Gdansk’s Green Gate, Poland


The “Green Gate” of Gdansk, Poland

Until very recently, controlling a port meant power. In fact, this is still the case in many ways considering that about 90% of world’s trade is still carried by the international shipping industry. Long before the invention of the airplane – and before that, the train and the truck – shipping was the method of transport. European powers have been obsessed with finding trade routes to Asia for hundreds of years (inspiring the famed Columbus voyage in 1492… as well as others), going so far as to construct the Panama and Suez canals. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Russians (who occupied central Russia at the time) had control only of a few northern (and frozen!) ports. Baltic ports were controlled largely by the Lithuanian Empire, or by powers centralized in Riga and Tallinn. The Hanseatic League as well controlled much of the trade in North, Eastern and Central Europe. Russians had staggering amounts of natural resources – but few ports, thereby instigating the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. Though Gdansk, located in northern Poland on the Baltic Sea, was not controlled by the Russians, other powers (German, Lithuanian, Teutonic Knights…) have their histories mingled with that of Gdansk. Indeed, the Baltic city has been an influential port for nearly a 1,000 years! Today, the Polish city is still an important port, not to mention a hub for Poles on holiday in search of the sea. It is also one of the best places in the world to purchase amber!

Pro tip: Some of Gdansk’s most photogenic and picturesque spots is in the Long Market, bookend-ed with the Green Gate (that’s actually pink…) leading to the waterfront on the other side. 

Travel to Other Beautiful Places near the Baltic Sea
  1. Malbork Castle, Poland
  2. Riga, Latvia
  3. Tallinn, Estonia
  4. St Petersburg, Russia
  5. Stockholm, Sweden
  6. The Baltic Sea


The Baltic Sea as seen from Estonia


The Baltic Sea as seen from Estonia

The Baltic Sea is a basin of water in the north of Europe. Bordering Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden, it also happens to be one of the finest places to find that curious orange-red, stereotypically Baltic mineral, amber. As the Baltic is almost always too cold to properly enjoy its beaches, one of the nicest ways to see the sea is by way of bike. Historically, the sea has played a major role in commerce, trade and movement of peoples, including containing the main trading routes of the Hanseatic League. It played a major role in other trades too, such as the lumber, flax, hemp and fur industries. Sweden’s silver and iron mining industry and Poland’s salt mines have also profited from the Baltic Sea trade. All in all, if you find yourself in Northern Europe, the Baltic is worth seeing–and hard to miss!