A Visit to Poland: Home of TatukGIS

The TatukGIS Global Headquarters are located in Gdynia, Poland. I think it's important for potential and current TatukGIS customers to know that Poland is a vibrant, beautiful country filled with friendly, honest, and hard-working people. Here is my account of a trip I took to Poland not long ago.


I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Poland! Based upon my experience I'd have to say that Poland is one of the best-kept travel secrets in Europe!

I have a few Polish friends with whom I've been corresponding with over the past few years who invited me to come visit. Before leaving I asked almost everyone I knew if they or anyone they knew had ever been to Poland. All of the responses were either "No" or "What's in Poland?"

After doing some pre-travel research I learned that Poland is rich in historical and natural places to visit. And due to the current US dollar exchange rate and the abundance of public transportation in Poland, it is relatively inexpensive to explore Poland. And so I was off!

The cheapest plane ticket I could find flew me to Warsaw, in the center of Poland. From there I hopped a train north to the Tri-City area. My friends told me that Warsaw had been totally leveled in WWII and had not been restored. As such, they said there was not much interesting to see there. From what I saw, they were right.

After conversing with a nice Polish woman (who spoke English) for the last hour of the train ride, I arrived in Sopot late in the evening. The Tri-City area of Poland consists of three beautiful, yet distinctly different cities on Poland's Baltic coast: Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdansk.

I stayed in a room rented in someone's house, a block off a popular tourist street in Sopot called Monte Casino. Monte Casino runs from roughly the Sopot train station down past stylish cafes, restaurants, and bars and ends at the Grand Hotel that salutes the beautiful Sopot beach. (See a view of Monte Casino below.)

My room was very large with perhaps 12 foot ceilings and rented by a friendly woman named Klara. It felt quite homey and was perfectly located for all I would see and do in the Tri-City area. If you plan to visit the Tri-City area, I can't recommend Klara's house enough (though please don't rent it out when I return again!). Here's Klara's website: www.sopotpokoje.letnik.pl

The evening I arrived, I met my friend and we went out to eat at a nice restaurant and then went out for drinks until 1am. I was doing pretty well for having been in transit for 30 hours with little sleep!

The next day I took the train from Sopot to Gdynia. Gdynia felt a lot more business-like and faster-paced than Sopot, but it was still beautiful. I met another one of my friends in Gdynia and we had lunch and a beer on the Gdynia beach. (There's a nice walkway that leads from Gdynia beach to Sopot beach that takes about two hours total. I walked it about halfway one day.)

That night a friend and I took in an outdoor concert. During the concert a powerful thunderstorm rolled in from the sea. Fortunately we were covered by a sturdy canvas roof! The storm made the concert even more memorable.

The next day I returned to Gdynia with all of my Polish friends and we had lunch together. That night in Sopot we visited a dance bar and watched the hottest looking mob of people dance! And we were packed in there like sardines in a can! It was crazy!

If you like to people watch, Sopot is the place. And it must be said for those who do not know: Polish women are curvy and gorgeous! Ok, I told the Polish tourism administer that I would try to help him, so I've done my part.

The next day one of my friends gave me a tour of Gdansk (he grew up in Gdansk). Most of Gdansk was also destroyed in WWII, however unlike Warsaw, most of it was amazingly restored.

Gdansk is the historical and political center of the Tri-City area. The birthplace of Solidarity, where WWII began and ended, and with a fascinating old city and shipyard, Gdansk is a must-see for anyone visiting Poland. You could easily spend a week exploring Gdansk and learning its history. (See a view of old Gdansk from the top of the world's largest all-brick cathedral - larger than Notre Dame! This was my favorite spot in Gdansk!)

That evening I went for dinner with my friend and his two sons, again at the beach in Gdynia. His two sons (age 13 and 9) spoke excellent English. So we joked the meal away about kid things and what English bad words they might know. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

Later that evening, I took in the bar/dance-club scene with my other friend. On this night, however, I turned in at 3am! I could see the friskilating dawn's glow peeking over the Grand Hotel in Sopot! Oh my, I don't usually stay out so late! My friend said that it was daylight when he went to bed at 4:30am! Northern skies provide extra daylight in the summer, remember. I was feeling fortunate that my bed was just a block off the main drag.

