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On our last day in Helsinki we took the Silja Ferry to the historical Suomenlinna sea fortress. The six island UNESCO World Heritage site was built starting in 1748. It has been in Swedish and Russian possession before it finally belonged to Finland in 1918. You can read more about the history at the Official Suomenlinna Website.
The ferry ride was fun and the views were gorgeous. Of course it was FREEZING but it only took about 25 minutes to get to Suomenlinna.
Scandinavia is full of archipelagos (that’s for you Karin!) and the coast surrounding Helsinki is full of random, miniature islands that appeared to be inhabited.
There was a really nice playground that we spent some time in while the rest of the group wandered around to find where the tour would start. Swings, rocking things (what are they even called?), and a castle-like fort for the kids to play on. My son was playing with some Finnish boys and they got along well enough with the language barrier. Good guy vs. bad guy playing on a playground fort is fairly universal!
We thought these birds looked like a mix between geese and penguins! Turns out they are Barnacle Geese who mainly live on the Arctic islands of the North Atlantic. Written about by medieval writers centuries ago, these birds are the stuff of legends. In the 12th century the rumor started that these geese were “born” of barnacles on driftwood, therefore they were A-ok to eat during fasts (because they aren’t really meat you guys!!), but eventually it was discovered that they breed in the Arctic and don’t make it down to Scandinavia for the British Isles until they are big boy geese. If you love geese legends, you can read more about them on the Smithsonian Environmental site.
While we waited for our English group tour, we wandered through the semi-creepy toy museum and Uncle Jordan gave Scott more candy.
Inside the museum there are some neat photos of the islands in the winter, completely covered in ice and snow. Here are two pictures to compare the islands between seasons.
The group tour was really informative, but the tour guide seemed to got lost in thought a few times and one time had to google something on her phone…. Weird. I’m pretty sure English was her first language so that wasn’t the issue, she might have just been new. Either way we wandered off about halfway through the tour so didn’t even hear the last half of it. I don’t think we missed much.
Also, Pringles and Aunt Lindsey to the rescue for keeping my son quiet during the group tour.
Augustin Ehrensvärd commanded the fortress for a time and he also designed much of the city. He is buried on Suomenlinna and his grave is epic.
We heard that many Finnish families enjoy taking the ferry out to the islands to enjoy a picnic on nice days. It’s definitely a gorgeous spot for a picnic!
Ok so here is the really cool part of the islands… the hobbit-like rolling hills with “buildings” hidden in inside. The idea was to make the islands look uninhabited so most of the outward facing cannons were hidden inside the walls and they left a lot of the rocky beaches untouched.
Here is our wonderful traveling crew: Karin, Brian, Lindsey, Jordan, and Kyle!!
Before we took the ferry back to Helsinki we had a meal and some beer at a local restaurant. The menu was not in English at all, but the staff was really friendly and helped us all find something we could eat. We even got to enjoy a lively song during a staff meeting of some Finnish group – about 30 men and women singing their hearts out at their restaurant table. Very interesting to witness/hear. Jordan took a video, dude send it to me!
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