Posted: 11/15/2008


         "From Stettin (Szczecin) in the Baltic, to Trieste in The Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent."......" This was the famous Iron Curtain speech of Winston Churchill given at  Westminster College ,Kansas on March 5th, 1946. It was the 20th paragraph of his "Sinews of Peace" speech.

     In the last month I have visited both Trieste and Szczecin and if I must correct the great leader, this shipbuilding port on the River Oder is actually 65 km away from the Baltic Sea. In fact the SOLIDARITY movement started here and in Gdansk 300km away when workers protested against rising prices and government policies under the communist leaders. Yesterday I stood beside the Freedom Monument across from the Town Hall and the Communist Party HQ which they attacked. I remember at ESPANA 1992 watching Poland beat Peru 5 - 1 in La Coruna and there were Solidarity banners. Gdansk got more headlines because of their workers leader in the shipyards, Lech Wolensa, who eventually saw the overthrow of the regime and he became President of a Free Poland.

     Szczecin was 80% destroyed by Allied bombing during WW II because of its strategic industries including shipbuilding, railways and U boats, and so it doesn't have such a large Old Town remaining as Wroclow, Krakow and others cities.   It is the capital of West Pomerania and was formerly Pomeranian, then Danish, then Prussian, then Swedish and then German.  In fact one famous native was the future Katherine II of Russia, Katherine the Great. I visited the site, now a bank, where she was born to a Prussian general, who was governor of the city. She later married Peter II who became Czar of Russia. He was assassinated and she became Czarina of Russia 1762-96.

    The red Griffin symbol of the city is everywhere and on all the city buses and trams which I used frequently. There are some magnificant buildings high on a bluff above the river, including the Naval Academy and each year they have a gigantic fireworks display and often have Tall Ships races. I also visited the Pomeranian Dukes Castle with my local guide Greg, who I had met a month ago at the Ukrainian/Polish border. In the summer there are huge displays of magnolia. Since the 13th Century it has been a member of the famous Hanseatic League of port cities. We went to a Cafe 22 on the 22nd floor of the tallest building in town, and I had Polish cheese cake.

    Another site I visited was Pioneer Cinema, still open to the public since 1907, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest cinema still operating in the world.