Friday, October 12, 2007

Logbook: Stockholm - PolFerry - Gdansk - Gdynia

Polferry1I was up early Wednesday morning to see Inga off to work and to thank her for all her gracious hospitality during my stay in Stockholm. Thanks, Inga! I then spent the morning doing all of the usual sorting, packing and organizing that goes along with "making a move" on The Voyage, followed by a quick lunch. A metro bus ride to the central train station later, I caught a ride to the PolFerry terminal in Nynashamn -- about an hour south of Stockholm -- for my overnight sailing to Gdansk, Poland. According to the schedule, the train would make a direct run to Nynashamn, so I settled down to read my book. About half an hour later, I didn't pay much attention when the train stopped at a station and sat with the doors open for a few minutes. I was pretty engrossed in my book and -- trusting that the schedule was correct -- simply figured we were waiting for the track to clear or something. A few minutes after that, the little alarm bell in my brain went off that something was wrong and I looked up to see that my train was no longer going on to Nynashamn, but was headed back to Stockholm instead. In a flash, I grabbed my gear and jumped off the train just as the doors were closing then hustled across the platform onto another train, the one that was actually headed on to Nynashamn. The doors closed and off we went, with me shaking my head once again in contemplation of whether I have developed some kind of "six sense" about when things are "more unusual than normal" or whether I was just lucky. In either case, I arrived in Nynashamn a half hour later and followed the signs for a 500 meter walk to the ferry terminal.

Polferry2The PolFerry ship to Gdansk looked pretty much like the other huge ferries I have taken -- e.g. from Canria to Cadiz and from Newcastle to Amsterdam -- but my experience on board was very different. For one thing, the ship seemed practically deserted by comparison to the others, with none of the lines of people boarding and few people milling about on board. Also, I'm pretty sure I was the only English speaking passenger and virtually certain I was the only American. Without much trouble I found my little cabin, dumped my gear inside and went up on deck to enjoy the views and our departure. To the sounds of spoken Polish, the smells of sausages on the grill and a very respectable level of noise and celebration from such a small crowd of passengers, we set off on time at six o'clock. Within moments I had made yet another very dramatic shift in cultures -- from Scandinavian to Polish -- and had a nice moment reflecting on how it has become fairly common and comfortable for me to do so. It seems I've either become accustomed to "culture shock" or simply numb to it.

Polferry3It was a beautiful night for a proper sea cruise, and I enjoyed a stunning sunset on deck before going back to my room to "settle in" -- a euphemism I use to describe stashing my gear in a corner -- and pouring myself a dram. I checked out the practically empty "restaurant" but couldn't make any sense of the menu, then surveyed the "cafeteria" but didn't really like the looks of what I saw so I finally opted for a grilled sausage and a beer back up on deck. Might as well immerse myself in my new culture, right? After that I spent a little more time on deck -- I think you know by now how much I enjoy the sea air, especially on a clear, cold night -- then went back to my cabin, watched an episode of my favorite TV show on iTunes, read a few pages of my book and turned out the lights. There was a surprising amount of partying noise in the passageway from such a small number of passengers, but the hum of the ship quickly had its usual effect on me and I was sound asleep pretty quickly.

Polferry4I was up pretty early Thursday morning and -- coffee in hand -- went on deck to catch a misty view an unknown Baltic Sea island with a remarkable sandy beach and the promise of a very chilly seaside experience. I had breakfast of sorts in the cafeteria then shopped in the duty free store -- to replenish my scotch supply -- before going to my room, preparing my gear for disembarkation and going back up on deck to enjoy arrival in Gdansk. Immigrations was a breeze with so few people and I emerged into the ferry terminal to find Captain Adam -- my captain and friend from my days on the Polar Star in Antarctica and the South Atlantic -- waiting for me. I had spoken with the Captain way back in April about the possibility of a visit to his home town of Gdynia during his time ashore between cruises and -- beyond being enthusiastic about me doing so -- he had very graciously scouted out an excellent little place for me to stay. So, after a happy reunion in a very different place from the last time we saw each other, we set out in his car to drive from Gdansk to Gdynia some 25 kilometers away. Along the drive we caught up on all the gossip and stopped briefly at just a few places like Westerplatte -- shown here -- which is the memorial site in Gdansk of the actual beginning of World War II. We also drove past the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, through the trendy resort town of Sopot and along the beach in Gdynia. After this excellent little orientation drive we ended up at my excellent accommodations -- see the Villa Admiral link in Recommendations at the left -- and made plans to get together some time this weekend.

I spent Thursday afternoon catching up with myself and others online, then had my "new favorite" Polish soup for dinner. I spent a little time yesterday scouting around downtown Gdynia, but I have to admit I spent most of the time taking care of some personal and "other" business, as well as happily chilling out in my lovely, quiet room. I've spent time today catching up with this website and going out for some brief walks, but I've again given myself some time to relax and recover from what has really been a very fast-paced, exhausting few weeks on The Voyage. In the next few days I intend to do some local exploration and start to plan out my itinerary for the next month or so. I'm very happy to be in Poland, absolutely delighted with my situation and downright giddy at the prospect of complete spontaneity going forward. Stay tuned!


W F Smith said...

I have taken the same journey..last in about 1998 and it seems that nothing has changed. You are quite correct in the dramatic switch culture as soon as the engines start.
I enjoyed you narrative
Greetings from Charleston SC US

W F Smith said...

I enjoyed your narrative greatly having taken the same route several times. It is quite true about the rapid cultural change.
The first Polferry I took was about 1995 from Gdansk to Helsinki..two nights. It is quite interesting to be the only American in a place.
I have stayed at the Sopot Grand in the place you called certainly was not when I was there...and it was quite interesting trying to buy small things since the Zloty was 20,000 to the US dollar.....

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