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___ Political Map of the Baltic Sea and Surrounding Areas
Map is showing the location of the Baltic Sea within Europe.
Ten thousand years ago, the ocean what is known today as the Baltic Sea, was in fact an impressive inland sea, with a connection to the Atlantic Ocean only by two or three rivers.
Nobody knows what the sea was called then, but scholars of today named it the Ancylus Lake. The lake's water was the remains of several stages of the retreat of the melting Scandinavian ice sheet following the last glacial period we all know as the Ice Age.
Some thousand years later the sea became a branch of the Atlantic Ocean and a popular tourist destination, the Baltic sea is today connected to the North Sea (a branch of the Atlantic Ocean itself) via the Kattegat and Skagerrak Straits, enabled Vikings of past times just as cruise ships of today to roam the seas for business. In the 13th to the 15th century, the region was one of the main playgrounds and the economic core of the Hanseatic League (Hanse), a confederation of merchants and city unions which became an economic and political power in Northern Europe.
The Baltic Sea is known by a variety of names, the Germans call it Ostsee (East Sea), the Swedish Östersjön, in Danish it's Østersøen, in Russia it is known as Baltiyskoye More, in Finland as Itämeri, for the Polish people it is Morze Bałtyckie, and in Estonia the 'East Sea' is known as Läänemeri (West Sea).
The Baltic Sea (including the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland) covers an area of 377,000 km2 (146,000 sq mi) making it somewhat larger than Germany or slightly smaller than the US state of Montana. Approximately 85 million people live in the larger Baltic Sea region and use the sea for various purposes .
There are nine countries with a shoreline at the Baltic Sea: Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia (at Kaliningrad Oblast), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden.
The Gulf of Bothnia between Finland's west coast and Sweden's east coast is the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea, the shallow Gulf of Finland between Finland and Estonia its easternmost. The Gulf of Riga is a bay between Latvia and Estonia. The Gulf of Gdańsk, also known as Gdańsk Bay, includes the Bay of Puck and the brackish water Vistula Lagoon, which is separated from the Gdańsk Bay by the Vistula Spit, a peninsular sand stretch. A similar spit lies to the north east, the 98 km long known as the Curonian Spit, a sand-dune spit between Kaliningrad Oblast and Lithuania that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea.
Rivers (major tributaries)
There are about sixty rivers drain into the Baltic sea. Rivers and rainwater are the source that the water of the sea is brackish water, a mixture of fresh water and saline seawater. The sea is the largest expanse of brackish water in the world.
The largest rivers are the Newa, the navigable Russian river that connects Lake Ladoga with the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland. The Vistula, Poland's largest river empties into Gdańsk Bay. The Oder river, in parts forming the border between Poland and Germany empties into the Szczecin Lagoon (Oder Lagoon). The 1,020 km long Daugava (Western Dvina) opens out into the Gulf of Riga, the Nemunas (Memel) empties into the Curonian Lagoon, the Kemijoki, Finland's longest river, spills into the Gulf of Bothnia at Kemi. The Narva, Estonia's largest river connects Lake Peipus with the Gulf of Finland. The mouth of the Swedish Lule River (Luleälven) is at Luleå, the port city at the Gulf of Bothnia, the Torne river forms for some length the border between Sweden and Finland, its mouth is at the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia.
Åland is an autonomous territory under Finnish sovereignty with a Swedish speaking population. The archipelago with more than 6,000 islands and islets at the entry of the Gulf of Bothnia in the Archipelago Sea (Finland). Other larger islands are Hailuoto, west of the city of Oulu, and the Kvarken Archipelago with the islands of Replot and Björkö near the city of Vaasa. Nearby is the Swedish island group of Holmöarna. Sweden's largest islands are Gotland and Öland.
Saaremaa and Hiiumaa are Estonia's largest islands.
Bornholm, the trapezoidal Danish island south of Sweden, its center is covered with one of the largest forests in Denmark (Almindingen). Lolland, Falster, and Møn are other Danish islands in the Baltic Sea.
The Polish Wolin island between the Bay of Pomerania and the Oder Lagoon is home to the Wolin National Park. Wolin is separated from the German/Polish island of Usedom by the Strait of Świna. Rügen and Fehmarn are Germany's largest island in the Baltic Sea. Kotlin, the Russian island located near the head of the Gulf of Finland lies about 30 km west of St Petersburg.
There are more than 200 ports in the Baltic Sea. Virtually all cities along the coast have some kind of a harbor.
The largest ports are at several national capital cities on the coast like Helsinki, Tallinn, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Riga.
Other important Swedish port cities are the cities of Helsingborg, Ystad, Malmö, Gothenburg, Trelleborg, Halmstad, Gävle, Sundsvall, Luleå, Norrköping, and Visby. Major Finnish ports are Turku, Kotka, Pori and Rauma. Largest German Baltic Sea ports are Lübeck, Rostock, and Kiel. Poland's port cities are Gdańsk, Szczecin (Stettin), and Gdynia. There are two major Russian ports, one at Kaliningrad, the other at Saint Petersburg. There are several ports in the Baltic countries, Latvia has two major port cities besides Riga, Ventspils and Liepāja. Lithuania's main port is Klaipėda, and Estonia's chief ports are Tallinn and Pärnu.
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