The next day (after at least a few hours of sleep) my friend and I took a tour of the coast north of the Tri-City area, including the Hel peninsula. It was a beautiful drive through the Polish countryside ending finally in a brief hike through the forest and then a trek along the beach. Again, one could spend a week exploring just this area north of Tri-City! It was peaceful and beautiful. (See a picture of the Baltic surf, north of the Tri-City area below.)

The next day I took an hour-long train ride to Malbork to see the awesome Malbork Castle. Malbork Castle is the largest medieval castle on earth! And let me tell you it is HUGE! I decided to purchase the Polish speaking tour ticket for $2US (instead of the English one for $70US) and wandered freely about the castle and grounds for the next 4.5 hours reading displays in English. There are no pictures or words that would do this castle justice! It was awe-inspiring! (See a view of the main courtyard of Malbork Castle from the tallest tower below.)

Later that night we took in a show at the Sopot theater with the Fabulous Thunderbirds! I was surprised to learn that they were playing (and still playing) in Poland. At any rate, they rocked! And the lead singer is probably the best harmonica player I've ever heard!

The next day I had lunch with my friends again in Gdynia and then went for a hike in upper Sopot. Monte Casino leads up a hill and into the forest if you walk away from the sea. There is a unique 'Opera in the Woods' at the very top of the hill. I'd love to hear a concert there some day!

That evening I said goodbye to my friends and boarded the night train to Krakow. When I got on the train I was wistful, having said goodbye to my friends that I'd gotten to know so much better. But by a strange happenstance one of my train-bunk-mates turned out to be a childhood chum of one of my friends that I just spent the previous week with. What a small world it is!

I arrived in Krakow early the next morning and dropped my bag at my hotel and started to explore Krakow.

The Tri-City area is the vacation land of people from Poland, Germany, and Russia, and well worth a few weeks visit by anyone. But Krakow is the gem of Poland, with old buildings relatively untouched by WWII, and deep history. You could easily spend a month touring Krakow and it's surrounding area.

The old-city portion of Krakow is roughly broken down (as you are walking from the north) as (1) the old-city square portion (with the largest medieval market square in Europe, on par with Red Square in Russia), (2) Wawel Castle (the castle of the kings), and (3) Kazimierz, the old Jewish village.

Unfortunately for me, I only had a day and a half to soak up as much of Krakow as I could. Both of my friends made me a map of things I had to see. And on the way I explored whatever interested me.

There are cathedrals galore! And each of them is vastly different than the other. There is an old private museum that houses DaVinci's 'Lady with Ermine' painting (where else can you sit alone with a DaVinci painting for an hour?). There are multitudes of places to eat and drink. And there are reminders of the holocaust in Kazimierz.

After visiting Malbork Castle and other cathedrals on my trip already, I was somewhat unimpressed with Wawel Castle and its cathedral (that's saying a lot I think!). Wawel was crowded with tourists and requires you to purchase up to 6 different tickets to see all that the castle has to offer. (See a view of Wawel Castle below.)

In the afternoon of my first day in Krakow I took a tour of Wieliczka salt mine, the longest continuously running capitalist operation on earth. Down inside the mine, artisans have carved statues, rooms, and cathedrals out of the rock salt over the last 700 years! This was absolutely not Krakow, but it was really fun to visit!

Later that night I visited a jazz bar just off the old square and listened to the best damn live jazz music I've ever heard until 1:30 in the morning! The neat thing about it is that there were perhaps seven or eight of us in the crowd all night, and just three the last hour or so.

My last day in Krakow I visited all of the places that I passed by the day before and explored Kazimierz. I spent some time in an old synagogue and grabbed some lunch. On my way back up towards the old square I found what I thought was the most interesting cathedral of the whole trip (well, almost as cool as that one in Gdansk), tucked behind a brick wall in Kazimierz, named 'Bazylika Bozego Ciala'. If you go to Kazimierz, try to find it!

That afternoon I hopped the train to the Krakow-Balice airport and then jumped the plane straight to the US.

It was a wonderful trip on many levels and I'm grateful to my friends for their generosity and hospitality. I hope to return to Poland some day soon.