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Baltic Port Planner

The Baltic can feel clouded in mystery, a northern sea with forested shores, as well as unexpected treasures. Along its coasts are centuries-old wooden churches and cutting-edge design capitals; medieval fortresses as well as palaces inspired by Versailles. The youngest sea on the planet—it is estimated…

The Baltic can feel clouded in mystery, a northern sea with forested shores, as well as unexpected treasures. Along its coasts are centuries-old wooden churches and cutting-edge design capitals; medieval fortresses as well as palaces inspired by Versailles. The youngest sea on the planet—it is estimated to have formed only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago with the retreat of Ice Age glaciers—the Baltic was long the domain of the Vikings. After them, it was infamous for the pirates who plagued merchants here while it would later be controlled by the Hanseatic League. Ports like Gdansk, Riga, Stockholm, Visby and, most of all, Lübeck, became centers of commercial power. To this day, merchants' homes and monumental town halls reflect their status before the League vanished with the rise of nation-states. Today nine nations border the Baltic—clockwise from top: Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. It is the contrasts between the cities of the Baltic that is perhaps what makes the region especially fascinating. The physical distance between the summer homes and artists' studios of Denmark's Bornholm Island and the farms along Poland's Pomeranian coast isn't far, but they feel worlds apart. There are few places one can travel and within a few days' time explore a capital noted for its perfectly restored medieval center (Tallinn, in Estonia), an 18th-century neoclassical city nicknamed the Venice of the North (St. Petersburg), and another capital whose tastemakers lead the rest of the world in architecture and design (Helsinki). Wherever you travel in the region, you can expect to be surprised.

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