roar of machines coming from outside the window works like a balm for me.
017 Ryby i ich amatorzy / Fish and Fish Lovers
Walking along the old moat, we may encounter a kingfisher. This emerald blue bird cannot be mistakable with any other species. He is quite skittish. Most often we can see him flying fast just above the water surface accompanied by a piercing, high-frequency noise. With a bit of luck and caution, we will observe him persistently looking out for his victims. He is an outstanding lover of small-size fish, more seldom crustaceans and insect larvae living in water. His delicacy are mainly young, measuring from 2 to 8 cm, bleaks, roaches or perches. He dives for them into the water like an arrow. The kingfisher nests near water in burrows dug by himself. The nesting chamber is lined with bones and remains of other victims. Ornithologists, who grew up in the Lower Town, remember the times when the kingfisher nested over the town moat.
People are also enthusiasts of fish meat. No wonder that there are so many anglers here since this place has been a popular fishing ground for decades. They fish from the so-called jumps, bridges, open or sheltered moat banks as well as from boats. Knowing the behaviour and preferences of the fish living here, they use appropriate, sophisticated baits and lures and fishing techniques to outsmart them. Of significant importance are the place, the time of the year, day or night chosen to catch a pike, perch, roach, crucian or bleak. Contrary to appearances, fishing is not simple, boring or obvious. The rules of competition, fair play, cleverness and patience are quite an art. And the reward for this can be a fickle and temperamental tench or catfish up to 1.5 m long.
My first fishing experience
As a child, I liked going to the canal. One day I came up with an idea of trying to catch a fish by myself. I wanted to help my foster grandma and catch fish for dinner. I broke a stick, attached the thread I had previously taken from the house and at the and I tied a worm. Well equipped, I went to cast my rod. I did it with a great swing as I saw anglers do earlier. I was very excited when the fish approached the worm. But I didn't consider the fact that without a hook the fish would just bite off the worm and swim away. My dad had the greatest fun. At that time he was sunbathing on the other side of the canal and saw the whole scene. When he returned home, he told grandma how he had a good laugh watching his little angler and her expression when the fish ate the warm and happily swam away.
018 Kolej wąskotorowa / Narrow-gauge railway
On May 27, 1899, the company WKAG - Westpreussische Kleinbahnen Aktiengesellschaft (West Prussian Small Railways Joint-stock Company) was established. The company was responsible for the narrow-gauge railway project in the Gdańsk Lowlands district (Danziger Niederung). The route from Gdańsk was designated to pass through Przejazdowo - Koszałów - Przegalina - Świbno - Mikoszewo - Stegna - Sztutowo and a circular line from Przejazdowo through Wiślina - Suchy Dąb - Giemlice - Cedry Wielkie and Koszwały. Plans were to use the steam railway ferry to cross the Vistula between Świbno and Mikoszewo.
In Gdańsk there was a problem with the location of the station itself. Finally a narrow plot of land was acquired in the vicinity of the Wół Bastion in the Kneiphof/Kneipab district (now Rudniki) between the moats of the old city fortifications. The station was opened on August 17, 1905. At that time the station was connected with a siding line leading from the Gdańsk Lowland Gate Station to the municipal slaughterhouse. What’s interesting, it was a standard track connection. This connection functioned until around 1914 when it was dismantled.
Throughout the interwar and war period the narrow-gauge railway remained private in the hands of the WKAG. This changed after 1945 when it was taken over by the PKP and later nationalized.
The “small railway station” was destroyed during military operations. It was never rebuilt. The new station was built in a completely different place. The complex consisted of a single-story station building, a three-station roundhouse with workshops and a number of other buildings. After the war, the first train from Gdańsk departed on July 1, 1947 at 6:35 am. The railway served as a reliable means of transport, although the number of passengers gradually began to decline as some of them switched to travelling by bus.
In the 1970s the Gdańsk Commuter Railway was gradually dismantled. The last demolition works were completed in March 1975. In the vicinity of the Gdańsk Narrow Gauge station, the former railway bridge over the "Opływ Motławy" seen on the other side of the road remains.
My grandmother Klara lived in Jantar. There was no direct train connection to Jantar than. My journey would start at the narrow-gauge railway station, which was located near the GKS stadium in Elbląska Street. Than in Świbno I would transfer to the ferry going to Mikoszewo. From the ferry, I had to walk through a meadow where cows grazed and you had to be very careful not to step into “something”. All passengers cheerfully shouted, warning each other: Watch out for “skidding mines”! Having got through this specific minefield, I used to get on the next narrow-gauge railway going all the way to Krynica Morska. This train had an amazing atmosphere, I loved it. It went slowly, pulled by a small locomotive, a small choo-choo train panting and giving a signal from time to time. My mother always used to commented the speed: you can get off, pick a bunch of flowers and still have time to get on the last car of. The train pulled by a locomotive had a specific smell – the smell of smoke coming from the chimney. This fragrance of childhood, unique.