***  FINLAND  2012   -  WEEKS 1~3  ***
This week's Photo Gallery  Åland Spring wild flora and orchids Bottom of Page Return to Finland Index Page

CAMPING IN FINLAND and LAPLAND 2012 - the Åland Islands, University-city of Turku and South-western Finland:

With DFDS' monopoly now on North Sea ferries, the overnight crossing from Harwich to Denmark's western port of Esbjerg is expensive, but on a bleakly chill and drizzly afternoon MS Dana Sirena edged out past Harwich's container docks into the North Sea with us aboard. In bright sunshine the following morning, the sandy coast of Jutland was in sight as the ferry manoeuvred its way through the narrow shipping channel into Esbjerg docks (Photo 1 - North Sea ferry arriving at Esbjerg Harbour, Denmark; our 15th major European venture to Finland was underway.

An afternoon's drive crossing the magnificent Lille Bælt and Store Bælt bridges (Photo 2 - Crossing Denmark from Jutland to Funen on the Lille Bælt Bridge) brought us across Denmark's islands of Funen and Jylland, passing names familiar from our 2007 Denmark trip - Kolding, Svendborg, Kerteminde, Nyborg, Sorø, Ringstead and Roskilde - finally for a night's stay at Vallø Camping, Køge. Here we renewed our acquaintance with the excellent products of the town's Braunstein Bryghus (brewery). Camped amid the oaks and pines, we heard this year's first cuckoo. The following morning we crossed the mightily impressive 16km long Øresund bridge linking across to Malmö in Sweden (Photo 3 - Crossing the Øresund Bridge). Swinging northwards, the deserted motorway passed endless forests and lakes, a foretaste of Finland, the contrasting shades of green lit by Spring sunshine with dark pines and the pastel green of new birch leaf growth (Photo 4 - Our journey to Stockholm - busy traffic on Swedish motorway!). Beyond the regional town of Jönköping, the road passed along the shore of the vast Lake Vättern which stretched away into the distance like an inland sea. Near to the quiet town of Gränna, we broke the journey across Sweden with a night's camp at delightfully welcoming Getingaryds Camping. As we left the following morning, the lady-owner bade us farewell with the Swedish courtesy 'Välkommen Åter (Welcome to return); we shall indeed return there in September on our return journey. Driving manners, like life in general in Sweden are pleasantly relaxed and civilised; such a pleasing contrast with now aggressively uncouth driving standards in UK prompted thoughts of a future trip to Sweden.

Click on 2 areas of map for details of the Åland Islands and South-west Finland

Our second day's drive took us to Sweden's capital city Stockholm. Traffic inevitably increased as in pouring rain we approached the conurbation, but with reliable road signs and supportive satnav, we steered a passage through, heading out to the tiny ferry port of Kapellskär for a night's camp. Kapellskär Camping set amid beautiful pine forests and carpeted with wood anemones and cowslips and the air filled with birdsong, was convenient for the Viking Line ferry. The following morning we boarded MS Rosella for the next stage of our journey to the Åland Islands halfway between Sweden and Finland (Photo 5 - Awaiting the Ålands ferry at Kapellskär).

Music this week:

Ålänningens sång
(Song of the Ålanders)
The national song of the
Åland Islands

Click on the <Start> button to play

Arriving at Mariehamn the Åland capital, we stocked up with provisions and headed for Eckerö on the islands' western side and spent several days at Söderhagen Camping close to the delightful hamlet of Torp in South Eckerö (Photo 6 - Söderhagen Camping near Eckerö in the Western Åland Islands). The owners, Sven and Susanna were hospitably welcoming; by sheer hard graft, they had cleared and levelled a formerly forested hillock overlooking the Torpfjärden inlet of the sea to create the camping. The early May weather was still cold, the driving wind interspersing squally showers with bright sunshine. Along the shoreline by the campsite landing stage Spring wood anemones and golden kingcups grew in profusion (Photo 7 - Landing stage on shore of Torpfjärden).

