VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 5 POSTED ON: 4/3/2010
Cities by the Baltic Sea — an exhilarating experience Cruising into Baltic Sea ports is an exhilarating experience. From the 50-mile transit to Stockholm’s city center through a beautiful archipelago of 24,000 islands to slow transits past castles, palaces and fortresses to reach St. Petersburg, few regions come close to offering such diverse cruise experiences. Fortunately, because many Baltic Sea cruises are 10 days or longer, itineraries are port-intensive, and cruise passengers get to see several cities by the sea on a single sailing. The approach to any Baltic Sea port by ship is an inspiring experience. Distant city skylines typically are characterized not by high-rise buildings but by copper covered church spires and towers of castles and historic buildings. Some port cities feature well-preserved town walls and buildings from the Medieval Age, silent sentinels of long ago, when German merchants of the Hanseatic League sailed between ports to engage in commerce. Often, the city skylines that cruise passengers see today would be recognizable to those German merchants long gone. Because of their historical importance and the fact that they are so well preserved, some of the cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Cruise ships transit old trading routes from the days when Vikings ruled the sea. History lives on the city shores. Moreover, cruise ships typically dock within walking distance of historic city centers and other attractions. When transit is required, distances from the ship to the city center are usually quite short. Waterfronts can be lively, with shops, restaurants and cafes — and always the bustle of people. The Baltic Cruising Region’s ―Cities by the Sea‖ are some of the world’s most remarkable port destinations: Stockholm, situated on 14 islands and thus called the City That Floats On Water; St. Petersburg, with so many rivers and canals that it is called the Venice of the North; Rostock, the old German town that shares a port with the seaside resort Warnemunde; Visby, a town that speaks volumes about its Medieval heritage; Mariehamn, the capital of the autonomous Åland Islands with a strong maritime past and present; Kalmar, where visitors still feel the influence of the German Hanseatic League; and UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Tallinn and the historic center of Riga. These are only a sampling of the cities that have inspired voyages for millennia — and for many more years to come. Read on for more. Copenhagen, City of Spires A visitor’s first view of Copenhagen will likely be not from the sea but from the air. That’s because Copenhagen is where most Baltic cruises begin. Founded in 1167 as a fortress to protect the important herring trade, Copenhagen features two main cruise terminals, Langelinie Pier, situated within walking distance of the city center, and Freeport Terminal. Approaching (or leaving) either of the terminals through Kronloebet channel, cruise ship passengers are able to admire Copenhagen’s low skyline. The presence of only a few high-rise buildings allow Copenhagen’s copper covered church spires and towers of historic buildings dominate the skyline. Gdynia, The Baltics‘ Youngest Port The young port of Gdynia, founded in 1922, was the Baltic Sea’s largest port until 1938. In those years, Gdynia was a mere village, but the port gave rise to a city, which is why the city blends so well with the port. The city center features a wide avenue that leads to the Gdansk Bay. Ships dock at Francuskie Quay, Polskie Quay, or Pomorski Quay. The first two quays are about one mile from the city center. The latter is near the waterfront zone that city residents refer to as ―The Square.‖ The area features Poland’s best-known maritime symbols: Gdynia Aquarium, featuring the marine life and plants from around the world; and the Frigate ―Dar Pomorza,‖ a three-masted frigate from 1909; ORP Blyskawica, a World War II destroyer. Within 15 minutes walking distance is a nature reserve. Göteborg, the Gateway to Adventure Founded in 1621 by King Gustav II Adolf, Göteborg position at the mouth of the Baltic and North seas gave the city vital strategic importance as a gateway to the sea. Today, Göteborg is still Sweden’s primary shipping and passenger port and acts as a gateway to Europe and to Sweden. As the ship approaches Göteborg you will enter the archipelago of Bohus and Göteborg. You might glide by the picturesque lighthouses and quintessential red or brightly coloured sea-side towns crowded onto small rocky islands. But you will know you have arrived in Göteborg when you have passed the Älvborgs bridge with its modern sweeping spires and spot the Göteborg Opera House with its distinctive prow shape. The pier is conveniently located only 1 km from the centre of town with quayside public transport which means that you can begin your adventures in Göteborg and Sweden as soon as you like. Helsingborg/Elsinore, Home Of Hamlet, Kronborg And Karnan A gift from Danish king Knut the Holy, Helsingborg was founded in 1085. Dominating the city skyline, Karnan Tower dates from the medieval ages. On the waterfront is the beautiful Dunker Culture Center. Large ships dock in the South Harbor, less than two miles from the city center, while small ships are able to dock near the city center. Across the 