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Reading list | Gdansk

The Baltic port’s famous furniture features prominently in the Polish Embassy in Ankara (see Cornucopia 39). But in 2013 the National Museum in Gdansk had an Ottoman treat in store, when it put on an exhibition devoted to the collection of its former mayor, Bartholomäus Schachman, who travelled throughout the Ottoman Empire in 1588-89, collecting artefacts and commissioning illustrations depicting the costumes and people of the Ottoman Empire, together with scenes of everyday life, festivals and ceremonies. Some of the items he collected can be seen in the National Museum of Gdansk.

The city is a thriving Baltic city, a sister to Amsterdam with streets lined with northern mannerist red-brick façades. It heaves with visitors during the spectacular St Dominic Fair, which was already filling its streets in August in the 13th century. So popular, and lucrative was the fair in the 17th century, that a troupe of English actors, perhaps Shakespeare himself would visit in summer, eventually getting permission to build a theatre outside the walls in the old Fencing Cchool. It survived for some 200 years. On the ruins a fascinating modern theatre complex, the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre, complete with Elizabethan stage, and opening roof, has been created. Nothing olde worlde, mind. A sleek, coal-black South Bank bunker on the outside, recalling the flames that consumed the city in the Second World War, inside it is bathed in an almost ethereal light from the roof, light that mysteriously penetrates even the bar-cum-artspace in the basement.

Nearby, is the National Museum, in a convent rescued by a celebrated sculptor, Wilhelm August Stryowski (1834–1917).

Also see Gdansk
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