A May 2004 trip
to Finland by davidx
Quote: When we went to Åland in 2001 on a voyage from Sweden to Finland and back, we were determined to return and see more. This is that return and was it worth it? Wow, yes!
This was only a short walk from the island capital of Mariehamn, a beautiful town with only about 10,500 people, reminiscent of rural French towns in part with its broad streets and considerable areas of greenery. However, the main island is narrow here and there is Baltic coast on both sides. There was a second path, only slightly longer, along the shore into town from our chalet. Here the trees were of more different kinds than I had expected and the display of spring flowers was superb. This is equally true throughout the islands.
This is not a place to be recommended to anybody who needs hills or mountains on every holiday. If their claims to enjoy picturesque scenery relied on their contours, they would be rapidly dismissed. However, the islands do enjoy much that numerous mountain lovers [including myself] also enjoy. Some of the rock scenery is spectacular and on Kökar [pronounced Chirke with the e almost silent,] one of the smaller islands, there are definite cliffs which look to provide potential training climbs. As for the ubiquitous coves, beaches and headlands, they are as good and unspoilt as anybody could wish.
This is a particularly noted area of Finland for mediaeval churches, though some have to be reached on foot or by private vehicle. There are numerous way-marked walks, for culture and history as well as for scenery and nature. The posters on the ones we saw were in Swedish, Finnish, German and English
Urban buses in Mariehamn are free as well but not the longer distance buses from Mariehamn across the main island. Download ferry and bus timetables from http://www.alandstrafiken.aland.fi/Engelska/indexeng.htm.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 16, 2004
Mariehamn, Finland 22100
+358 18 12525
Restaurant | "Restaurang Pommern"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 18, 2004
Mariehamn, Finland 22100
+358 18 15549
Some of the steps are steep and very young children would need control. The next age group up would love the exploration.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 18, 2004
There was a right feel of 'something happening' when we visited the castle -- and pretty obviously it was not the fact that we were there. In fact, it was the Speaker of the Faroese Parliament with a group of officials, by far the smartest of all being the official chauffeur. The castle was first mentioned in 1388 and was a most important site in the sporadic wars between Russia and Sweden.
The museum is just beautiful, with windmills and farm buildings, including the principal dwelling house having been brought in and making a fine spectacle on the hillside with the castle and a large bay behind them.
There is a pleasant marked path past Sund mediaeval church and on to the ruins of the fort at Bomarsund. This is a relatively modern Russian edifice but there are only ruins as it was destroyed by French and British troops at the time of the Crimean war.
We had only enough time to get a view of the church but we saw the ruins of Bomarsund from the bus on a separate trip to the ferry port of Hummelvik.
You can at least get an idea from the map on the overview of the routes between the islands and on to the Finnish mainland -- or rather to islands connected to the mainland or to each other by bridges or cable ferries.
I have read that the Southern Archipelago route is the most picturesque and we returned that way with a night on Kökar, which will have its own page. It is really a wonderful trip as far as Kökar [pronounced Chirke with the final e very short]. It is reached from Mariehamn from bus number 5 through what were once the separate islands of Lemland and Lumparland, now part of the main island by virtue of bridges. The ferry port of Längnas has other ferries and therefore seems livelier than the port of Hummelvik, which is the starting point for the northern route.
The southern route reaches Kökar via Overö, the most northerly point of the Föglö island chain and connected with the others by means of a cable ferry, Sottunga, Åland and Finland's smallest settlement and, on demand, at two very small islands, which form part of the Sottunga settlement. We had booked for the night but it was rare to find an island where we would not cheerfully have stayed.
The ferries have a tiny catering crew but freshly cooked meals are served after half an hour's wait as well as snacks.
To compound the delights for the pedestrian, this can all be enjoyed gratis, the arrangement for cars depending on whether and for how long the driver is staying on the smaller islands.
The ferry continues, as we did the following day, to the port of Galtby from where a bus takes a delightful route via two car ferries to Turku/Åbo.
The rocks just a short way inland that were obviously once cliffs on the coast are particularly attractive and would lend themselves to some climbing -- good routes for both beginners and intermediate climbers and great fun by the look of it. The trees and flowers seemed quite as attractive as anywhere in Åland.
Apparently there is a significant Bronze Age settlement on the island, but we were only there for a night, and it requires a vehicle to see much of it. Bikes can be hired easily and cheaply as in Åland generally.
You don't need a bike to get to the church -- just follow the only road from the ferry quay and turn right after a couple of kilometres at the first real road junction.The church itself is great, medieval with two model ships hanging in it and with a detached bell tower. Just near it there are a number of remains of which the most interesting are those of a 13 or 14th century Franciscan Chapel -- with a large edifice built over them housing relevant photos and artifacts.
There are smaller islands in the group, and a boat trip around them is supposed to be a real treat. I don't doubt it!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 19, 2004
Many people have only seen its western harbour on the course of a voyage between Finland and Sweden. This is an alluring sight, with the Viking, Silja and Tallink terminals and the museum ship Pommern.
In fact, the island is very narrow at this point and it is only a quarter of an hour at most to the eastern shore with its marina and lovely parkland, to say nothing of the island assembly building.
There is a limited amount of urban transport, which is free and five bus routes to different points on the main island. Sadly, but understandably, these are NOT free!
There is a considerable choice in restaurants and accommodation, but they don't spoil the nature of this island capital -- they enhance it. Whereas there is building (they don't want their rising population to be driven out by lack of homes), they are not making the mistake that has been so common elsewhere in Europe of destroying what was of appeal to their early visitors. Here the whole coast remains attractive. Long may it continue.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 19, 2004
Todmorden, United Kingdom