Söderhagen Camping proved a homely base for exploring Western Åland. The island had been incorporated into the Russian Tsarist Empire along with the rest of Finland in 1809, and the Ålanders were made responsible for the safe passage of mail from Stockholm, dragging their boats across the frozen sea in winter. Storby on the west coast marked the start of the Mail Road to St Petersburg and the grandiose Post House facing the coast at Storby was intended to impress new arrivals with the awesome might of the Russian Empire at its westernmost point (Photo 8 -Imperial Russian Post House at start of Post Road, West Åland). Degersand at the southern tip of Eckerö would in mid-summer be swarming with Swedish holiday-makers, but in early May the pine and birch-fringed beach was peacefully deserted with morning sunlight glistening on the waters of the curving bay; it was a magnificent spot (Photo 9 - Peaceful Springtime morning at Degersand). Spring is without doubt the ideal time for being in Åland when the Spring flowers are blooming, the birch trees are in early fresh leaf and the island is peaceful. At the lovely farming hamlet of Torp, one of Åland's Midsummer Poles still bore last year's decorations; on Midsummer's Eve, every Åland village ceremonially decorates its Midsummer Pole with leaves and garlands (Photo 10 - Traditional Åland midsummer pole). Many rural villages around Åland still also retain their traditional post-windmills (Photo 11 - Åland post-windmill at Torp village in Eckerö). Returning eastwards through Hammarland, we stopped at Kattby to visit the beautiful 15th century stone-built church, its driveway carpeted with celandines (Photo 12 - Lutheran church at Kattby in Hammarland). Åland was late to be Christianised, and many churches were built alongside a pagan burial-ground as at Kattby.

We moved to the northern Saltvik region of Åland's main island where 5,000 years ago Palaeolithic seal hunters had paddled ashore to establish one of the earliest settlements on Åland in a sheltered bay between 2 hills. Traces of this settlement haved been uncovered here and we walked the hilly area of Långbergen to explore this barren wilderness of red granite scoured by Ice Age glaciers and now covered with stunted pines. In this imposing natural Åland topography, it was amazing how trees could take root in the thin surface soil covering the exposed bed rock (Photo 13 - Åland landscape of glacier-scoured red granite and pine-woods). That evening we crossed the small bridge across the channel separating Sund on Main Island from Prästö Island ; the welcoming Prästö Camping set in a forest clearing amid tall pines and birches gave us a base for the rest of our stay on Åland. Nights were still chill but with morning sunlight filtering down through the pines (Photo 14 - Prästo Camping on Prästö Island), we set off on foot to explore the remains of 19th century Russian occupation of Prästö Island. With Finland ceded to Imperial Russia after Sweden's defeat in the war of 1809, the Russians fortified the strategically positioned Åland Islands as a defensive western outpost of the Tsarist Empire. Work began on a massive fortress at Bomarsund to house 5,000 troops as defence against Swedish retaliation. 1000s of soldiers, civil servants, merchants, masons, and quarrymen, with their families were stationed here in the township which grew up around the fortress of Bomarsund. Such garrisons were the most ethnically and religiously diverse communities reflecting the breadth of the Russian Empire. The massive walls of Bomarsund fortress, which covered a large area by the channel between Sund and Prästö, were faced with precisely cut granite blocks quarried locally in an attempt to make the fortress cannon-proof. But the Tsar's architects had reckoned without the Royal Navy. In the Crimean War England sided with Ottoman Turkey against Imperial Russia, and in 1854 an Anglo-French fleet bombarded Bomarsund fortress; after 2 days the Russians surrendered. The fortress was demolished with explosives and although Russia retained occupation of Åland until Finnish independence in 1917, the islands were declared a demilitarised under the peace treaty, a status which continues today. Those of the huge multi-ethnic community from around the Russian Empire which grew around the now defunct fortress during the 19th century lived and died here, and were buried in separate cemeteries according to their religion; the graveyards form a poignant reminder of that period of Åland's history. Our walk today would take us past the remains of these different cemeteries - Russian Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish and Muslim; today they were carpeted with Spring flowers - wood anemones, celandines, cowslips and hepatica. Our walk led us past the ferry which battled in the blustery wind to cross the channel separating Prästö from the outer island of Vardö, and back across to the western side of Prästö; here the bridge linked over to the Sund 'mainland' (Photo 15 - Bridge linking Sund to Prästo Island in Eastern Åland) for us to explore what remained today of Bomarsund fortress (Photo 16 - Tsarist Russian fortress at Bomarsund).

