Westerplatte (Gdansk, Poland)

On one of my last days in Poland, while I was in Gdansk, I got on public transport and after traveling for 45 minutes in the wrong direction, I hopped off, got a kebab, and caught the first cab I saw back in the other direction to Westerplatte, a peninsula where the German’s fired the first shots of World War II and invaded Poland. 

People often make fun of Poland because of how easily they surrendered to Germany at the beginning of WWII. But there are reasons why they fell so quickly. They were a young country, having just received a place back on the map after WWI. They lost about 6 months of militarization because they joined the alliance with France and England and when they asked if they should start to mobilize, England said, “Don’t worry about this Hitler person. We’re going to sit down and have a civilized talk with him.” And third: when Germany did attack, the Allies did nothing. So, yes, they lost their freedom rather easily.

Anyways. All that’s left at Westerplatte are destroyed bunkers and a monument dedicated to everyone who died fighting there. The monument is pretty cool looking, and it’s surrounded by flags from many different countries. The white words at the end of the flags (photo 3) say “Never Again War,” in Polish (so I was told). 

It was a cold day when I went and there was barely anyone else there when I arrived. It was quiet and eerie. I took in the beautiful and freezing views of the Baltic Sea (photo 2) before making my way back to the bus stop to head back to the Old Town. 

Despite getting lost and it taking forever to get there, I’m glad I went to visit such a historical and haunting piece of the world. 

Suomenlinna: Helsinki, Finland

So, Helsinki is a really small city with not a lot to do, to be quite honest. But it was actually the perfect place to end my trip because it was less running around and more relaxing. Smaller cities will do that to you, I guess. But my favorite thing about Helsinki was taking a ferry out off the coast to visit Suomenlinna, a giant sea fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was built by Sweden in 1748 when Helsinki was still Swedish. It’s Swedish name was Sveaborg (pronounced seh-vay-eh-bore-ay). It was just a quick ferry ride from Helsinki early in the morning through a handful of other tiny islands to get there. 

It’s ownership was then passed onto Russia and then back to Finland finally when they declared their independence from Russia in 1917. Sweden put a mass amount of resources into it and it was incredibly fortified. It wasn’t until the Crimean War in 1856 that Suomenlinna really sustained any damage from an attack (they were attacked in that war for 46 hours straight, that’s understandable). 

It was decided in the 1960′s that they’d make Suomenlinna a live-able place and today around 900 people live on the island. It’s hard to believe people actually live there. They opened a school, a medical center, and a few other things to make it inhabitable. 

I visited the museum first, which included a very informational video and a lot of artifacts from Suomenlinna’s past lives and then I walked around the island for around two hours. It was very, very cool. Probably the coolest thing in Helsinki.

The building where the museum is. 

Inside some of the fortresses.

Parks where built for inhabitants. 

The glass blowing plant that is on the island.

Vesikko Submarine: Built for Germany in 1933. 

The dry shipyard where ships were built for wars when the island was still in use and I believe ships are still built and repaired there today.

One of the handful of apartment buildings on the island.

This was worth the early wake-up and ferry ride over. If you’re ever in Helsinki, make sure you make it over to Suomenlinna