2.5-mile stretch of the sound (Oresund), visitors can see Elsinore, the Danish town that is home to Hamlet’s castle. Elsinore was founded during the reign of King Erik of Pomerania (1382-1459). Cruise ships moor at Kings Quay at the beginning of the one of Denmark’s oldest pedestrian streets. Within walking distance are exquisite old churches, a medieval cloister and the charming half-timbered shop houses that stretch to the harbor. Cruising into Elsinore offers spectacular views of Kronborg Castle, made famous by Shakespeare as the backdrop to Hamlet. Helsinki, Where East Meets West Founded in 1550 by Sweden's King Gustav, Helsinki was developed as a harbor town to compete for Baltic trade with Tallinn. The Finnish capital developed around the port. Situated in the city center, South Harbor is the central cruise passenger traffic hub. Cruise ships dock at Katajanokka or other quays within walking distance of the city center and the Kauppatori Market Square, a colorful way to begin exploration of Helsinki. The largest cruise ships dock at Hernesaari in West Harbor, from where shuttle buses take passengers in ten minutes to the city center. Kalmar, Hanseatic Homestead One of Sweden’s oldest cities, Kalmar’s port activities date back more than 1,000 years. In the Middle Ages, the port played an important role with its strategic location on the Kalmarsund trade route. Trade with the Hanseatic League was robust, imbuing Kalmar with Germanic atmosphere. The Port of Kalmar is situated in a sheltered position, adjacent to the shipping lane in Kalmar Sound. The port can be approached from either north or south. On the northern approach cruise passengers see Borgholm Castle before passing under Öland’s bridge – one of the longest bridges in Europe. Arriving from the south, Kalmar Castle greets cruise passengers. Smaller and medium sized cruise ships moor at the quay in the middle of the town, while larger cruise ships anchor just south of the port and must tender passengers ashore. The quay and tender landing are situated within walking distance to shops and cafés. Walking distance to the Old Town, Kalmar Castle and the town park is ten minutes. Karlskrona, Navy Town Founded in 1680 as Sweden’s primary naval base, Karlskrona is surrounded by islands. Ships transit a beautiful archipelago and a series of fortresses en route to the Karlskrona’s harbor. Ships that dock at the city center put passengers within a five-minute walk of attractions. Most ships, however, must anchor, and cruise passengers enjoy a short tender past forts to a landing at the Naval Museum, a five-minute walk from the city center. Klaipeda, Important Port Klaipeda was united with Lithuania only in 1923, and even then was closed to tourists during 50 years of Soviet rule following World War II. Today, as the only Lithuanian port, Klaipeda holds a position of great importance to Lithuania’s economics and its connection to the rest of the world. Cruise ships coming to Klaipeda catch sight not only of the reconstructed port entrance but also of the Curonian Spit National park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entering the port itself, passengers see the Lithuanian Maritime Museum, the only museum of the kind in the Baltic States. The Cruise terminal (built in 2003) is situated by a medieval city castle in the historic city centre. A rotating bridge, built in 1855 with reverted iron trusses, cast iron columns and manual rotation mechanism, permits entry into Klaipeda. Malmo, Where Sweden Meets Denmark th First mentioned around 1260, Malmo grew into a town in the 14 century and became wealthy due to the herring trade with Hanseatic cities. Now it trades primarily with its neighbour across the sound, Copenhagen, as well as internationally The Copenhagen Malmö Port is a unique cross border alliance. For the first time in history, two ports in two different countries have joined into one company, one organization and one legal entity. Copenhagen Malmö Port is situated in Øresund at the entrance to the Baltic Sea. Ships enter Malmö either from south via ―Flinterenden,‖ coming from the Baltic/Russia or from North Copenhagen, Norway or Kiel Canal. Smaller ships dock within walking distance of the city center. At the entrance of the port, ships pass the spectacular Turning Torso, the tallest building in Sweden. Mariehamn, capital for 6,500 islands Cruising through the thousands of islands that make up the Åland archipelago is an awe inspiring experience. The islands with their smooth red granite rock as formed during the Ice Age, the blue sea and the ever light summer nights combine to make it a pristine antidote to the big, bustling cities. The cruise ships dock in Mariehamn, the capital of the autonomous Åland Islands, yet a region of Finland but with both a Swedish and Russian past. Mariehamn was named after Tsar Alexander II wife Maria Alexandrovna, and the name means Maria’s Harbour. Mariehamn is a picturesque and friendly town of only 11,000 inhabitants. Everything is within walking distance - it takes less than 20 minutes to walk from the western harbour to the eastern harbour. Along the way one will pass restaurants, quaint wooden houses, craft shops and galleries, along with interesting sights such as the Museum Ship Pommern – the world’s only four masted bark still in its original condition and today a testimony to Mariehamn’s impressive