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Monday, 13 July 2015

344: I've been to Hel and back.

And a very enjoyable time I had there! Not quite as warm as I had been led to expect but still very pleasant.
Hel, as you will see from the pictures, is a small town at the end of a long spit of land 33 km from the Polish mainland, not too far from Gdansk. Interestingly, Kaliningrad is also on the map. Many of my readers will know that Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave and not far from Kaliningrad itself is the small town of Baltiysk, a naval base of the Russian Baltic fleet. I was there in two thousand something or other to act as an interpreter when a Royal Navy ship docked there on a friendly visit.

I'd been planning for a while to go to Gdansk and when I realised that the hotel wasn't conveniently located for public transport, and being too tight to pay for a taxi, I decided to hire a car and get more exploring done. The hotel was right on the sea front and, strangely, most of the conversation with the staff was in German. Luckily I could remember the key phrase "ein bier bitte." 

I went to Gdansk by train, on the Pendolino, the Polish equivalent of the French TGV. Very comfortable, a very smooth ride. I came back on an ordinary Inter-City train and that journey was more like you expect a train ride to be. Both journeys took roughly 3 hours. 
Gdansk, the place where opposition against the mighty Soviet Union started in the form of the Solidarity trade union, is very close to the cities of Gdynia and Sopot. These three cities are known collectively as Tricity.
On Friday evening I visited the old town in Gdansk. There was some rain but I managed to hide from it in a convenient restaurant. I ordered fish and it took forever to come – I think they had to go and catch it first.

Saturday saw an improvement in the weather. I drove to nearby Sopot and had a walk along the pier. I approached the pier by walking along the beach and then climbing onto it only later realising that I should have paid to get access to the pier. Whoops, breaking the law again!

And then the long road to Hel, via coffee and cake in Gdynia. The journey seemed to take forever, but I was determined to get there come hell or high water. On arrival it was time to sample that great Polish delicacy - pierogi. Then a wander around the town before setting off for the journey back to the hotel and "noch ein bier, bitte" using almost all my German words in one go.

Allow me to finish with, of course, Meatloaf singing Bat out of Hell.

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