Gdańsk’s former Lenin Shipyard is a key fragment of 20th-century European history. It was here that the first major cracks in Eastern Europe’s communist wall appeared when discontent with the regime boiled over into strikes and dissent, brutally stamped out by armed force in 1970. A decade later an electrician named Lech Wałęsa emerged to rouse crowds of strikers here, leading to the formation of the Solidarity movement and ultimately to democracy for Poland and most of the Eastern bloc.
However, since the giddy years of the Wałęsa presidency, the yard has largely lost its hallowed status and at one time the vast area was even slated for redevelopment and general gentrification. Nothing ever came of this and despite a number of false dawns for the local shipbuilding industry, things have never reached anywhere near the scale of the postwar years. All visitors can see of the shipyard are the huge cranes, visible even from the old centre, and a few scruffy perimeter buildings.