National Geographic : 1994 Oct
that pervaded the lives of such men. I understood how such har rowing experiences could forge a secretive brotherhood of mer chants that grew into something far greater-a largely peaceful, international network of finance and trade. Not until our own time, when the member nations of the Common Market (now the Euro pean Union) vowed to open bor ders, merge currencies, and create a single, unified market, would the Continent see anything like it. The next bleak dawn rose over the lighthouse, cranes, and towers of Gdansk, the old Hanseatic town of Danzig. Here, as in many other parts of the Baltic region, there was nlm n n Wax seals on a 15th-century treaty mark the suddenly much talk of a new Hanse collective assent of Hanseatictowns, including atic movement. Now that Poland Lubeck, at left, Hamburg, right, and Rostock, center. had discarded once and for all its communist economy, Germany had been reunited, and the nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had been released from the yoke of Soviet control, people set about reviving the centuries-old trade links with Western Europe. "The Baltic Sea for too long was part of the Iron Curtain," an Estonian official told me. "But now it is becoming again a magnificent bridge between east and west." The spirit of the Hanseatic League was still alive.