A massive ice sheet covered much of northern Europe just as Greenland is covered today. As climate warmed about 12,000 years ago, the ice sheet retreated leaving a large puddle of water behind that we now call the Baltic Sea. It is a shallow estuary, only about 55 meters deep on average, that separates Finland from Sweden in the north while Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany form its southern reaches with Denmark and Sweden filling in the western borders of this sea in the north. The history of all these 9 countries is shaped by the trade, travel, and turmoil that the tide-less Baltic Sea provided for well over 1500 years.
Traveling by car, train, and ferry the last 10 days, I visited colleagues, family, and friends in an area shaped by ancient ice sheets, medieval trade, piracy, and modern conflict. Continue reading