Gdansk Stories and Tips

Where the river meets the sea

Wyspa Sobieszewska Photo, Gdansk, Poland

The two easternmost districts of Gdansk are Gorki Zachodnie i Krakowiec at the eastern end of Wyspa Portowa and, beyond there, Wyspa Sobieszewska. These mark a transition from the industrial wasteland in the harbour and harbour-surrounding districts to gentle pleasures of the Vistula Delta waterways.

Gorki Zachodnie & Krakowiec

Krakowiec is a sub-district of Gdansk located on the Port Island (Wyspa Portowa), between Stogi and Gorki Zachodnie. It is bordered by the Martwa Wisla branch of the Vistula delta but large parts of this stretch of the river are degraded by industrial development and thus the whole area has little to offer to a tourist. On the Wyspa Portowa better alternatives are Gorki Zachodnie for sailing and the beach and Stogi for the beach.

Gorki Zachodnie (literally Western Hills) is the easternmost district of Gdansk before Wyspa Sobieszewska, but as the latter is separated from Wyspa Portowa on which Gorki Zachodnie sit by the wide expanse of the Wisla Smiala (you need to take a fairly round-about route to Sobieszewo), Gorki Zachodnie feel like the end of the town.

It's a very non-urban area, mostly covered by thin pine forest growing on the coastal sandy hills and is a location of several of the Gdansk yacht clubs as well as a small shipyard. I have a something of a sentimental attachment to Gorki Zachodnie as I used to come here both by land (a very long journey!) and by sea from Gdynia during my young sailing days. Sailing is pretty much the only reason why anybody would make their way to Gorki Zachodnie now, as it is a good starting point for exploring the waterways of Vistula Delta all the way to the Vistula Lagoon and south to the lakes.

WYSPA SOBIESZEWSKA

The truly easternmost district of Gdansk, and the largest, Wyspa Sobieszewska (Sobieszewo Island) doesn't feel like part of the city but rather a separate place of its own. The district is cut off from the rest of the city and the surrounding areas by the waterways of the Vistula Delta. In the north, it is bordered by the waters of the Bay of Gdansk, in the south the Martwa Wisla separates it from the Zulawy area, in the east Przekop Wisly divides it from Mikoszewo and in the west Wisla Smiala forms the border between the island and the district of Gorki Zachodnie.

I love Wyspa Sobieszewska although it's probably less special than I tend to think, with my perceptions coloured by the magic light of childhood holidays and other outings. It was only included in the Gdansk administrative borders in the 1970s and it still retains a lot of its village character. It also forms a link between the city and the waterways of the Vistula delta (the island literally sits between the two branches of that delta that empty its waters into the Baltic sea), through Wisla Krolewiecka to the Vistula Lagoon.

Sailing and motoring is good in this area, with plenty of nice places to stop overnight (though the mosquitoes are relentless).

The island itself owes its isolation and relative lack of development to poor transport links: there are only three ways to get there (the bridge over the Przegalina lock, the pontoon bridge in Sobieszewo and the Mikoszewo-Swibno ferry) and none of them can carry many cars.

The Island has several localities and tourist attractions of which the most important are the bird reserve Ptasi Raj in Gorki Wschodnie, the long, clean, sandy beach that stretches all the way from the reserve to the eastern end of the island at Swibno. The fishing villages are turning into residential suburbs, but the process is slower here than in other parts of the city and outside the high holiday season you can find strangely compelling peace, isolation and subtle beauty in many places on Wyspa Sobieszewska.

Not an A-list tourist area, but one that definitely merits exploration if you spend more time in and around Gdansk- you might find yourself falling in love with it.

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