HAL in the Baltic: An inland sea of raiders and traders

HAL Baltic Map#2ABOARD THE EURODAM- I’m not looking for sympathy, but I feel compelled to reveal that I’ve been afflicted for many years with writus interuptus, an impairment known to but a few professional scribes.

Long ago — in the last century during the disco era of the late 1970s — I tried my hand at writing for magazines with some success. Nevertheless, after a dozen published articles on travel and photography — produced with great agonizing effort by the way — I had concluded that a writer’s life for me might very well lead to starvation.

Overview of Alesund, with Holland America Lines Eurodam cruise ship in port, from Mount Aksla
Overview of Alesund, with Holland America Lines Eurodam cruise ship in port, from Mount Aksla

Consequently, for the past 37 or so years, I made a living as a photographer, initially on assignments for business, travel, and corporate magazines, and subsequently producing stock travel images on speculation for publications. In order to finance many of my travels I organized and led photography tours to countries around the world as the director of Photo Explorer Tours.

So why now, after a hiatus of three decades, am I producing my first blog for All Things Cruise? Not to over simplify, but I no longer fear starving and I’m looking forward to the challenge of writing again. I mean, frankly, whoever heard of anyone starving on a cruise.

Tallinn's Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Tallinn’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Cruises, in addition to being convenient for no packing/unpacking traveling, offer the benefit of sampling, and photographing, several countries with a minimum of effort. This six-country Baltic Sea voyage will be an opportunity for me to revisit a trio of cities that I first saw in the early 70s on a Scandinavia and Russia tour — Helsinki, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg (Leningrad at that time) — two last visited a decade ago when I led a photo tour – Tallinn and St. Petersburg again –and some new ones in northern Germany, particularly Berlin which has been on my bucket list for years. Only our gateway city of Copenhagen was a recent visit just four years ago, but also was first encountered on the early 70s Scandinavia itinerary. Except for Copenhagen, these will all be fresh experiences for my wife, Jialin.
This cruise will also be an opportunity to again enjoy the Holland America’s cruiseship, Eurodam. It’s déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say.

Weekend crowd in Copenhagen's popular Nyhavn
Weekend crowd in Copenhagen’s popular Nyhavn

The first time my wife and I boarded Eurodam it was at about this same time of year in 2011, also in Copenhagen. So we are fairly familiar with this ship from a North Sea cruise to ports in Norway, Scotland, and Belgium, with its termination in Dover in the UK.

Our itinerary for this cruise will be to the east circling the Baltic Sea, the semi-enclosed inland sea located in Northern Europe that separates the Scandinavian Peninsula from continental Europe. Historically the Baltic was the home of “raiders and traders,” the legendary Vikings followed by the commercial free trade zone of the Hanseatic League, regarded as the early forerunner of the European Community, both of which I will blog a bit about later.

St. Petersburg, Russia:The Grand Cascade of the  Peterhof (Petrodvorets) Palace, summer palace of Peter the Great
St. Petersburg, Russia:The Grand Cascade of the Peterhof (Petrodvorets) Palace, summer palace of Peter the Great

Finally, you college geography majors – I only minored – probably know that the Baltic Sea was once a riverbed, which it still resembles, scooped out during the Pleistocene period by a couple of glacial episodes. Similar to the Black Sea, the Baltic is the second most brackish body of water in the world, receiving both Atlantic Ocean water and fresh water fed by several rivers. While that may not sound particularly inviting, the Baltic does have the pleasant reputation as a most placid body of water for sailing. So I hope you’ll enjoy gliding along with us.

Photos above © Dennis Cox / WorldViews

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