seafaring traditions. The world famous Åland Maritime Museum is another must, along with the Åland Museum, which tells the history of the islands and its people. Oslo, Fjords And Fortresses Founded in the year 1000, Oslo always has been a sheltered port. Norway’s capital city lies in the heart of Scandinavia and at the head of the 61-mile long Oslo fjord. Ships takes approximately four hours from the entrance of the fjord to the city center, sailing through cultivated land dominated by green hills and small houses. Dominating the port is the Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle and royal residence built in 1299. The cruise port is next to the medieval fortress and City Hall, along a beautiful waterfront with shops, restaurants and entertainment. Riga, Route Between The Seas Crusaders and German merchants sailed into the area that would become Riga in 1201. From that point on, trade flourished, and Riga became a major port. Dominating the skyline are church steeples and the high-rise building known as Sun Stone on the bank of the River Daugava, the oldest part of an international trade route between the Baltic and Black seas. Vanshu Bridge connects the two banks of the river, and behind the bridge is Riga Castle. Most cruise ships dock at the city center, a 10-minute walk from the old town. Rostock, Resort Port Meets Old Town Founded in 1218, the Hanseatic city Rostock is approached at the seaside resort Warnemunde, where most th cruise ships dock. Warnemunde was famed for its baths and spas in the 20 century. Ships pass a lighthouse and wide, sandy beaches to reach the port, where in 1860, the Baltic’s largest fleet of sailing ships was based. Though the port and city are one, Rostock is about six miles from the port. Transit to the city center ranges from about 20 minutes (by land) or 40 minutes (by boat). Rostock features one of Europe’s first universities, a town wall and gothic churches, while Warnemunde offers restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, all within walking distance of the docks. St. Petersburg, Venice Of The North Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg is situated at the mouth of the Neva River. The city became one of Russia’s largest cruise ship ports and the country’s only gateway to the Baltic Sea, which is why St. Petersburg is called the Marine Capital of Russia. The city is characterized by so many rivers and canals that St. Petersburg often is called the Venice of the North. Ships pass forts, cathedrals, palaces and other attractions on the transit to the berth in the center of the city. Stockholm, The City That Floats On Water Founded in 1200, Stockholm started out as a port destination. Built on 14 islands, Sweden’s capital city often is called the ―City That Floats On Water.‖ The Baltic Sea meets Lake Malaren in Stockholm’s Old Town, giving the city not only a reach into the Swedish countryside but also to the rest of the world via the sea. The waterways have always served as important transport lanes to and from the city. The journey to Stockholm’s city center begins nearly 50 miles east, at the tip of a beautiful archipelago comprised of 24,000 islands. Many of the islands are uninhabited, rocky outcrops that are homes only to birds. Others have quaint red-and-white Swedish cottages. Once docked at one of several locations in Stockholm, cruise passengers find it easy to make their way (by foot or taxi) to Stockholm’s Old Town and the city’s other attractions. Ships too large to navigate the archipelago safely must dock one hour’s bus ride away. Tallinn, UNESCO World Heritage Site Early settlers were in the region surrounding Tallinn more than 3,500 years ago, and in 1154, an Arabian geographer marked Tallinn on the world map. A member of the Hanseatic League from 1285, Tallinn was among the most important Hanseatic trading towns, along with Lübeck, Visby and Riga. Luxury furs, wax and honey from Russia were delivered westward through Tallinn’s port, while salt from Portugal and woolen fabrics from England and Flanders came through Tallinn on their eastward route. Cruise ships approach Tallinn passing the town wall, church spires and the red-tiled rooftops of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The same basic cityscape was seen by seafarers centuries ago. Ships typically dock within walking distance of the city center. Turku, Finland’s Former Capital And Oldest Town Founded in 1229 (or at least that is the date that documents mention a marketplace in this part of Finland — Turku, in fact, translates to ―market‖). Turku is approached through an archipelago of 40,000 islands and islets before passing the Ruissalo nature park en route to the port. Less than two miles from the city center, the port offers cruise passengers shuttle and taxi service to the city center, or cruise passengers may walk along a promenade to the center. Next to the port is Turku Castle, dating back to the 1280s. Visby, Medieval and Hanseatic town A Viking community once existed in the town that became Visby in 1203. The Swedish port is approached between two breakwaters. Cruise ships pass the ferry harbor and then the Inner Harbor, near the city center, as well as the town wall and its towers, old homes on a hillside, and the Cathedral of Visby. Ships dock within a few minutes walk of the city center.
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