Gdansk is not only famous for Lech Walesa and being the birthplace of the Solidarity Movement. Gdansk and the whole Baltic shoreline is also famous for its amber, the whole Baltic region being home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite, which has always been a major source of income for the region. Amber is not a stone but a resin, formed over millions of years from the sap of a number of species of pine tree, and famous for often encapturing insects in its sticky resin before it hardened over the millenia.
Since 4,000 BC, people living along the Baltic’s shores have used the Amber it provides in art, jewellery, and just about anything else you can imagine, and during Roman times, there was an Amber Route which provided the empire with access to the Baltic’s Gold. The first workshops in Gdansk appeared in the year 900AD and as the worth of the material and the craftsman’s skill in manipulating it grew, a guild was eventually formed in 1477. These master artisans could (and did) work the ‘Tears of the Sun’ (as amber was known) into everything from stunning necklaces to miniature figurines.
Today, Gdansk maintains its proud tradition and excellent reputation as one of the the best sources for Amber crafts in the world. Any tour in Gdansk will certainly include give you a chance to see what all the fuss is about and get a close up look at one of nature’s most eye-pleasing gifts. And if you have a spare moment, it is a great idea to see the recently-commissioned Amber Altar at St Bridget’s Church, famous for being a sanctuary for the leaders of the Solidarity Movement under Martial Law.