Summer in the Baltic Sea of northern Europe is a delightful season. The days are long, especially between mid June and the end of July, and the farther north one travels. This region is one of the most popular venues for cruise ships, and all the major lines offer itineraries that vary from one to as much as two weeks. The highlight of any Baltic Sea cruise is the visit to St. Petersburg, Russia. Some of the more upmarket cruise lines stay in port for as long as three days. Apart from visiting St. Petersburg, all of the other Baltic ports are rich in historic sites and offer distinctive cultures presented in spotlessly clean settings, thus making for a grand tour that has become one of the most enticing in the cruise industry.
My travel companion is not a guidebook to where to dine or shop. Its purpose is to introduce you to the individual ports of call and the countries they represent. It will provide you with background information to help you better understand the places you will be visiting. To best appreciate one’s surroundings, it is always advantageous to know something about the geography, history, social life and customs and major sites. The better informed the traveler is, the more rewarding the experience of visiting new places.
The region of the Baltic Sea is one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Europe. Settlement dates back to before historic record keeping. Most visitors have heard or read stories about the Vikings who spread outward from the western margins of the Baltic Sea and terrorized the more sedentary peoples of the British Isles and the western coastal margins of Europe clear down to the Mediterranean. But few realize that Vikings also were great colonizers. Russia owes its very existence as a European society to early Viking settlers who pushed inland, utilizing rivers as a means of settling the vast interior forests and steppes. And Vikings were responsible for the settlement of Iceland, Greenland and even for a brief time the shores of what is now Newfoundland in Canada.
The Germanic tribes also played a major role in the development of this region, and their cultural impact has been very profound in historic times. Likewise the Poles, and the Lithuanian people also expanded their societies and dominated neighboring peoples in the greater Baltic region. During the middle ages, the Hanseatic League played a major role in the establishment of trade routes and port cities all around the margins of the Baltic Sea. And their architectural impact is virtually impossible to overlook in most Baltic ports.
Today with the break up of the Soviet Union, the nations of the Baltic Sea are finally able to trade and interact with one another on a level that has been absent for nearly a century. Most of the Baltic nations have joined the European Union, thus giving them a unity of purpose with regard to trade and economic development. Travel around the sea is no longer hindered, and tourism has come to play an important role in regional development.
Most of the capital cities of the nations bordering the Baltic Sea are coastal ports with the exception of Germany, Poland, Russia and Lithuania. But in each case, the capital cities, which are located inland, have close ties to the ports on the Baltic Sea that are vital to national commerce.
The traveler’s companion book is designed to introduce you to the major cities of the Baltic Sea, with the inclusion of Berlin, Germany and Warsaw, Poland because these two cities are so closely associated with their coastal ports.
Although I have written a travel companion for Russia, the city of St. Petersburg is included in this volume because it is such an important Baltic Sea port city and has played such an important role in the history of the region since its inception.
The content is organized in a clockwise manner, starting with Oslo, Norway and exploring each major city eastward as far as St. Petersburg, then westward on the southern margin of the sea, ending with Copenhagen, Denmark.
If you like this introduction, my entire book plus many other traveler’s companion books are all available here.
I would also invite you to join me in 2015 and 2016 during the summer months, as I will be cruising the Baltic Sea with Silversea Cruises.
For more information about joining Dr. Lew Deitch on one of these cruises, contact us.
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