The following morning we drove over to the Karlsgården skansen (open-air museum) which was founded in 1931 to preserve traditional wooden agricultural buildings from around Åland re-erected here, reflecting Finland's interest in its cultural past following independence. Admission was free and in bright sunshine we were able to wander across the hillside looking at the farmstead with its Åland flag proudly fluttering on the flagpole (Photo 17 - farmstead flying the Åland flag at Karlsgården skansen), the farm buildings and windmills. A small display recalled the history of the Post Road which still crosses the islands taking differing routes in winter according the depth of ice on the frozen sea. We drove around the northern part of the island visiting the old stone churches in the villages of Sund, Kvarnbo and Pålsböle (Photo 18 - Sankta Maria Kyrka at Kvarnbo). Åland is a peaceful and crime-free society, as illustrated by a pleasing experience today: a youngster got off the school bus, picked up his bike left all day unlocked by the verge, and cycled off home. How we envied the Ålanders their delightful way of life.

The island does possess one micro-brewery, the Ställhagen Brewery, whose products we wanted to sample, ranging from a light honey-beer, brown ale, pilsner-style lager through to the monumental 7% dark Baltic Porter. We were welcomed by the brewer, Christian Eckström who had founded the brewery in 2004, and he showed us around the brew-house (Photo 19 - Ställhagen Micro-brewery). All the beers are hand-produced reflecting the brewery's emphasis on quality; reflecting this, demand for Ställhagen's splendid beers deservedly continues to grow. Visit the Ställhagen Brewery web site for more information. Through our own web site we thank Christian for his exceptional generosity and wish him continuing success.

That evening back at Prästö Camping the midges swarmed, doubtless a foretaste of things to come throughout Finland during the summer. Thankfully our faithful Bagon Diffuser, bought many years ago at Argos in Greece efficiently knocked them over. We also leant from the campsite owner about winter conditions in Åland when temperatures drop usually to -10°C with full snow cover and the sea freezes over enabling foolhardy souls to drive cars across to the mainland.

We spent a happy day walking two nature trails close to Mariehamn the islands' capital. The first, Ramsholmen, taking its name from the wild garlic (Ramsons) which grows in profusion there. The footpath circles through a conserved wooded meadow which were once common in Åland and traditionally mown for hay and the ash trees pollarded, their foliage used as winter fodder for cattle. With its Spring covering of wild flowers, the Ramsholmen meadow was a floral splendour to behold, carpeted with snow-like covering of white and yellow wood anemones, with sprinklings of cowslips and golden kingcups and the pollarded trees sprouting their brushes of multiple new shoots (Photo 20 - Springtime wood anemones at Ramsholmen wooded meadows). Set on a narrow peninsula south of Mariehamn, the Nåtö nature trail is another way-marked network of paths threading its way around conserved woodland meadows and along the shore line. We spent much of the time down on hands and knees photographing the profusion of beautiful wild orchids - deep purple and delicate lemon Elderflower Orchids (Dactylorhiza sambucina) and tall slender Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula). The wild life was also spectacular with Greater Spotted Woodpeckers (Photo 21 - Greater Spotted Woodpecker at Nåto Nature Trail), tufty long-eared Red Squirrels and close to the shore Eider Ducks making their curious 'oo-ing' call. So special and memorable were the Spring wild flora of Åland that we have devoted a special page to these - see Åland Spring wild flora and orchids

We spent our final day in Mariehamn itself. The islands' capital was founded on the site of a previously small fishing village by Tsar Alexander II and named after his wife Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna whose statue still stands in the park by Mariehamn's town hall. Finland's then leading architect was brought in to design the new model town on the principles of traditional Swedish urban planning with colourful wooden houses and a linden tree-lined grid of streets. It is still a charming and civilised town and a sheer delight to walk around its calm centre.

