Baltic Sea Travel for Senior Citizens

May 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Here’s one that I have heard little about until recently.  Germany’s Baltic Sea coastline curves like a reclining “S” along the edges of its two northernmost states, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Its location provides the sort of turbulent changes in water and air which inspired expressionist painter Emil Nolde’s dramatic palette of deep blues, reds, purples, and even black. The Baltic Sea is unique: the largest body of brackish (low-salinity) body of water in the world, it is also distinguished by its division into a series of basins of varying depths, separated by shallow areas or sills. The many rivers flowing into the Sea are the reason for its brackish character. Furthermore, the link with the North Sea is very narrow, the shallowest still being only 18 m (59 ft) deep.
The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, connecting with the North Sea; it is about 1,000 mi (1,600 km) long, covers an area of about 149,000 sq mi (386,000 sq km), and has a maximum depth of about 1,500 ft (450 m). It receives the Vistula and Oder rivers and many other rivers. It is enclosed by Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and Russia. It has two large arms, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland. The modifying effect of the North Atlantic Current is scarcely felt; its waters contain only about one-fourth as much salt as the oceans, and it freezes readily.

The Baltic Sea is called a mediterranean (intracontinental) sea of the Atlantic Ocean and it extends deeply into the European continent. So what’s the attraction for seniors? The clear water of the Baltic Sea, its mild influence and white seaside mainly draws the concentration of families with children to the many bathing resorts along the whole eastern coast. Basket chairs give protection against the wind and sun. Restaurants along the coast offer a view of breath-taking sunsets and walks along the beach followed by a hot tea — this makes it attractive in winter, too.

The Baltic Sea Region is made up of nine countries and a number of metropolitan areas. The region encompasses Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (The Baltic States) Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, and the western Russia, with St Petersburg and Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania. All countries except Russia are members of the European Union. Over half of the countries around the Baltic Sea have their capitals by the sea.

International sea traffic uses it to connect between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, thus saving hundreds of miles of additional travel time around Denmark, and the related high costs of transportation. Today, the tourist industry is making its way to the top of the list of the Region’s assets. On the UNESCO World Heritage List there are quite a number of historic centers of many cities and towns of the region, mostly with the Hanseatic past: in Riga, Tallinn, Lübeck, Visby, Vilnius, Karlskrona, Tallinn, Rauma, St. Petersburg and Warsaw.

Schleswig-Holstein’s Baltic coast runs for 385 kilometers. (My relatives on my father’s side originated from SH). The coast has gently shelving sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, bays and narrow inlets cut deep into the land – Flensburg Firth, the Schlei, Eckernförde Bay, the Bay of Kiel and the Bay of Lübeck. The Baltic island of Fehmarn lies between Kiel Firth and the Bay of Lübeck. It sits off the mainland like the dot on an “i” and is known as Schleswig-Holstein’s “granary”. 

The Baltic coast also has more than a hint of romance. Around 25 stately homes, grand residences, palaces, manor houses and estates sit in splendor by the sea, on hills and on the islands. Built for kings and their loved ones, they often have parks designed for leisurely strolls. Some of them are open to visitors – beautiful illustrations of the twists, turns and intrigues of the past.

The Baltic Sea is relatively shallow and has practically no tides. It receives the drainage from a large part of northern Europe and as a result the salinity of water in the Baltic Sea is low and lies somewhere between freshwater and seawater. So while you are up north in Scandinavia, do check out a cruise on the Baltic. Most Baltic Sea cruises are available from May to September and most sailings range from four to 28 days in length. Itineraries may include ports in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark. A Baltic Sea cruise is the best way to experience the cultural wealth and historical beauty of Northern Europe. jeb

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