Monday, 3 October 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Åland Islands

Remember, when I first embarked on this vast project to make a  virtual visit to every country in the world  amd learn new facts about each?  I said I'd be sticking to the sovereign states listed in Wikipedia . However, plans have changed and I'm now making up my itinerary as I go along.  After all, if I stuck to my original plan I wouldn't be able to treat each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom separately.  As such I could risk life, limb  and my remaining female jubblies to those who would like to see each run autonomously.

So, I've delved into the fine print of Wiki's list in a little more detail to decide what to include.  I'm skipping past Akotiri and Dhekelia, which have restricted public access because they're Sovereign Bases of the British military on Cyprus.  A dream post in the sun maybe?  Instead I'm moving onto to the Åland Islands, an autonomous demilitarised Swedish region of Finland, that are so independent  it might be argued that the islands form a nation in their own right. They even produce their rather beautiful stamps including this one depicting a lady growing cucumbers.  Fine subject matter for philately don't you think?

My first new fact?  Well, I didn't know of their existence so being made aware of that is a good start.  Situated in the Gulf of Bothnia, the group is comprised of about 6,500 islands, of which 300 are inhabitable and of those about 80 have people living on them. They're accessible by air and ferries from Sweden, Finland and  Estonia and have a mild micro-climate that makes them popular with the Scandanavian as a holiday destination. But Magaluf or Benidorm these islands ain't although there is a hotel with a nightclub in the well resourced capital of Mariehamn. They're a beautfiul archipelago formed out of glacier worn red rock that are a dream for lovers of summer and winter outdoor pursuits or those in search of peace and quiet.

Like the rest of the Scandavians countries, the  Ålanders have been a seafaring lot for centuries.  This museum ship, the Pommerm, is 'parked' safely  in one of Mariehamn's harbours.  But some  weren't so lucky which is explains why wreck diving is one of the sports on offer in this island group.  One of the unfortunate vessels that went down in the 1840s is known as the 'champagne schooner' because of the nature of its cargo which was rediscovered intact in 2010.  Many of the bottles, which are still of surprisingly good quality, will be auctioned off by the goverment to raise funds for further marine archeology and to benefit the environment of the Baltic seas.  Just five bottles of beer were also found, again well preserved.  They are thought to be some of the oldest in the world. The plan is to analyse these so that they can be recreated by modern production methods and enjoyed by 21st men and women!


  1. I have visited these islands and they are idylic. Very flat so good for cycling and a temperate climate, lots of nordic walker abound.

  2. It does look glorious. The Scandanavian equivalent of the Scillies perhaps?