Museum of the Second World War and Westerplatte - Gdansk, Poland
For all the World War II buffs out there, here are two must-see attractions in Gdansk, Poland.
Museum of the Second World War
A new addition to Gdansk in March 2017, the Museum of the Second World War stands in an imposing modern structure right on the edge of the old city in Władysław Bartoszewski Square. This spot is very appropriate for a museum of this nature since this is where the war started. The museum is located 200 metres from the historic Polish Post Office in Gdańsk and 3 kilometres across the water from Westerplatte Peninsula, both of which were attacked in September 1939.
As fascinating as the architecture of building is from the outside, the majority of the museum is actually underground, encompassing approximately 23,000 square metres of floor area. This is definitely not a quick duck in-and-out kind of museum. We spent more than three hours there and we didn’t even see everything.
The museum’s opening did not go without controversy, and made global headlines for not complying with the current Polish government’s nationalistic ideas. Still, the museum has stayed open and for the most part unchanged. However in the audio tour I did hear a few additions that I suspect were to appease the government.
To enter the museum, you climb down a massive staircase down into the structure, where you then have to descend two more flights of stairs to get to the ticket counter and main exhibition area. Admission is 23 PLN (about $7 USD) for adults, and an extra 5 PLN for the audio guide which is highly recommended. The museum is closed Monday and major holidays, and admission is free every Tuesday.
The exhibition is split into three main parts: “The Road to War”, “The Horrors of War”, and “The War’s Long Shadow”. It would be impossible to describe all that you will see in the museum in a blog post, however I can say that I saw a lot more than I expected to. From life-size replicas of Warsaw streets, to military uniforms, to holocaust victims’ personal effects, to an actual cart that was used to transport dead holocaust victims.
Empaths and highly sensitive people, beware, while this museum is not for the faint of heart, it should be seen by everyone. Using audio, video, physical items you can touch, photographs and more, this museum takes advantage of all your senses to make you truly feel what the war and its aftermath was like.
My advice is to dedicate a whole day for the museum, get the audio guide, and be prepared to learn and feel a lot.
It was here on Westerplatte Peninsula on 1st September, 1939 where the first shots of WWII were fired, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the 180 Polish soldiers stationed there. Those soldiers held off the Germans for as long as they possibly could (7 days) preventing the German forces from moving further down the Polish coast before they finally had to surrender due to lack of ammunition and supplies.
Today there stands a very tall monument and the ruins of the barracks and guard houses which have been turned into an open-air museum. Since it is not in the city centre, you can arrive either by boat tour or bus or car. Expect to dedicate at least an hour to walk around the grounds and ruins. Admission and parking are free and it is open 24/7.
Are you a WWII buff? Or do you geek out about some other aspect of history? What are some of your must-see attractions in Europe? Let us know in the comments!
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