Entre Gdańsk – let yourself be drawn into the city!

Have you ever thought that while walking through the main streets of Gdansk, you passed a lion devouring a man, or a guy resting with a skull under his arm? We talk to Mikołaj Witkowski, the creator of the first app in Poland for exploring the city using riddles, about an unusual view of the city.

Mikołaj Witkowski – Master of Science in Automation and Robotics, graduate of the Gdańsk University of Technology. Currently, he works at Olivia Center at Speednet as a Java Developer. An amateur of basketball and volleyball, after hours he creates mobile applications that are hard to break away from.


Małgosia Szumała, Olivia Centre: Entre Gdańsk is your first mobile app?

Mikołaj Witkowski, Entre Gdansk: Yes! Whenever I wanted to get to know an unknown city and see what it could see, I was guided by maps, not even knowing how many interesting things I passed on the way. I thought it would be nice if someone prepared such a map “step by step” so that I wouldn’t miss anything important. I’ve always wanted to grow, so I started acting. It quickly turned out that the work was going in the right direction, then Sylwia and Łukasz joined the team, whose advice was invaluable.


Why Entre Gdansk? Where did the idea for the name of the app come from?


I was inspired by the recently popular escape rooms, in which the player’s goal is to get out. In my app, it’s the other way around – the goal of the game is not to get out, but to enter the city even more carefully. Hence the “entre”. I really like this way of exploring the city, so I thought maybe there are more people who will like it too.


Is Gdańsk your hometown?


Almost. I moved here when I was a toddler. I feel like a citizen of Gdansk, so it often happened to me that I was showing my friends around who were visiting our city for the first time. When I told them about Gdansk, mentioning monuments such as the armoury or the torture chamber, it turned out that they had never heard of them. Overall, while working on the app, I listened very carefully to my friends’ suggestions. I’ve always been like that myself, paying attention to details and I thought that this is the kind of attention to detail I want to promote in my application.


Details can be time-consuming. How long did it take you to work on the app?


I’m a Java Developer and in order to create an application I had to learn the right technology first. Of course, I thought it would be a good idea to make an app for two platforms at once (Android and iOS at the same time) so that even more people could use it. I became interested in the Flutter technology and it was in it that I created the app. I also needed time to figure out from A to Z how interesting it should look. The first version wasn’t perfect, but we saw that it made sense and that people enjoyed exploring the city through puzzles. I sat on the application after working hours, in the evenings. Simply out of passion. I also consulted with my team. It’s an app that I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t creating for a drawer, that I wanted to show it to the world. I can’t imagine such a project not consulting with other people, not checking other points of view. Sylwia and Łukasz’s perspectives were very important to me. Sometimes I found them paying attention to things that I wouldn’t have thought of at all.


What was it like to work on each puzzle?


I wanted to show popular places in Gdansk, but from a slightly different point of view. I had to take the time to learn about the history of the places and, of course, consult the riddles with a professional guide. A nice example of a new point of view is Neptune. In the game, I don’t ask what he’s holding in his hand, because we all know what he’s holding, but what Neptune’s trident is pointing to. I had a lot of fun preparing puzzles myself. I also read books and articles about Gdansk. Of course, I already knew a lot, but I still had to read more. The riddles are formulated in such a way that it is not enough to look for the answers on the Internet. You have to look carefully and find a solution yourself. The city is full of ambiguities. One time I walked up to the Green Gate to take a closer look at it, and suddenly I saw a relief of a lion eating a man — I thought: who even came up with this? I go on and look, and at the entrance to the tenement house there is a sculpture of a guy lying there holding a skull. I love walking through streets that I’ve looked at hundreds of thousands of times and looking at them in detail. In the Entre Gdańsk app you will find puzzles that make you just have to move. The app motivates you to be active outdoors.



Was that the most important goal of your application? Motivate users to be smart?


