Nestled between what used to be the ‘free town’ Gdansk and the serious harbour town of Gdynia, lies Sopot. Getting off the murky old train and winding your way to the shoreline, you can’t help but notice that there’s an atmosphere here quite different from the other two cities that make up the Tri-cities.
The wide walking street is flanked by buildings licked with tasteful pastels, architecture like sugar-coated, fairytale candy houses and the curvy lines of the surreal Crooked House designed by Szotynscy Zaleski.
It leads you down to the pier that extends into the Baltic where you can breath twice as much healthy iodine from the sea than on land. Iodine is vital to thyroid functioning and cleans the toxins out of your body. The wooden pier is the longest in Europe at 511 metres where you can show off your tan or ogle the young fellas flexing their sun-kissed muscles, be a spectator of the many aquatic sports events or enjoy a fabulous fish dinner at the romantic Rybna Ferajna Restaurant where everything is fresh as can be. I ate cod smothered in herb butter, simple but tasty with a side of crunchy beans. Pity that the fries were pretty standard but hardly counted in the sumptuous satisfaction of the dish.
The beach is wide, sandy and stretches for miles. The bathing is safe and ideal for children with a peninsula called Hel (not kidding!) that stretches out faaaar on the horizon. It forms a kind of protective landmass that stops the waves from getting too big even when wind speeds reach stormy levels. From the pier you can hardly miss the Grand Hotel, part of the grandiose Sofitel chain, a 5-star hotel which has housed the famous and infamous since the Roaring Twenties. Let’s do a spot of name dropping: Charles Aznavour, Alfonso III (King of Spain), Vladimir Putin who brought his entire entourage with him and booked out the whole hotel in true Russian style, Omar Sharif, Annie Lennox and Adolf Hitler. It oozes understated elegance, nothing flashy, nothing brash, just a classy interior with superlative service from the staff who greet you in fluent French and give you a detailed, entertaining run-down on Polish liquor. I could definitely get used to this. My Bookings.com search shows a price for a double room from €200 all the way to €310 for a junior suite not including breakfast (€19). Aaah, what the hell, spoil yourself even if it’s just for a night.
Sopot’s nightlife draws inhabitants from the other two Tricities. It’s laid back and easy and a place to feast your eyes while you drink in the Baltic air or party all night long and grab a greasy kielbasa for breakfast to alleviate the after-effects of that deliciously decadent Zubrowka vodka, unmistakeable for the bison on the label (apparently they still have bisons in Poland) and the greenish colour that comes from the bit of grass that gives it that fresh, herby taste. This is my second visit to Sopot and it’s not gonna be my last ‘cause I simply can’t stay away.