Although part of the Finnish state, Åland enjoys a unique status as an autonomous and demilitarised self-governing region of Finland, made up of an archipelago of 6,700 islands and skerries. The largest, Main Island where we had spent the week, is home to 90% of the 27,000 population. Åland was first settled by people from Sweden and historically the Ålanders have spoken Swedish and retained their Swedish culture. It was part of the Swedish Kingdom until 1809 when defeat forced the Swedes to cede all of Finland including Åland to Tsarist Russia. The strategically placed islands were fortified as the Russian Empire's western extremity. With the Bolshevik Russian Revolution in 1917, representatives of Åland's municipalities met secretly to demand re-unification with the Swedish motherland. Finland also seized the chance to declare itself an independent republic in 1917, citing the same principles of self-determination as the Ålanders but refusing to acknowledge Åland's claim. They even imprisoned the islands' leaders on charges of high treason. The issue of Åland's constitutional future was referred in 1921 to the newly formed League of Nations, which true to its later sad history, proposed a compromise solution. Finland was granted sovereignty over the Åland Islands but was obliged to guarantee the Ålanders their Swedish language, culture and self-governing status. The Autonomy Act established the Åland Parliament, the Lagtinget, which now exercises autonomous government and control of its own budget in matters of education, health, transport, industry, policing, postal and communications services. The Finnish State retains law-making powers in foreign affairs, civil and criminal law, customs and state taxation. A portion of taxation revenue is assigned to the devolved Åland government which manages the islands' budget. Under the Autonomy Act, Swedish is the official language in Åland, used by state authorities and the language of tuition in schools. We had learnt that such is the indifference towards Finland, many Ålanders neither speak or can understand Finnish. We had enjoyed a week of being accustomed to the familiarly Germanic Swedish language before having to tackle profoundly esoteric Finnish when we moved to the mainland.

With this unique constitutional and cultural inheritance, we had to try to visit the Åland Parliament, and managed to persuade the helpful receptionist to show us the parliamentary chamber where the 30 member Lagtinget holds its sessions (Photo 22 - The Lagtinget, Parliament of the autonomous Åland Islands). The lobby of the parliamentary chamber was lined with an impressive pictorial history of Åland, the final scene showing the islands' representatives storming out of the Helsinki parliament in 1921 after their demands for re-unification with Sweden had been rejected.

Before leaving Mariehamn, we had to visit the newly enlarged Maritime Museum since shipping had for so long played a key part in Åland's culture and economy. The museum displays traced the history of Åland's merchant shipping from the days of sailing ships to the current day ferry services between Finland, Sweden and the Baltic States which now contributes significantly to the Finnish economy. Åland had once maintained one of the world's largest fleets of merchant sailing ships lasting into the 20th century. One of these the Pommern, a steel-hulled sailing ship built in Glasgow in 1903, is now moored at the quayside near the Maritime Museum. This was of particular interest to us since she had operated the grain route from South Australia, holding the record for completing the home run to England around Cape Horn in 86 days (Photo 23 - Sailing ship Pommern moored at Mariehamn Maritime Museum). These sailing merchantmen had loaded grain at the South Australian ports of Port Pirie and Port Germaine on whose piers we had stood last year while visiting our daughter Lucy who now lives in Adelaide. Standing on Pommern's fo'c'sle looking along the length of the vessel through their network of rigging, the masts seemed so high emphasising the savagely demanding working conditions of crewmen climbing aloft in a rolling sea. Below decks, the cavernous space of the two-level cargo hold running the 310 feet length of the ship showed the volume of grain sacks carried, and the 3 months needed to load the ship for the return voyage from South Australia. And as we now stood marvelling at this historical sailing ship, modern-day enormous ferries docked and departed at regular intervals from Mariehamn's harbour.

