The first shots of WW2 were fired across the river from the Old Town of Gdansk on 1st September 1939.  The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein (which was on a ‘courtesy visit’ to the port) began shelling a Polish garrison on the Westerplatte without any warning.  After 7 days of fighting the outnumbered garrison ran out of ammunition and Germany occupied Gdansk.   

By co-incidence the Westerplatte is the port area where Lech Walesa actively promoted the Solidarity Movement which, after huge turmoil,  eventually led to the election of the first non-communist Government in the Soviet Bloc in 1989.    

With the fighting between Germany and the Soviet Union late in WW2 the old town suffered massive destruction, but was rebuilt (or restored where possible) in 1950’s and 60’s to resemble its previous state. It is a vibrant town with a busy port and a thriving tourist industry – it reminded me of Warsaw which was also decimated by war and rebuilt as a replica of the previous city.