After a morning of cruising calm seas and a presentation on the amazing geologic history of the Baltic, we entered the Åland Archipelago just before lunch. We made our way to our berth in the center of the lovely small city of Mariahamn. The world-famous Pommern was tied up to the same wharf immediately ahead of our ship. This four-masted, barquentine windjammer was exquisitely gorgeous. The beautifully restored ship is now the centerpiece of an excellent maritime museum, which was our destination for the afternoon. After touring the museum with a docent and wandering the decks of the Pommern to our heart’s content, we returned to the ship for a hosted tasting of four fine beers from the local Stallhagen Brewery.
National Geographic Explorer
Christiansø and Bornholm, Denmark
A better, lovelier first expedition day would be impossible! The easternmost point of Denmark is an archipelago called Ertholmene. We landed in the early morning on this gorgeous, sunny day, and we had the islands almost to ourselves. Between photography, nature, and exploratory walks, we found many ways to get to know these picturesque little islands. Christiansø and Frederiksø are connected by a small bridge. Around 100 people live here today, but the population was around 800 at its peak. The islands were used as strategic military and trading outposts since the early Middle Ages. Territorial disputes between the Danes, Germans, and Swedes mark the islands’ history. We observed a fortress from 1684 and the remaining towers and cannons. The scenery and natural environment of the islands are absolutely fantastic, and Ertholmene has been an inspiration for poets and writers. We spotted the neighboring islet of Græsholm, a protected nature reserve. We observed grey seals loudly vocalizing while swimming and resting on the rocks. We also saw black-headed gulls, black-backed gulls, razorbills, common murres, and mute swans. The iconic eider ducks chose these islands for the protection offered to their nests. We spotted many females with chicks along the shores. In the afternoon, we anchored at Bornholm and took our Zodiacs ashore to Gudjhem. Some of us visited the impressive medieval fortress of Hammershus, the famous round churches of Bornholm, and the castle ruins. Others took a ride along the countryside’s colorful landscape to visit Bornholm’s Food Culture House, an open-air museum where we learned about Bornholm’s culinary culture. We enjoyed a very memorable visit to a family-owned business that produces organic sea buckthorn, also known as Nordic lemon. We tasted many delicious, locally-produced products and heard inspiring stories of entrepreneurship and cooperation. It was a tasty and unforgettable experience. There was so much to see in a beautiful place with such lovely and welcoming local people.