30-Apr-2002 -- On our way from Argentina to Saint Petersburg today we passed Gotland Island.
It belongs to Sweden and is the largest island in the Baltic Sea. Its
capital is Visby. The island is densely covered with fir
Centuries ago Gotland was an island of great commercial importance as it lay
on the route from Europe to the East, used by Vikings who wisely preferred
the passage through the Baltic Sea and the Russian rivers, to that through
the Atlantic and the pirate infested Mediterranean.
German merchants, in the 12th century, played a large role in the rise of
Gotland. When Mongols closed the passage across Russia, traders took the
more direct sea route and Gotland declined. In the mid-17th century, Gotland
was annexed by Sweden.
According to the GPS we were only 4 m NW of the
confluence, and seagulls accompanied us. The scenery
could be seen nicely in the radar.
Ferry traffic is quite heavy in the Baltic Sea. Here we meet the
"Finntrader", the ferry from Helsinki (Finnland) to Stockholm
Ar, the closest settlement to the confluence, is a
former harbor, now disused.
The history of Sweden from Roman times until the 11th century is largely one
of independent tribes of whom the Swedes were the most powerful. In 800 AD
the first Swedish kingdom was achieved and in succeeding centuries Swedish
Vikings, originally like their Norwegian counterparts penetrated deeply into
Russia, founding Kiev and reaching the Caspian and Black Seas.
During the 11th and 12th centuries Sweden gradually became a unified
Christian kingdom which later included Finland. Queen Margaret of Denmark
united all the Nordic lands in the Kalmar Union in 1397. However, continual
tension within the countries led to open conflict between Sweden and Denmark
in the 15th century. The Union finally disintegrated in 1527 bringing on a
long and bitter rivalry between Norway and Denmark on one side and Sweden
and Finland on the other.
Later in the 16th century, Gustav Vaasa crushed an attempt to restore the
Kalmar Union with his fight for an independent Sweden. During the 17th
century Sweden emerged as a great power. Its contribution during the Thirty
Years War determined the political and the religious balance of power in
Sweden's fortunes were reversed in the 18th and 19th centuries when, in
bitter disputes with her neighbours, her Baltic Empire gradually
diminuished. In 1809, Sweden suffered further losses during the Napoleonic
wars and was forced to cede Finland to Russia. The Congress of Vienna
compensated Sweden for its lost territories through a merger of the Swedish
and Norwegian crowns in a dual monarchy, which lasted until 1905, when it
was peacefully dissolved at Norway's request.
Since almost 200 years Sweden follows a policy of non-alignment with peace
and neutrality in war.
(Information obtained partly from Nautical Publication Nr. 19, Baltic Pilot,
Vol II, "South part of Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga", 11th ed. 1998,
British Admiralty, Hydrographer of the Navy, Ministry of Defense,