Sarajevo is one of my favorite cities in the world. One of the best things about it is that you feel the history. After all, it is the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, starting World War I.
It’s funny, because when I booked my 12-hour trip to Gdansk, as a cheap stop on the way to Finland, I just thought I was in for another Polish city. Not true.
While walking around the Old City (Stare Miasto), I noticed that it looked like a film set. It turns out that’s because there is a lot that was rebuilt after being mostly destroyed in WWII, a story that is shared by many European cities. No surprise, until my host asked me if I wanted to see where World War II started.
I jumped all over it, shocked that I was so close, as Gdansk isn’t by the German border.
We drove out to what was the “New Barracks”.
Apparently, Gdansk used to be “the Free City of Danzig”, a place that had mostly German speakers, who self-identified as Danziger, not German. The Poles, Danzigers and Nazis all wrestled over control of the city, until September 1, 1939, when a German battleship began bombing Westerplatte, a poorly guarded Polish peninsula in Gdansk. And thus, the invasion of Poland and WWII started.
Another time where I had no idea I was close to something interesting and historic and lucked out finding out before I left.