Monday 14 May 2012

Spring on the Ȧland Islands

Early in the morning we reached the harbor of Mariehamn the capital of the Ȧland Islands. We pulled up alongside the pier directly next to the old four-masted sailing ship “POMMERN”.

Around 9h we started our excursions of the day.  A huge group of active passengers went out for a four hour bicycle tour. The weather was sunny but cold and windy. So the guest had really to be sportive to stay with the group. Congratulations to all bikers.
Most passengers chose a more comfortable tour in a bus. One group visited an old brewery. The building belonged in former times to the royal farm house of Grelsby out of the 14th century.
The other group went on a very interesting historical tour. The first stop was done at the old fortress of Bomarsund; build by the Russians as a powerful symbol for the Russian Tsar´s authority in the middle of the 19th century. The fort was originally a huge building with 246 bedrooms for 2500 soldiers. Today you can find only the rest of the fundament and of course some walls, constructed out of the red Ȧland Granit.

The second stop we had in an outdoor-museum called “Jan Karlsgarden” next to the ruins of “Castle Kastelholm”, which was built in the 1380s. The old houses in the museum gave us a good overview over the way of live in the 19th century.

The political background of the Ȧland Islands is very interesting and also a little bit funny, so that we want to let you know about it. As the islands came together with Finland to the Russian Empire in 1809 they stayed with Finland after the Russian period in 1918. But, and there is always a but, as the Ȧland Islands belonged before the Russian period to Sweden, and that for a very long time, the culture is more affected by the Swedish culture. That is the reason why the people of the Ȧland Islands speak Swedish as their mother language and not Finnish. Evan the Islands belong to Finland they have their own autonomy. So they have their own parliament, their own stamps ….The children learn at school first Swedish, than in the 3rd class they have to learn English, first in the 5th class they can learn Finish, but there is no must for it. That is the reason why many inhabitants of the Ȧland Islands cannot speak Finnish even they are Finnish.
We cannot finish the blog without speaking about the wonderful nature of the Ȧland Islands. The small islands are all eroded by the ice during the last ice age. The old stones, most of them Granites, look nearly polished. Most islands are covered with the wonderful Boreal Forest. Only some of the deciduous trees just got their new leaves. The whole vegetation looks very fresh. On the ground you can find now all the different flowers, which are typical for springtime. Everything looks colorful - especially in the nice sunshine we have had today.

At 15.30h we left the Ȧland Islands. As soon as we reached the open waters the sea became a little bit rough. But it was not too bad, so that we could listen to the very informative lectures.
After dinner many guests went to the Panorama Lounge to meet with their new friends and to listen to Ralph our Piano player.