In my many years of travel, I have found that each season seems to claim a region for her own and is the place she brings out her very best.
Spring chooses the Mediterranean and fills the shores with bird-song and a colorful explosion of wild flowers. Autumn picks the Black Sea after harvest, when families gather and tables groan under the weight of feasts and wines. And summer has chosen the Baltic, where she lengthens her days and breaks out her best along the southern amber shores and northern archipelagos.
On our Best of the Baltic voyage, we begin in Edinburgh and cross the North Sea to the Baltic. Here, we visit the islands of Sylt, Germany; Bornholm and Christianso, Denmark; and Visby, Sweden. We’ll also make stops in Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Finland, checking off seven countries in all, and all at the height of Midsummer preparation, before we finish with an overnight in Copenhagen.
The festivals of Midsummer are a big event in the Baltic region. The holiday marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of late summer hay-making. There are similarities among some of the customs of the holiday, such as the weaving of flowered wreaths and crowns, and the practice of special folkloric dances. But then they diverge, and each country celebrates the festivities of summer in their own special way.
Sweden be-ribbons maypoles. Denmark builds mock Viking ships and burns them in great bonfires along the coast for Sankt Hans (or John’s Day). In Estonia, as in all of the Baltic, the holiday was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity. This is thought to be the time when the forces of nature are at their most powerful and magic is in the air. The local customs still show signs of their beginnings as pagan beliefs and fertility rituals. In Latvia, people used to decorate their houses and land with rowan branches and thorns in order to protect themselves from evil witches believed to be riding through the night.
Cultural and historical highlights abound on our 16-day Baltic Odyssey. Here is what you can look forward to on this voyage:
- Tour the impressively restored medieval Old Town of Tallinn, one of the best preserved historic districts in the Baltic.
- View the eclectic architecture of Riga, with fine examples from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles.
- Visit St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk, the world’s largest brick church.
- Step ashore in beautiful Visby, a World Heritage Site, known as the city of ‘roses and ruins.’
- Discover the scenic beauty of Bornholm Island, graced with rolling countryside, charming villages, unique round churches, and the impressive ruins of Hammershus Castle.
- Explore Copenhagen’s cultural treasures; exquisite palaces, vibrant gardens, world-class museums, grand churches, and the bustling harbor lined with colorful shops and cafes.