Gdansk, London and Budapest
POLISH POST OFFICE, GDANSK (Free entrance on Tuesdays)
A Gdansk site of celebrated heroism, namely on the part of the Poles who defended this post office against the German attack at the very beginning of World War II on 1 September 1939. In fact it took place parallel to the opening of the battle at Westerplatte. Though smaller in scale, the story of the defence of the Polish Post Office is similar: despite massive superiority in firepower, it took the attackers an unexpectedly long time to overcome the fierce Polish resistance.
More background info: Gdansk, which was then known under its German name Danzig, and effectively was a German city, had the special status of a (semi-autonomous) “Free City”. This meant that the Polish minority held certain privileges, including the running of this Post Office. It effectively had the status of an exterritorial part of Poland.
Especially as tensions increased between Germany and Poland in the run-up to World War II, the Post Office was supplied with its own weaponry and military personnel so as to be able to fend off an attack for ca. six hours – the time it was expected to take for help to come from the Polish Army.
As it turned out on 1 September 1939 when the attack did come, no help could be brought in, as the full-scale invasion of Poland was setting in. But the 57 defenders inside the Post Office building held out much longer than had been expected. Sources vary, but apparently the Poles defended the building for between (at least) 9 and (probably) 15 hours before finally being overcome.
The German SS forces blew up part of the outer walls and brought in flame-throwers to set the building alight. Five defenders were burned alive. Only then did the surviving Poles surrender – in fact the first two to come out, waving white flags, were apparently shot by the Nazis. Only after that were the rest allowed to surrender … war crimes really started early in this conflict!
Most of the Polish survivors of the battle were later sentenced to death and executed. Merely six of them are said to have escaped, two of whom were captured the next day. At least two managed to hide and survive the war to tell their story.
Today this episode is very much part of the ‘mythology’ of Polish heroism in their resistance against the Nazis right from the start. This is honoured by a monument and a small museum in the reconstructed Post Office building – which otherwise still fulfils that postal function to this day.
The episode of the attack on this post office was also famously integrated into Günter Grass’ novel “The Tin Drum” (‘Die Blechtrommel’) and also featured fairly graphically in the film adaptation.
What there is to see: Not all that much. Outside the building stands a stainless steel monument, which is quite remarkable – some call it “outstanding” and “aesthetically pleasing”, others are less praising in their aesthetic assessment. The Rough Guide simply calls it “spiky”, which it indeed is. Behind the building in a courtyard/car park there is another monument at the very wall where the defenders had to stand with their hands up after their surrender.
Inside today’s (rebuilt) Post Office building is a small museum. It has two parts, the first of which is devoted to the events of 1 September 1939 and the heroic defence of the building against the German SS attackers on day one of World War II. There are a few artefacts such as guns and personal belongings of the defenders, as well as photos (which the Nazis shot during the attack) and documents – mostly in Polish, but there are some explanatory text panels in English and German too.
The rest of the museum is devoted to the history of the postal service and on display are various telecommunication machines from different eras, in particular several veteran teleprinters/telegraphs. This is obviously less likely to be of great interest to the dark tourist, but since you’re likely to be watched by the museum’s curator (who switches the lights on/off as required) it’s only polite to honour that part of the museum with at least a brief visit too.
Location: a bit north of Gdansk’s inner Old Town, on pl. Obroncow Poczty Polskiej (or Pl. Poczty for short).
Google maps locator: [54.3552,18.6569]
Access and costs: easy to get to and inexpensive; opening times a bit unclear.
Details: Best reached on foot from the centre of Gdansk. From Podwale Staromiejskie leading towards Targ Rybny by the waterfront, turn off north into Tartaczna – the square with the monument and the Post Office building appears on the next corner on your right.
Admission: 5 zloty (allegedly free on Tuesdays).