There were several goals. The aim of the application is to show the points of the city, already known to tourists and Gdańsk residents, but from an unusual side, to encourage people to be mindful and to show that learning history can have a very interesting form. After solving the puzzle, we get information about the monument. It’s nice that we can both read and listen to it, both in Polish and English. I want to show Gdańsk in an interesting way. In Entre Gdansk there are both the most important monuments and places that I would simply like to recommend. It can be an attractive way of sightseeing for a tourist, or someone who wants to spend time in an interesting way.

An additional goal for me and my team was to create something that we would be proud of, that would allow us to learn something new, broaden our horizons. I also wanted to have an interesting project in my portfolio. For now, I’m treating app development as a developmental one, it’s my passion, but I don’t rule out that in the future creating will be a source of income for me.


Who is the Entre Gdańsk app intended for (what kind of recipient is it aimed at)?


It’s definitely not just for tourists. Entre Gdańsk has a clear element of fun – I didn’t want to make a typical informational application, I wanted a project that would give the audience fun, but also have added value. Since we visit cities with phones in our hands anyway, why not use them for a more educational purpose. I recommend our app to people who want to show the city to children, I recommend it to residents who want to get to know the city and its history well. There are a lot of people who work here, but they haven’t found the time to explore the city properly. We have tried to make the application as intuitive as possible – readable for children and adults, and even the elderly who also use smartphones on a daily basis. I can also recommend an app to use during an unusual history lesson. After all, the goal of parents and educators is to inspire. The game can be played together, in a group, as a duo or solo. Of course, there are also other apps designed to visit cities. However, I didn’t notice that there was the element of the game that Entre Gdańsk provides.


What tools did you use to create the app?


I used the cross-platform Flutter technology. It’s called “cross-platform” because one code can be translated into Android and iOS at the same time, and even into web apps. I was intrigued because I’d never written in anything like this before and it would be good to give it a try. I really enjoyed working with this framework.


Do you already have plans for the next apps or is it time for a firecracker?


The worst thing is that I have a lot of more ideas I just don’t have enough time! I also have an idea for an app to inform users about very mundane matters that we sometimes don’t think about at all. I’m going to tell you a little bit about it, but I can’t reveal too much because I hope that one day I’ll really be able to make this app. However, I’m sure it will be an educational app again. As pathetic as it may sound, it is by creating such applications that I feel a mission. I want my apps to have added value, to be something interesting for both me and the users of my apps. I’d also like to make a similar game for Warsaw (the cool thing about my app is that it’s very scalable). When my friend and I were walking around Warsaw, inventing riddles, she told me that after using Entre Gdańsk she would never look at the city in the same way again. This app simply teaches you to be mindful, you immediately have a different focus on monuments, details, bas-reliefs, or paintings. I hope to spread this way of looking at the city a bit. Recently, someone in the city centre asked me what to visit in Gdansk, because the old town is boring. But I think that Gdańsk is incredibly interesting, not only because it differs in the construction of streets from other old parts of cities in Poland. I think that our streets simply have their own character and unique atmosphere. If my interlocutor had paid attention to the details of the old part of Gdansk, he would certainly not have said that it was boring. It may not be an innovative way of looking at the city, but it’s very satisfying.



In that case, I wish everyone to pay attention to detail when visiting cities and have as much fun developing their passions as you do!


I think working on the app was a lot of fun for me and my friends, even though it cost us a lot of work, sleepless nights, and after-hours commitment. I often didn’t start work until my fiancée went to bed. I also had to make sure I didn’t work on the app all the time. It just gave me a lot of fun, especially since I did it on my own initiative, no one imposed it on me. Working on the app was very inspiring for me.


Are you planning to expand the Entre Gdańsk app then?


Yes, absolutely! I have a feeling that it will be a continuous work. I would also like to make such an application for other cities, and my little dream is to make such a game abroad. Because why not? I also have some base for coming up with puzzles, now I would like to transfer the idea to other places, to other cities, districts. This is not a closed project.


We are looking forward to the next editions of the Entre Gdańsk app and your next apps!



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