Atmospheric places full of magic and flavor: old tenement houses, hidden antiques shops, aromatic cafes and bars. Far from main tourist routes, but with their own distinctive spirit and truly regional character, these secret spaces are now discovered by Ania Włodarczyk** - a blogger and author of books on cooking, passionate about long walks, Tricity, and food - for the new PURO Mag series, Retro Walks.
I was in primary school when I came to Gdańsk for the very first time. Several hours were enough for me to completely fall in love with this city of tall, soaring tenement houses, numerous secret nooks, and the Motława river graciously flowing through Długie Pobrzeże. These are my first memories, including one more thing: during that trip I made a promise to myself that I would move to that city one day, and that’s exactly what happened. Today I am a proud resident of Gdańsk who knows a lot more than the recesses of Długie Pobrzeże. Over the years I have discovered lots of beautiful, unpretentious places in Gdańsk, but also in Sopot and Gdynia. Let me tell you about some of them.
With me as your guide, you won’t be following the well-worn tourist routes. Let me take you to the lower part of Wrzeszcz – one of Gdańsk’s districts – located within a few minutes ride from the center. To get there, just take an SKM train (Szybka Kolej Miejska – Fast Urban Railway) to Wrzeszcz and, once you arrive, take the street in the direction opposite Grunwaldzka’s. Walking out of the underground tunnel, you’ll see a historic Kuźniczki Park where I like to hole up with a book and a cup of coffee. In the back of the park there is an estate with a historic building of the Gdańsk brewery in the center – a beautiful piece of architecture certainly worth a closer look. We don’t have time to sit in the park, though. Wajdeloty Street is waiting!
Wajdeloty is a place I half-jokingly refer to as our Gdańsk version of the Warsaw Savior Square (Plac Zbawiciela). More infamous than famous just a few years ago, today the street attracts lovers of good coffee, antiques, and vegan food. As the artery of Dolny Wrzeszcz, Wajdeloty blends the old with the new and the fashionable with the old-fashioned. Luckily, the new is not trying to replace the old, but peacefully co-exists with it, paying it its due respect. As a result, on Wajdeloty a vegan café operates next to a tailor’s shop with a museum-like interior, an antiques shop has a fashionable barber as its neighbor, and a bar serving hummus is friends with a charming junk shop. Walking the street are young moms with strollers, old women – regular clients of the “Melisa” herbal shop – as well as fashionably and unfashionably dressed generations, from X to Y to Millenials, sipping coffee from Kurhaus, street eccentrics with tousled hair, and fervent collectors coming out of the “Emalia” junk shop with just another quaint vase.
Having walked Wajdeloty (and its vicinities, of course) countless times, I would gladly recommend to you each and every place you can find there. Yet, knowing you don’t have that much time, I’ve prepared a list of must-visit spots. For the best coffee in Wrzeszcz, if not the entire Tricity, go to Kurhaus (Aldony 6). But don’t have it to-go. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the place, sitting among macramé plant holders, shelves with cacti, and furniture that remembers the Communist era. Next to Kurhaus, there is an antiques shop (Aldony 5), where I like to hunt for beautiful cups and old cutlery. If you’re the type of person who has once or twice renovated a chair brought from a dump, go to “Emalia” – a junk shop with pink walls visible from the café. Here, you’ll find more advanced collectors ready to rummage every floor of the building for a cheap mug.
On your way to “Emalia”, you can pay a visit to the Kwaśniak ice cream (Wajdeloty 1/2) parlor. A place relatively new on the map of Wrzeszcz, but with a long tradition. There’s always something on offer for the brave – I had beer-flavored ice cream with crackers and pear-flavored ones with gorgonzola, but classics of the caramel type are also there. If you’re a bit hungrier, I recommend Avocado (Wajdeloty 25/1) – popular not only among vegans. This tiny spot was one of the first in the area, but it’s fame has never faded. I suggest you try lentil croquettes – heaven! Go to a vegan café Fukafe (Wajdeloty 22) if the time comes for a second coffee. A cake with a drink is a must, for Fu is famous for its baking. It’s worth going vegan for their tofu cheesecake, only if for a while! I like this place even more when I think that Die Antwoord used to eat here during their stay in Tricity.
When you can already feel coffee pulsing in your veins, you have to go to an antiquarian shop near Fukafe (Wajdeloty 22). Books pile up in here, reaching the ceiling and offering something for everyone. Also, don’t forget to come by the already mentioned “Melisa”(Wajdeloty 4) with its green shop window that has been here since time immemorial. Now, with all the eco and natural products in vogue, the place is living its second youth. A seller of natural cosmetics, coconut oil and, of course, Melissa officinalis (hence the name) – commonly known as lemon balm.
Exploring Dolny Wrzeszcz is not only about the stories of tastes and public spaces, but also about the stories told by wonderful tenement houses. Lift your head up high and admire the time-worn balconies with quaint metal railings, crumbling window moldings, ornamental wooden door, and thousands of other details. Last but not least: if you turn into Aldony Street, right next to Wajdeloty, prepare yourself for an unexpected view. Right in between tenement houses flows a narrow river, Strzyża. I guess I must have forgotten to mention that not only is Wajdeloty and its vicinities our Tricity Savior Square, but it’s also our teeny-tiny Venice! ;)
*Dolny Wrzeszcz (Lower Wrzeszcz) – lower part of one of Gdańsk’s districts
**Ania Włodarczyk – Gdańsk citizen by choice – since 2007 sharing her passion for writing, cooking, and photography on her blog Strawberries from Poland. Her articles about cooking are featured in magazines and on websites. She is a collector of old cookbooks actively engaged in food photography. Her second book – Kuchnia retro – is being published this autumn.
photo: Ania Włodarczyk (1,2,3,5,6,8,10), Kurhaus (4), Avocado (7,9)