Opening times are a bit unclear, different sources give different times – and when I went in August 2008 on a Saturday morning for 10 a.m. I found it locked, but asked at the post office counter; the museum’s curator was then alerted to the presence of potential visitors and he kindly opened the museum. There seems to be agreement that the museum should be open on a regular basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at least Wednesday to Friday, some sources say also 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. (I can vouch for the fact that it is definitely closed on public holidays, even if it’s on a weekday when it should be open – such is Poland’s adherence to, in particular, Catholic holidays … even 24/7 shops appear to be closed on such days). Mondays and Tuesdays appear to be uncertain. Some sources say ‘closed’, others even say it’s free on one of those days. Allow time for coming back in case you go on one of those days and find it closed …
Time required: The museum requires about half an hour at best. Plus a few moments to view the monuments outside. If you can read Polish and/or are particularly interested in the postal history section too, then you can spend longer here.
Combinations with other dark destinations: see Gdansk – if combining the Polish Post Office museum with a visit to Plac Solidarnosci/”Roads to Freedom” exhibition then walk down Lagiewniki southbound and on to Stolarska (beyond the canal) in the direction of the town centre, and then branch off left into Zamkowa towards Pl. Poczty.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see Gdansk.
Postal Museum London
Journey back in time through the original tunnels and station platforms of London’s 100-year-old postal railway.
Take a 15-minute journey under the streets of London.
Descend into the former engineering depot of Mail Rail – the one hundred year old Post Office railway – board a miniature train into the original tunnels.
• See the original and largely unchanged station platforms, deep below Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office.
• Take in a theatrical experience that travels back in time to the railway’s lively 1930s heyday.
• See and hear the people who worked on it, experience their lives below ground and glimpse hidden parts of the railway that once kept the mail coursing through London for 22 hours every day.
Not sure if the Mail Rail ride is for you?
A Mail Rail Film is available as an alternative experience for guests who cannot ride.
Need more assistance? Phone us on 0300 0300 700 Monday – Saturday from 10.00 to 17.00 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open daily 10:00 – 17:00
Closed 24 – 26 December
Save time and money by booking your tickets before you visit.
Postal Museum Budapest (Hungary)-without charge for: adults who have already turned 70 years of age, disabled persons, teachers, journalists.
The seat of Postal Museum moved to 27 Benczúr utca ( street ) in 2012, where this building meant the place-based education of postmen since 1931. Postal Stamp Museum (Belyegmuzeum): A gem of a museum.
The Post Museum of Budapest is, along with the Stamp Museum, one of the several sites where the Communications Museum Foundation displays its collections.
It has been sheltered in a historical building since 1955, and its purpose is to familiarize visitors with the history of the Hungarian post services, by means of various collections of items: furniture, pictures, vehicles, specialized equipment and uniforms.
1068 Budapest, Benczúr str. 27.
Full price ticket – 1000 Ft
Reduced ticket (student, pensioner) – 500 Ft
Family ticket (2 adults + 2 or more children) – 2100 Ft
Adult group ticket (over 10 person) – 600 Ft/person
Reduced group ticket (over 10 person) – 200 Ft/person
The exibiton can be visited without charge for: adults who have already turned 70 years of age, disabled persons, teachers, journalists.
The Stamp Museum of Budapest will surely be an irresistible temptation for those keen on collecting stamps, a passion few people understand to its full extent, but which takes hold of those who do.
The museum is said to have on display all the stamps ever issued in the entire world. Rarities are also exhibited, and, curiously enough, a collection of fake stamps. One of the chief supportive institutions of the Stamp Museum is the Hungarian Post. However, this fact should not lead to the confusion between the Stamp Museum and the former Postal and Telecommunications Museum, now called the Communications Museum Foundation, which manages yet another post service-related venue, that is, the Post Museum.
Name: Stamp Museum (Belyegmuzeum)
Address: 47, Harsfa utca, 1074, Budapest, Hungary
Telephone: 0036 1 3415526
Fax: 0036 1 3423757