Happy Birthday, Gdynia!
It’s hard to find another city with a more captivating and surprising history than the city of Gdynia. Fine, maybe I’m exaggerating, after all I’m not familiar with all cities in the world and I live in Gdynia now, so it makes me quite subjective. One could say that I’m out of my mind, especially after visiting Gdansk, the neighbouring city with a 1000 year old history. Gdynia is a part of the so-called ‘Tricity’, meaning an urban area that consists of three cities: Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia. When you ask people living there, where are they from, they will most likely answer to you: ‘I’m from Tricity’, since most of us live in one of these cities but work or study in the other and we don’t really notice the city borders. I lived in Sopot, then in Gdansk for couple of years and recently I’ve been living in Gdynia, so I am a 100% Tricity citizen. And I must say, despite my deep feelings for Gdansk, the city of my ancestors, the city with an amazing history and multicultural background, I’ve fallen for Gdynia and if I was rich enough to buy myself an apartment now, I wouldn’t hesitate a minute but I’d buy one in Gdynia. What makes Gdynia so special? Usually tourists, after having visited Gdansk and partied in Sopot (which is, in fact, the Polish number one resort and spa, full of ‘cool’ clubs etc.) don’t appreciate Gdynia, saying that there’s nothing to see. Okay, we have no old town. We couldn’t have one because Gdynia is only… 87 years old. And yes, today it’s Gdynia’s birthday. That’s why you are reading this post.
Poland regained independence in 1918 and received a limited access to the Baltic Sea – with no seaport. Gdansk, as you might have read in one of my previous entries, wasn’t attached neither to Germany nor Poland, but it became a free city, where Poland in theory could use the harbour, but the reality was quite different as Germans did what they could not to make it happen. During the Polish-Soviet war in 1920, which actually stopped communism from spreading in other countries, Gdansk’s authorities blocked the transport of weapons for the Polish army through their port, by refusing to unload shipments. That was the moment when Poland realized how important it was to have an own independent port.
It’s hard to imagine, but Gdynia in the 20’s was just a small fishermen’s village, there was no city, no roads, nothing expect some wooden houses and beautiful landscapes. ‘On 23rd September 1922 the Parliament passed the Act on Construction of the Port in Gdynia, Pomerania Region, as a Public Port. The construction of the seaport of Gdynia, a project of nation-wide importance, paid for itself even before the World War II, while having played the role of catalyst for social energy and patriotism. It was thanks to Gdynia that Poles started believing they could achieve the wildest dreams and face the most ambitious challenges of the 20th century¹’. Indeed, this project captured the attention of all people, the country was very poor and all this seemed to be impossible to achieve, but within couple of years the little village turned into a modern, dynamic city, something that even now would be impossible to do. On February 10th, 1926 Gdynia received city rights. By this time the population was 12 000 inhabitants. By 1939 the population had grown to over 120 000. At this time Gdynia was the largest and the most modern seaport on the Baltic Sea.
The city now is mostly visited for its architecture. Luckily the centre was not much destroyed during World War II and we can admire Gdynia’s Modernism of the 20’s and 30’s. Of course you cannot compare it with what you can see in Gdansk, but Gdynia definitely shouldn’t be in its shadow. In Gdansk you can travel a few centuries back in time, it’s more monumental, whereas Gdynia still has the spirit of the dynamic 30’s, where you find your inspiration, where you get energy from the city, great ideas and motivation.
I never thought I’d fall for Gdynia so instantly. But this is my place on earth, even if I travel a lot and discover many other interesting places in other countries. Tricity is simply the best place to live. When you feel like some great history – you go to Gdansk. When you feel like partying on a Saturday night or meeting some celebrities on holidays – you go to Sopot. And when you need to find some energy, free spirit and dynamism – you choose Gdynia. And when you feel like having a long walk on the sea coast you can walk all the way down from Gdynia to Gdansk, with sand under your feet, thinking of the amazing history of all these three cities.
Happy Birthday, Gdynia!
All pictures were taken from this website: http://www.gdynia.info.pl/historia/indexs.htm and are not my property.