The Baltic Sea is an unique area located between the Baltics and Scandinavia. It is one of the largest brackish inland seas (i.e. mix of salt and fresh water) in the world.
For a sailor, this area offers unique cruising with plenty of islands and sheltered waterways. It is impossible to put these such different areas in order, so I decided to list our favourite places from north to south.
In the first part, the first five sailing areas in the northern part of the Baltic Sea were presented. Now in this second part, I look at the interesting cruising grounds in the middle and southern part of the Baltic Sea.
Feel free to comment and suggest new places, which you think, should be included in the list!
6. Visby — a medieval city which does not sleep
I have been in Visby only once (with a sail boat). It was at the end of the June in 2010, which was an exceptionally warm summer in the Baltics. I remember sitting on the old medieval stone wall, which encircles the city, and enjoying the beautiful view to the glittering sea. Especially when the weather was so great, one could have easily thought of being somewhere in the Mediterranean — it is not a typical North European view!
Visby is the best preserved medieval-city in Scandinavia and it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also a legendary sailing destination with a harbour right in the heart of the city. It is a little wonder, that during July, it is a busy place and one can find boats from all over the Scandinavia and Northern Europe. There are a lot of nice restaurants and the night life is lively during the summer season.
7. Northern Öland — the land of the Sun
Öland has a special place in our hearts; we visited the island twice in 2011, and both times found the summer there. Especially on our way back home in early August, the hot and sunny weather felt luxurious after many days of sailing in the rainy and windy southern Baltics. Our experiences could be just a coincidence or maybe not, since the northern part of the Öland is statistically the sunniest region in Sweden. Therefore, the island is also popular among vacationers. There are also some great beaches on the east coast of this long and narrow island.
Bicycle is the best vehicle to explore the great nature on this island. One can even tour the whole island along the well marked Ölandsleden-route. On the west side of the island, the route goes near the coastline and offers great views to the Kalmarsund.
8. Bornholm — a green island in the middle of the Southern Baltic Sea
I have visited Bornholm twice; the first time was just a quick stop in mid-May 2010, when delivering Dolphin Dance from Denmark. For a fist-timer, approaching Bornholm was an unforgettable experience: the silhouette of the Hammerhuis fortress ruins over the hills is visible from a good distance and when sailing closer, one starts to see the green hilly coastline, raising steeply from the sea.
We stopped for provisions in Allinge, which is a popular harbour in the northern Bornholm. However, it was still pre-season and the harbour was almost deserted. The case would have been a bit different in July, when the harbour is every night fully packed with boats.
My second visit to Bornholm was in late July 2011, when we stopped in Hammerhavn also in northern Bornholm (we had sailed past this harbour a bit over year before). It is a great small harbour in the nest of green hills. There is a nice, forestry path from the harbour to the Hammerhus castle ruins. On the walls of this fortess, one can absorb information about the interesting history of this island, or just sit down to enjoy the magnificient view over the coastline to the Southern Baltic Sea. I had the same kind of feeling when sitting on the stone wall, that I had had in Visby a year earlier — that this place is not in the Baltics, but somewhere further away…
Bornholm is an island, where we will definitely visit again in the future and I would like to round the island someday.
9. Rügen — the island of famous chalk cliffs
We have not yet been sailing in Germany, but have heard a lot of positive storiea about the area of Rügen from fellow sailors. Rügen is the biggest island of Germany, and the area is especially famous for the high chalk cliffs, which rise well over hundred meters above the sea level. Rügen and the Danish island of Møn, some 30 nautical miles northwest, once belonged to a large chalk plateau. During the years, the erosion has removed the vast majority of the land mass, leaving the famous chalk cliffs on both islands.
|Photo: © Tourismusverband Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Messerschmidt)|
Rügen is also a named for a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular holiday destination with many long sand beaches and holiday resorts. After seeing some photos from the area, Rügen will definitely be included as a part of our southern Baltic tour in the future.
10. Gdansk (and other traditional seaports of the Eastern Europe)
Last but not least, the eastern side of the Baltics deserves to be mentioned as well. The landscape on this area is very different from the west side since there are very few islands along the coast. Due to the lack of good natural harbours, the prime interest in this area for a sailor lies in the great historical cities and seaports. Furthermore, the area is developing rapidly and new marinas are opened every year.
Eastern side of the Baltic Sea is also an area, where we have not sailed, but visited by other means. Last May we visited Gdansk (Poland), which is a very beautifully restored city with an impressive history. There is a new marina in the heart of the city center, so it would be great to visit this place by boat someday.
There are also many beautiful old cities in the Baltic countries, for example Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia, which could be on this listing as well.
When writing this article and searching information on different areas, I have started to appreciate, if possible, even more the beauty and the diversity of the Baltic Sea. However, the article about the Baltic Sea cannot be just a happy story, but one must recognize the great environmental challenges, which this area is facing and which are endangering the future. Baltic Sea is very vulnerable sea area due to its special characteristics: low salinity level, slow water turnover through the narrow Danish straits and shallowness; Baltic Sea is basically a shallow lake compared to the Mediterranean Sea for example. At the same time, there are 90 million people living around the Baltic Sea and this is a huge burden to the sea’s ecosystem. The biggest threats the sea faces are for example eutrophication and risk posed by maritime traffic. Fortunately, there are many good projects going on, which are aiming for concrete improvements in the state of the sea. For example, John Nurminen Foundation and Baltic Sea Action Group have achieved some remarkable results already with their projects.