Our time in Åland was drawing to a close. For the last week, the islands had been a delightful haven of tranquillity and civility for us; we felt so at home here and were now reluctant to leave. But it was time to drive down to the Viking Line check-in at the port to queue with other vehicles for the afternoon ferry sailing to Turku on the west coast of mainland Finland. As we boarded M/S Isabella, the ferry was crowded with noisy Finns; it was to be so different from the peace of Åland. The ship was soon drawing away from the docks and we stood by the stern rail with its Finnish flag to photograph Mariehamn and the Pommern receding into the distance (Photo 24 - Departing Åland by ferry for Finland).

By 7-30 that evening the ferry threaded its way through the archipelago of islets on the approach to Turku port, and we were soon ashore for the first taste of driving in mainland Finland. After the comfortable Swedish ambience of Åland, suddenly everything felt totally alien with unintelligible signs and street names. We navigated the 20kms into the countryside south of Turku to Solliden Camping near to Pargas where the family welcomed us in fluent English, and settled in for our first night's camp in mainland Finland. We woke the following morning to a clear blue sky with streaks of sunlight filtering down through the pines on the low hill top overlooking an inlet of the sea. Our plan was to spend the day exploring the university city of Turku (Åbo in Swedish), Finland's capital under Swedish rule. After the 1809 Russian take-over, Tsar Alexander I moved the capital of the new Grand Duchy to the then modest fishing village of Helsinki, Turku being too closely aligned with Sweden. Most of Turku's buildings were destroyed in a major fire of 1827 and the city re-planned by Carl Ludwig Engel who designed Helsinki and other Finnish cities. Turku had developed along the banks of the Aura River as a prosperous trading port with its diocesan cathedral as head of the Finnish Lutheran church. The city's Swedish University had made Turku a centre of learning and culture (Mikael Agricola who codified the Finnish language was Bishop of Turku), and the modern city buzzes with its young student population. Turku still has a large population of Swedish-speakers, with bilingual signs and street names. We parked in the main street of Hämeenkatu and crossed the river to amble along the delightful tree-lined embankment where groups of students sat at street cafés. In the warm Spring sunshine, it was a lovely setting along the curve of the river against the backdrop of the cathedral (Photo 25 - Riverbank and Cathedral at Turku).

Back across to the south bank, we passed the main 17th century buildings of Åbo Akademi, the Swedish University founded by Per Brahe Swedish governor-general of the province of Finland whose statue stood in the park. The Empire style building fronted by a statue of King Gustav Adolphus (Photo 26 - Turku's University founded by the Swedes as Åbo Akademi) reminded us of Estonian Tartu, another Swedish-founded university; the king's enlightened policy of improving learning aimed to produce an educated administrative elite for governing Sweden's empire. In Turku best-value lunches are to be had at one of the student halls of residence cafeterias (mensa) open to visitors, and we sat amid lively undergraduates to enjoy a hearty yet inexpensive meal. After lunch we walked uphill through the university's modern buildings (Photo 27 - The modern buildings of Turku's Swedish University) and down to the Sibelius Museum. Sibelius had no connection with Turku but the collection of manuscripts, historical instruments and memorabilia of Finland's national composer now forms the library of the university's Department of Musicology. Against a background recording of Sibelius' music, we browsed the exhibition illustrating Sibelius' life and work and his contribution to the Finnish nationalist movement with the publication of Finlandia in 1899~1901 despite the strictures of Imperial Russian censorship.

