The Tricity - Poland’s Seaside Window On The World
Gdansk with a population of just under 500 000 is situated on the Bay of Gdansk and the Baltic Sea, beside the delta of Poland’s longest river, the Vistula. The site has been inhabited since the 10th century. Today it is the main center of an urban complex that also includes Sopot and Gdynia, an urban agglomeration that stretches picturesquely along the coast.
Since the very beginning of its history, Gdansk has been one of the most important commercial and industrial cities on the Baltic Sea. The city became a member of the Hanseatic League, the most powerful trade organization in northern Europe at the time, in the mid-14th century, which ensuring the city prospects for rapid development and power. Gdansk’s greatest period of prosperity lasted until the end of the 16th century. In those days, 75 percent of Polish exports went through the port of Gdansk, chiefly grain, which went to all the countries of Europe. Nationalities from throughout Europe came to the city, including settlers from areas that are today located in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scandinavia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Italy. The city’s political system resembled mercantile republic. Beautiful buildings were erected in Gdansk, designed by the best northern European architects of the time.
During World War II, which actually began in Gdansk with the attack of Nazi forces on the Westerplatte peninsula, the city suffered greatly. It was bombed by the Red Army in 1945 and many buildings were utterly destroyed. Many of Gdansk’s historic buildings were rebuilt after the war.
The more recent history of the Tricity area comprises an essential part of the Polish consciousness. It was here that the strikes of 1970, 1980 and 1988 began, ultimately leading to the destruction of the communist system. Lech Walesa led the 1980 strike at the former Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, which became the cradle of the Solidarity social movement. The trade-union leader went on to become a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and president of Poland. Memory of the past is very much alive in the city today. Three large crosses stand at the entrance to Gdansk Shipyard, commemorating the shipyard workers killed there in 1970.