The Amber Road was one of the earliest long-distance roads in Europe, probably first used sometime between 1900 BC and 300 BC by Etruscan and Greek traders to transport amber and other valuable items in both directions between the Baltic and North Sea and the Mediterranean. Sometimes known as “the gold of the North”, amber was carried overland by way of the Vistula and Dnieper rivers to Italy, Greece, the Black Sea, Syria and Egypt.
Historians believe that the first long-distance trade occurred between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in Pakistan around 3000 BC. At that time this trade was limited almost exclusively to luxury goods like spices, textiles and precious metals. Expensive commodities such as animal fur and skin, honey and wax were exported to the Romans in exchange for glass, brass, gold, tin and copper. This lucrative two-way trade route connecting the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean was so important that the Romans built military fortifications along the route to protect merchants from raids by Germanic tribes.
The old Baltic towns of Kaup and Truso were the starting points of the route to the south. In Roman times the Amber Road ran south from the Baltic coast (in modern Lithuania), through the entire length of modern-day Poland, on into today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia, and then as far as Venice and Rome in Italy. From there it was transported all over Europe and pieces of amber have been found from Scandinavia to Switzerland and Spain. As well as the European routes, amber was also carried eastwards from the Black Sea to Asia along the Silk Road.
For cycling enthusiasts there is a long-distance route (around 1,500 km) between Gdansk in Poland and Pula in Croatia which follows the course of the Amber Road.
Text Alun Harvey