Over the hillock on which Turku Cathedral (Tuomiokirkko) had originally been built as the main focus for the Swedish crusade to Christianise the pagan Finns (Photo 28 - Turku Lutheran Cathedral), we walked along the river's south embankment in the shade of riverside trees (Photo 29 - Spring sunshine along Turku's delightful river embankment) heading not for the over-priced and over-hyped Aboa Vetus Ars Nova art gallery but instead for the unassuming and moderately priced Luostarinmäki open-air Handicrafts Museum. The 1827 Great Fire had left much of Turku in ruins but this small area of single-storey 18th century wooden cottages and tradesmen's workshops had been spared. In the mid 20th century, the wooden buildings hidden away among modern buildings were restored as craftsmen's homes and workshops as a museum dedicated to the trade guilds which flourished here. With the aid of the English-language commentary, we spent a pleasant hour wandering among the wooden dwellings and workshops which showed the lives and work of watchmakers, glove and comb-makers, carpenters, bookbinders, violin-maker and shoe-makers, a realistic insight into 19th century urban artisan life in Turku.

Our final visit was to a museum with a difference. Turku's Biology Museum displayed a series of dioramas presenting the enormously varying flora, fauna and birdlife of Finland's different regions, ranging from the coastal archipelago in the SW, southern Finland's lakeland, the fens of Karelia in the east, northern pine forests, right up to the tundra of Lapland. Each showed taxidermied examples of the regions' animals and birds including the brown bears of the forests and reindeer of Lapland (Photo 30 - Diorama of Lapland tundra and reindeer, Turku Biological Museum). The dioramas were thoroughly realistic and gave a superb foretaste of what we might experience later in the trip.

Leaving Turku, we headed south-west dodging the speed cameras, with the road passing through beautiful pine and birch woodland with the different shades of green glimmering in bright afternoon sunshine. Beyond Ekenäs, we turned towards Hanko and the far SW tip of Finland's southernmost peninsula bordering the Baltic. Here we were almost opposite the Estonian islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa on the southern side of the Gulf of Finland where last year the seeds were sown of visiting Finland. Traffic in the opposite direction as we drove SW was almost nose to tail; we hoped this was weekend holiday-makers returning to Helsinki. This was also clearly a Swedish-speaking region with Swedish given priority on the dual-language road signs. Hanko was founded in 1874 as a fashionable spa-resort for Russian aristocracy from the Grand Duchy. It was also the port of departure for the 250,000 Finns who emigrated to USA, Canada and Australia between 1880~1930. After the 1939~40 Winter War, Finland was compelled to hand over the strategically-placed Hanko peninsula to the Soviets who fortified the area as a Red Fleet naval base. After fierce battles in 1941 the Finns recaptured Hanko enabling the evacuated residents to return to their destroyed town. Today Hanko enjoys a 3-fold economy: the town is still a popular tourist destination and many industrial concerns have their base here. The most significant contribution however is from the modern commercial container port which provides an export route for Russian lorry- and rail-born freight with far better dock facilities here than St Petersburg.

With most of the weekend tourists departed when we arrived on Sunday afternoon, the town was thankfully quiet and we walked down to the small beach and along the avenue where in the late 19th century fashionable villas had been built by wealthy Russian residents. The surviving grand wooden villas with their decorative fretwork, towers and gables are known locally as the 'Old Ladies' after the Russian women's names they were given in their heyday - Doris, Maija, Tallina, Thalatta and Eva (Photo 31 - Former Russian aristocratic villas at Hanko). We camped just outside Hanko at Silversand Camping where we received a hospitable welcome from the fluently English-speaking family who had recently taken over what had been a run-down site. They were themselves seasoned campers and wanted to run the campsite to the standards they would expect: the €20/night charge with generous €5 discount for Scandinavian Camping card holders) included everything with no extras: washing/drying machine and site-wide wi-fi internet capable of supporting MSN/skype video link. In summer the delightful camping area under shore-side pines looking out over the sea would have been bedlam, the beach befouled by sun-bathers, but in early Spring it was peacefully deserted (Photo 32 - Silversands Camping at Hanko). And that evening, after enjoying the trips' first BBQ, we were treated to a magnificent sunset across the sea through the silhouette of shore-side pines (Photo 33 - Sunset across the Baltic at Silversands Camping). Even after the sun had finally set, a glorious salmon-pink afterglow lit the entire western sky reflected in the sea. Silversand Camping could certainly merit our 'Best Campsite of the Trip' award.

