Tourists who come to the medieval city of Szczecin, Poland, often visit its famed castle, National Museum or its largest nature park.
“A beautiful chonker who is worthy of his adoring fans,” one woman left as a Google Maps review.
“I came all the way from Lancaster UK to see Gacek. We chatted for a while. It was good,” wrote a reviewer named Roy.
“It was worth traveling three hours to feel ignored by him. Recommended,” wrote another.
It is unclear how many of the reviewers are actually visiting Gacek, and how many were just having fun. People have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with Google Maps over it.
Gacek was removed from Google Maps reviews several days ago, but on Tuesday, “Kot Gacek” reappeared without explanation, though all of the previous ratings were gone. People once again began chiming in with glowing reviews.
A spokesperson for Google initially said the company would reply to questions from The Washington Post about why Gacek was temporarily removed as an attraction, but then the spokesperson did not answer the questions. This is not the first time Gacek’s reviews have been taken down from Google Maps, news reports show.
In a situation similar to the cat, a sweet-faced golden retriever in Gdańsk, Poland, was also rated as a top tourist attraction on Google Maps in 2021 under the heading “The Dog From the Balcony.” The popular pup was also removed from the site.
Reviewers are back in full force since Gacek’s return, fueled by both his devoted admirers and the vagaries of internet fame.
“Life changing experience, I highly recommend visiting Kot Gacek,” one person commented on Google Maps after the cat came back.
“Talented, brilliant, show-stopping, amazing, totally unique,” wrote another reviewer, who clicked a box that there was no wait time to see the cat, but reservations were recommended.
Gacek’s rise to celebrity began almost three years ago when a local news station, wSzczecinie, posted a video about the friendly feline on YouTube.
Gacek (the name is pronounced “Gatsek” and means ‘long-eared bat’ in Polish), had lived independently on Kaszubska Street for about seven years and was friendly to everyone in the neighborhood, according to the news story.
A few of the shop owners noticed Gacek and built him a little wooden house for shelter and began to look after him, making sure he was well fed, locals told the news station. The cat, who is neutered, was once adopted, but he cried in the middle of the night and wanted to go back to his outside home, according to the news story.
The YouTube video about Gacek racked up 866,000 views and people began showing up to snap photos of the cat and pet him. One of Gacek’s fans launched an Instagram account to document his life, which has 19,000 followers, while another admirer recently created a Facebook page.
Diana Grabowy said she was inspired to document Gacek’s life on Facebook after she spotted the fluffy cat strolling confidently up and down the street a couple of years ago, pausing so people could stroke his fur and admire him.
Although Grabowy lives about 60 miles outside of Szczecin, she said she now travels to the city several days a week to check in on Gacek and see if he’s in the mood to pose for photos.
“He enjoys people’s company, and he allows them to pet him or simply observe his surroundings while he is in his cozy bed,” Grabowy, 32, told The Post in an interview conducted with the help of Google Translate.
“I decided to create a blog to raise awareness of his situation and present him in an interesting way to those who have not yet had the opportunity to meet him,” she said.
“Gacek has a fantastic personality and is very sociable and charismatic,” Grabowy added. “He’s a cat who likes to be among crowds of people.”
Gacek was probably named by a shopkeeper on Kaszubska Street, Grabowy said, noting that several people have expressed a desire to adopt the thick-bodied cat over the years.
“Unfortunately, he won’t let anyone adopt him — he prefers to live in his spot in the middle of the city,” she said. “Many people have traveled long distances to meet him and interact with him, but he is happiest where he is.”
The biggest problem for Gacek is not the photo seekers, but people who ignore pleas to not feed him, Grabowy said, explaining that a sign is posted above his house instructing people to leave packaged treats with nearby shop owners who fill the cat’s bowl morning and evening.
The sign also asks people not to pet Gacek if he’s napping inside his house. Google Maps listed the “Kot Gacek” tourist site as “Open 24 hours,” but that is not the case.
“He is an urban pet, unfazed by the city noise, but he needs his quiet time,” Grabowy said.
The city, which has a population of 400,000, was once known as Stettin and was part of the region then known as Prussia. Catherine the Great was born there in 1729.
Some Google Maps reviewers seem more interested in commenting on the cat — sometimes called “King of Kaszubska Street” — than the historic sites in the city, even if their exaggerated comments are made for laughs.
One person wrote that traveling to Szczecin to see the cat was the trip of a lifetime.
“Phenomenal moment of my life. Nothing could ever compare to this experience I shared with Gacek,” one person wrote before the prior reviews disappeared from Google Maps. “I can die happy knowing I fulfilled my life purpose.”
“I flew from Oslo with transit in Gdańsk to see Gacek,” commented another person. “As expected, he didn’t pay any attention to me, which made the experience fully wholesome. If I could have a dinner with anyone in the world, I would fly again in an instant to feed him.”
Others noted that they hoped to add a trip to Szczecin to their bucket lists.
“I would visit you in a second, but I live in Canada,” a woman from Manitoba commented about Gacek on Grabowy’s Facebook page. “I am going out ice fishing. I will catch a tasty fish for you.”
Some of Gacek’s followers have offered to chip in money to build him a bigger shelter, and Grabowy said she is now mulling whether to start a fundraiser for Szczecin’s star attraction.
“We all do our best to take care of him as best we can,” she said. “He’s a wonderful cat, and I hope he will be with us for many years to come.”