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48
Gdansk
The 48 crew experience mediaeval pageants and pilgrimages in Poland.
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2011 16:30 GMT

This week, Amanda and the 48 crew are in Gdansk, Poland, and at the mercy of Agata and Leszek, young journalism students keen to show the world why their city is central to the new, confident Poland.

Gdansk is just one of part of what locals call the Tri-City, the metropolitan area also comprising 19th century spa town Sopot and the new city of Gdynia, the most affluent region of post-communist Poland.

The 48 team watch trainee knight Peter in action at the mediaeval pageant

And we begin in Gdansk's old town, as Agata and Leszek guide Amanda through the opening parade of the 750-year-old Jamark Dominikianski festival, a massive street market which survived communism to become the largest celebration of commerce and culture in the country.

But they leave the romance of the sunny street market for the cold of an abandoned building in the Gdansk shipyards. Once the pride and joy of Polish industry, the shipyards that gave birth to the Solidarity movement are now struggling to survive.

One of Poland's top photographers, Michal Szlaga, has spent eight years documenting the demise of the industry, and taking portraits of the forgotten heroes of Solidarity – the trade union movement that was key to ending communism in Poland. On a shooting expedition to a former Nazi submarine factory, Michal shows Amanda the beauty he finds in the yards' abandoned spaces, most of which are destined for re-development into shopping malls and apartments.

While Michal is a Pole obsessed with documenting decay, 30,000 modern day mediaevalists are obsessed with reconstructing the past – as accurately as possible.

Maciej, a knight and commander of the Von Reihl brotherhood, shows us some genuine jousting. He also explains what goes into his very authentic mediaeval outfit and gets us into to the most intimate of reconstructionist events – a knighting ceremony


Next morning, Amanda dons her hiking boots to discover why more than a thousand Gdansk residents are willing to hike the 500km to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

The 48 team spends some time accompanying the thousands of others making the pilgrimage across this country where about 90 per cent of the population are of the Catholic faith.

After a gruelling 12km, the 48 crew swap the sweaty tarmac for a breezy ride on railtrack through the countryside, thanks to Tomek. 

Tomek is a local train enthusiast and entrepreneur whose handcarting enterprise represents Poland's new wave of small businesses that are helping to keep the Polish economy on the rails.

Even before the recent global financial crisis, not everyone felt included in the country's booming economy, as we discover when we meet the singer and self-appointed man-of-the-people Bartek.

Bartek takes us out on his day job – door-to-door internet selling in one of Europe's biggest housing blocks. After meeting the masses, Bartek takes us to one of the subjects of his satire, the heavily gentrified beach resort Sopot where he vents his anger, in song, on the highstreet.

This episode of 48 can be seen from Friday, January 28, at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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