Leaving Hanko we drove along Finland's SW coast to camp at the small Swedish-speaking town of Ekenäs (Tammisaari in Finnish), originally founded in 1546 by Swedish King Gustav Vaasa as a trading port to rival Hanseatic Reval (Tallinn) across the Baltic. The easy-going Swedish culture and genteel courtesy reminded us of Åland, and we spent a relaxed afternoon in pleasant Spring sunshine ambling around the cobbled lanes of Ekenäs' picturesque Gamla Stan (Old Town) with its brightly painted wooden houses (Photo 34 - Wooden houses in Ekenäs Old Town). Street names like Milliners' Street and Hatters' Street recalled the time when craftsmen plied their trade here; today the cars parked outside showed a wealthier class of occupants. The mottled stone church uniquely Scandinavian Baroque in style was open and the starkly plain Lutheran interior still had its weekend wedding decorations in place (Photo 35 - 17th century church at Ekenäs). The local campsite, Ormnäs Camping, was a disappointment: despite the excessive static caravans the setting was pleasant enough, but the surly and officiously ill-mannered owner could well benefit from a charm course from Silversands' owners. That evening after a warm day, the midges gathered forcing us into the camper, doubtless a foretaste of worse to come.

Our onward destination was into Helsinki the capital city, but en route we diverted into the village of Fiskars, once centre of Finland's early iron-smelting and forging industry. We turned off through pine forests following brown signs for Fiskars Bruk (iron works). The original bruk was founded in 1649 by Dutchman Peter Thorswöste; iron ore was shipped from Sweden for smelting and forging in the narrow wooded valley at Fiskars with its plentiful supplies of water for driving mills and timber for charcoal. The iron-working tradition continued and in the 19th century the Fiskars Company was developed by John Jakob von Julin, aristocratic grandfather of Marshal Mannerheim, Finland's wartime military leader. The Fiskars Company's factory provided the major source of employment in Fiskars, building family fortune with the manufacture of tools, industrial machinery and ploughs, and in 1967 introduced its ergonometrically designed iconic orange-handled scissors. Over a billion have been sold and can be seen in kitchens throughout the world; few owners, ourselves included,  realise their origins at Fiskars in Finland. Manufacture has long since been moved overseas, and Fiskars itself has become something of a twee museum-village, the former industrial buildings now converted to galleries selling over-priced designer goods to the tourists who flock here by the bus-load. But when in Finland, you have to go to Fiskars - and we did. As we walked along the main street, the tree-lined river which once powered the iron mills now made a peaceful setting. Along a side lane beyond the former factory buildings, the Fiskars Museum has a small and unassuming set of displays detailing the iron works' development from cottage industry to world-class manufacturer. The modern tourist-village's centrepiece is the elegant red-brick Clock-Tower Building designed by Engel (of Turku and Helsinki fame) (Photo 36 - Clock-Tower Building at Fiskars iron-working village), now converted into the Fiskars Company shop not only selling its modern household wares but also with displays tracing the company's history at Fiskars. And of course we could not resist buying a pair of orange-handled scissors as a souvenir of our visit to Fiskars.

But by mid-afternoon we could put off no longer facing the anticipated traffic of the Helsinki ring road and set a course for the capital. Follow us there in a couple of weeks time.

Next edition to be published in 2 weeks

Sheila and Paul

Published:  15 June 2012

This week's Photo Gallery

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