Our tour began on a sweltering day in the Gdynia port at 8:30am. Along with our tour guide Elvera, we were on the Best of Gdansk and Malbork Castle tour on a full-size bus with 34 other cruisers. We learned early on that the right side of the bus was the best choice for this excursion as the sun beamed on the left side, both up and back. The view itself was essentially the same on either side, countryside, and farmland.
Heading towards our destination
Along the way, we passed through a region belonging to the language of Kashubian. These people are known to have been poorly treated throughout history; first by the Germans for not being German enough and, again by the Polish for not being Polish enough.
Through each town we passed, the communist block apartments were most prominent. Small apartments where the sitting room and the kitchen are the same room. Poland just gained their independence from Communism in 1992. We passed through a few small towns like Batorowo and Gnojewo, and we also crossed over Poland’s largest river Vistula.
Arriving at the Castle
But by 10:15am we had finally arrived at Malbork Castle considered the largest fortress in medieval Europe. The Teutonic Knights began construction here in 1274.
Entering the Castle
Now using our legs again we took a short jaunt to the Visitors Center to pick up our entrance tickets. Free Wi-Fi was available here.
Our walk began by traveling along the castle moat, then across the drawbridge and into the interior of the complex. The moat was barren, and I did not hear whether they had filled it with water in some previous time, but one would assume so.
Walking through the castle, our first area to enter was a Chapel of which there were several on-premise.
Our tour route often seemed to crisscross through a central courtyard.
Kitchen & Bakery
We toured the Kitchen & Bakery and later the Chapter House, where Grand Masters got appointed.
Rooms of the House Commander
Afterward, we visited the small rooms of the House Commander, and upon entering a second chapel heard a story about the oldest wooden door in Poland, 14th century, at its entrance.
Next, we walked through the Amber exhibition, which didn’t seem like much until you ventured to the end. The back of the display rooms revealed the most compelling examples of Amber I’ve ever seen!
After the Amber Room, we walked the interior of the castle visiting a few of the inner chambers and chapels. At 11:50am we returned to the bus following our superb castle tour.
Once on the bus, we took a 10-minute ride to the Hotel nad Wisłą & Gościniec for a sit-down lunch. We sat in a large dining hall with several other groups. Service comprised water or beer, and a classic Polish soup with Kielbasa. The main course was a meat patty similar to a hamburger, although the tour guide described it as thinly sliced beef mixed with boiled potatoes and buckwheat. There were several Polish side dishes to choose from. The meal ended with a selection of Polish cakes for dessert, along with coffee and tea. At 1 pm we were back on the bus headed to our next stop, the 1,000-year-old town of Gdansk. It was another long drive arriving at 2:05 pm.
Once in Gdansk, we began our tour at the Green Gate, which I must state is really Red. Leveled during WWII, Gdansk’s street grade is 1-1/2 feet higher because of all the rubble beneath. We traveled now on foot up Long Street with its admirable art deco buildings. We stopped for a time at Neptune’s fountain, then meandered through back alleys until reaching the Millennium Gallery to view offerings of Gold, Amber, and Silver.
At this point, the tour guides gave us 30 minutes of free time. Not knowing what to do, we wandered the streets a bit, landing at Bazylika Mariacha (Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Inside the church is a spire walk comprising 467 stairs. Unfortunately, we did not have ample time to make the climb.
As we made our way back to the bus, a huge storm rolled in and caused the group to scamper through the streets to our rendezvous, losing one of our tour members along the way. The event caused quite a stir and caused our tour guide to exit the bus, leaving us with a driver who did not speak English.
Because of this mishap, we skirted the last bit of the planned tour; Your return journey to Gdynia takes you via Solidarity Square and Sopot. Maybe we will get back there someday.
We arrived at the ship at 5:10pm, some 40 minutes later than the ships all aboard time. Our missing group member had found a cab and was waiting for us at the port. All in all, a wonderful day in Poland.
Cruise Port: Gdynia Gdansk, Poland
Cruise Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Tour Name: Best of Gdansk and Malbork Castle
Tour Guide: Elvera