This summer our traditional ”Getting lost in Finland” road trip took us to the beautiful archipelago of Åland. It is a bit of an oddity, an autonomy between Finland and Sweden. It is a Finnish territory although swedish is the official language. Luckily visitors get along just fine in English as well.
Last time we visited these islands was 33 years ago! So it was about time to explore this place again.
As the ferry from Turku to Mariehamn leaves early in the morning, we decided to spend the evening before in Turku and save a morning rush.
That was a smart move! Just another wednesday evening and so much going on. Within a few hundred meters along the Aura river bank there was a gathering of hundreds of motorbikers, an impromptu dance floor in the middle of the street with live music, mainly Tango that so many Finns love and practice, a very good rock band on board an old merchant ship and even live jazz music in a bar.
An old cruiser Bore is nowadays serving as Hotel Borea. So we got into the marine atmosphere right on our first night.
Amalia guest house in Lemland is a cosy place to stay. It has a small lemonade factory in the yard. Amalia Lemonades can be found all over Åland in cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. Rebecka Sjölund works in the Factory shop in the summer.
St. Andrew’s church in Lumparland. First built in 1540, but the present building is from 1728.
The local beer brand, stallhagen beer, is sold and served all over the islands. We just had to pay a visit to the brewery and found out that the beer was indeed very good.
The idyllic old boat houses in Käringsund, Eckerö we remembered from our previous visit. But the hunting and fishing museum close to the Eckerö guest harbor is relatively new. It gives the visitor a good idea of the often very tough conditions in which the island people made their living in the old days. The building itself has been designed in a most considerate way to suit the landscape.
Christiansund guest house
Friday evening in Eckerö. We could not find any open shops around. Driving back and forth in the country roads looking for something to eat we finally found a Thai take away restaurant. Their fresh made Spring rolls were huge and very tasty.
The gigantic fortress of Bomarsund was built by the Russians in 1832. The battle with the British-French navy was short and destructive and very little of this huge construction is left to see now. Yet a new trek of about 4 km is taking the visitor around, and useful information boards complete what the eyes cannot see.
Everywhere you go you will see the old wooden wind mills.
We paid respect to the famous writer Anni Blomqvist. Her archipelago stories and her own tragic life has left a mark on so many people in Scandinavia.
Mari Kokko-Tidenberg and Arto Tidenberg live in Helsinki, but every summer they run the charming Bomans guest house in Vårdö. We ended up staying two days in their friendly care. The place can host up to 70 people and besides breakfast they also serve dinners.
It is quite unusual for Finns to own property in Åland, so we were curious to know how Mari and Arto ended up in there. Mari told us that in 1984 her mother Sirkka-Liisa came to work in the Kastelholm castle, which back then served as a prison. She then met and married Magnus Boman and they lived together in his family’s dairy farm. In 2000 the farm was transformed into a guest house. When Sirkka-Liisa passed away in 2014 Mari got to be the co-owner of the place, taking care of the business with Magnus, who still lives permanently on the farm year around. Mari, however, after tourist season returns to her profession, working as a doctor in Helsinki.
Short fishing trip with Magnus Boman was an extra treat to our stay in Bomans guest house.
5 whitefish and 1 perch.
Road trip means hours of sitting in a car. It is a welcome idea to take a few hours hike in the nature. One beautiful trek you find in Getabergen in the northern part of the main island. It offers great views and impressive rock formations. In there I spotted one of the rare orchids growing in Åland, the Orchis militaris.
When it comes to coffee breaks, we always look for an interesting, rather off the main road places. Marskogens Lamm is a lamb farm. In their café they sell not only good coffee and the traditional pancake but also many other local delicacies like cheese and their own lamb meat products. Friendly Ann Sunberg serves home made buns and pastries and I just loved her table decorations with the wild flowers.
I just had to stop and take this funny picture.
Åland’s photography museum in Pålsböle is sure worth a visit. Olle Strömberg has collected thousands of cameras and other items that cover more or less the entire history of the technology of photography. Olle, originally from Sweden, fell in love with a local beauty in Åland. He moved to the islands and did a 40 year photographic career working as a commercial photographer and cooperated with almost all local museums as well. Now retired, he runs this amazing museum and its charming coffee shop with his wife.
Simskäla is the very northern part of the island of Vårdö. Seals were once hunted for food. Nowadays some fishermen hunt them to avoid destruction of their nets.
Kurt Eriksson was a seaman and globetrotter who traveled the world for many years. He had the will and skills of learning many languages of the places he visited.
Now retired, he is running his wood workshop and a summer café, Anna’s Shop, in his home village Grundsunda in Vårdö. He welcomes and entertains his visitors with endless stories in 6 different languages. And of course the very famous Åland pancake.