In the latest in our search for interesting things to recommend you consider doing while in the Tri-city, we took up an invitation to join a group of 15 friends as they went paintballing. Now while the basic paintball ‘experience’ is not one that requires a great deal of explanation, the evening we spent in Gdansk with our friends at Polandbylocals was so memorable we think you’ll like it a lot.
We (that is me, Martin, one of Gdansk In Your Pocket’s writers and my two teenage sons), had little paintballing experience between us. I’d done a couple of work-dos in the UK years ago while my sons were experienced at the laser tag game (a kind of electronic paintballing) from years of birthday parties. This combined with their Xbox expertise meant that they were feeling more confident than I was, but clearly wary of going into battle with a bunch of grown-ups.
The key to this particular paintball evening was the location of the ‘battlefield’. We met up in the Gdansk Shipyards and headed for a hulking, four-storey, red-brick building which remains standing now surrounded by derelict land, where once industry thrived around it. The reasons this one building remains in this part of the shipyard while others are either knocked down or re-utilised as concert venues or small ship workshops is that it was designed specifically not to be destroyed very easily. Built between 1936 and 1938, this is the U-Boat Hall. It was constructed from reinforced concrete and served as part of an assembly line for German U-Boats in WWII, which passed from here through another smaller building before slipping into the pens in the Motlawa river a hundred metres or so away. The red brick ‘façade’ was added to try to disguise it among the mass of red-brick buildings, that once covered the shipyards, from Allied aerial reconnaissance. It unsurprisingly survived the war and spent the next 50 years as a warehouse for the shipyard. One reason why it still stands today is that demolishing it would be a huge operation and so it survives, unmaintained and slowly rotting. The flooded basement you pass over as you enter is just one defect that will probably never be fixed.
The paintballing area runs the entire length of the building on the third floor and we met up there where we were issued with overalls, helmets and paintball guns. While the overalls cover all of your clothing it’s advised you don’t wear your best gear and that you bring a pair of shoes which won’t be ruined sliding around in a mix of sawdust and spent paintballs. The building, as you might imagine designed for assembling something with a tower and periscope, is built around a central open area. What that gives you is effectively a square-cornered, figure of eight area in which to ‘play’. This is furnished with various obstacles and chipboard ‘buildings’ which when taken with the labyrinth of rooms and walkways of the building give you a mass of places to hide, creep and shelter once battle commences.
We met up with the rest of the group and while everyone acquainted themselves, the first of the crates of local Gdansk beer was opened whole everyone mingled. The group were then given a thorough safety briefing by the instructors who ensured order was maintained throughout with strict guidelines on what and wasn’t acceptable. This is unquestionably good fun but irresponsible behaviour with a hard-shelled paint pellet and an air-powered rile have the potential to cause problems if not used properly.
Having been briefed we went onto play for more than two hours, playing a range of different games in two teams – one team attacks the other team’s base at one end of the building; the two teams attack each other and one called ‘Save the President’ where one more sod loses his gun, has to put on a scarf to identify himself and then has to be taken safely from one end of the building to the other without being hit. Once a player is hit in any game, they have to leave the battlefield with their arm in the air and the game carries on until the time limit if reached or the goal achieved. This ensures even inexperienced paintballers like myself, who seemed to attract paint pellets like wasps to a doughnut, are able to get back into the next game very quickly (before being shot in the backside again).
Having thoroughly exhausted ourselves, the hosts laid on more beer and set up a small fire outside where we grilled sausages, sank a few more beers and compared pellet bruises.
If you are into paintballing or you are visiting with friends, this is a thoroughly recommendable activity. If, like me, you’re inexperienced or in a smaller group, this is good fun and well-worth considering. My sons were at the lower age-limit permitted by the organiser and I had to sign a waiver to let them take part but they loved it and now want to organise their next birthdays there (they also were, rather worryingly, very adept at all forms of the game). If you are not by nature into the rough and ready, the dirt of wet, sticky saw-dust; the sweat generated from running around in overalls and the lack of permanent plumbing (the toilet is an outdoor portable loo) might sting while the pellets certainly will. If you are a small group, the possibility will sometimes be there to match you up with other smaller groups or for you to join in with a larger group of friendly locals. The location in the shipyards where the Solidarity strikes set in motion the fall of communism is both memorable and 5 minutes in a taxi from the centre of the old city. If for no other reason, it’s well-worth it just to be able to run around a former military installation where some of the most iconic machines of World War II were born.
To find out more visit the In Your Pocket Experiences page on our website
A couple of quotes from those that took part:
‘A painful but wonderful experience’
‘Wear a cup. Keep your head down. Well-organised activity from Polandinthelocals as I now call them.’
Author: Martin Kitson
Martin is a native of London who has lived in Europe for close to 20 years. These days he calls Sopot home from where he writes the Gdansk In Your Pocket guide, among other things. He is married with three children and enjoys history, sport and exploring new places.