The gold of the north – amber is nothing more than a fossil tree resin, charmingly shimmering with colors from yellow through orange to red. It has always been considered the treasure of Pomerania, and is considered an unofficial symbol of the region. It is also one of the best souvenirs that you can bring from holidays to remember the special moments spent in Pomerania.
The Pomeranian Gold
Amber is popular in folk medicine, it is also a valuable ingredient in the cosmetic industry. But most of all, amber is a stone adored by craftsmen, artists and jewellers, especially from Pomerania. They can conjure real wonders out of it – beautiful necklaces, bracelets, earrings, as well as unique decorative elements that are hard to find in other parts of the world.
In the past, amber used to attract merchants from faraway empires, who travelled to Pomerania and bought it in exchange for gold and precious metals. The amber trade began in the Neolithic period. Baltic amber has been found in the Egyptian pyramids from the 13th century BC. Among the ancient Romans, amber products were considered an item of the highest luxury and a sign of prestige. It was the elites who drank from amber goblets, wore amber jewellery or burnt amber incense. The price of the amber ornament could even exceed the price of the slave. In the days of the Roman Empire, the value of amber was so high that merchants regularly travelled from the south of Europe to the Baltic Sea, regardless of the hardships and dangers. What was the greatest challenge during such a trip, apart from its length and unfavourable weather conditions? Back then the central part of the continent was considered barbaric and therefore dangerous. Luckily, according to the collected archaeological evidence, despite the cultural differences, somehow both sides, barbarians and Romans, generally managed to make deals.
The Amber Journeys
The main trade route stretched from the Adriatic Sea, through the present territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and up north to Poland, ending in Gdańsk. Some expeditions went even further, to the territories of modern Lithuania and Kaliningrad. Because of the nature of the trade, the most valuable commodity of which was amber, this trade route was called the Amber Route. We do not know the exact route, but the evidence confirms that the Roman city of Aquileia was the starting point. Other regions where traces of expeditions can be found are the settlement of Biskupin, the Moravian Gate, Kłodzko, Wrocław, Kalisz and Roman settlements on the Danube such as Vindobona (modern Vien) and Carnuntum.
It is hard to say when the first merchants arrived in the Baltics from the south but archaeologists estimate it was centuries ago but the peak of the trade fell in the third century AD. We know this in part from the mentions in ancient chronicles, but mostly from excavations – traces of Roman coins, metals and ceramics that can be found in Central Europe. The expeditions became less frequent with the gradual fall of the Roman Empire and ceased around the sixth century AD.
Modern Amber Route
Today amber is widely available and can be bought all over the world. However, because of its special role in the history of the region, the offer of amber products in Pomerania is exceptionally rich and interesting. Consists of both classic and modern designs and is characterized by masterful precision and superior craftsmanship. While visiting Gdańsk, take a stroll through the main streets of the old town, where you will find countless little shops and galleries with amber products, or even look around one of the specialized workshops located a bit off the track. To all those who fall in love with amber and want to learn more about it, we recommend the newly opened Amber Museum. The exhibition, combining multimedia means with a traditional exhibition formula, takes visitors on a fascinating journey along the amber route, discovering the secrets and history of amber along the way.
Although the amber route has been closed for many centuries now, cycling enthusiasts can still experience the thrills of ancient merchant expeditions on their own skin. The EuroVelo is a network of cycling routes that follows the traces of the ancient merchant expeditions. The route called EV9 corresponds to the Amber Trail. The route spans all the way from the Adriatic up to the Baltic Sea. It begins in Pula in Croatia, goes through Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic to finish in Gdańsk. With just a little under 2000 kilometres, it is one of the shortest EuroVelo routes. If you want to feel like one of the ancient merchants venturing to get the precious gold of the north, get your bike ready and jump on.Are you ready for adventure?