A group of islands lie between Finland and Sweden, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, lives only around 60,000 friendly people. I stayed there for more than a week to chill out in this amazing pit stop.
After the archipelago ferry trip and the story with the Russian old lady, I started my day wandering in Mariehamn, the main hop in the island with café and various kinds of stores in the streets. In summer, there are lots of festivals going on, such as Rock Off festival, Pride Parade, Viking Market, Sea festival…. so everyone come out to enjoy the sun and immerse in those chilling environment. Otherwise in winter, you couldn’t find a single person on the street!
Thanks to my Couchsurfing hosts, Tim and Benji, that I was able to see very different sides of island’s life. I went with Tim and his friend to a grand hotel and chatted for a couple of hours on interesting topics! On my last day, Tim even invited me to have sauna in his summer cottage which got a lake right beside the sauna, so we jumped into the lake in between sauna, that was a fantastic experience!
Benji and his friends took me to swim in the nearby beach, to a home sauna, and have a drink on a ferry restaurant, the view was so nice during sunset!
And we also had a fishing boat trip to small islands. It was so funny to watch them swimming naked!
Such a nice weekend, with the first pride parade happening in Aland. Quite a small scale but I could see the participants were enjoying and proud to express their belief of marriage equality!
I love this one: Human Rights are my Pride!
Cycling in Aland is a pleasant experience, as it is mostly flat plain, and their bike routes are smartly paved, not to say the traffic is light and views are gorgeous! The main highlights are the Kastleholm Castle and the churches (kyrkor) in each division.
They are all medieval buildings in the 13-14th centuries. The Castle was damaged during the wars in the 18th century, renovated a bit but we could still see the wounds.
All kyrkors are still operating with cemeteries surrounding them. I am impressed by the Christian belief predominated during several centuries!
There are midsummer poles hoisting in different villages throughout the island, the villagers raise it in around mid-June with a lot of singing, dancing and playing games. We can watch the colorful poles stay up for the whole year!
Other attractions include the Russian fortress in Bomarsund, sadly it was destroyed during the Crimean War and became a ruin. The information board with pictures can help you imagine what was it look like before the war!
In Geta region, do the Trollstigen trail which is a 5km hike across the Getagrottorna caves where the people were hiding during the wars. And the lookout tower nearby for a wonderful view of Geta and Bothnian Sea.
If you are coming in late-July, join the Viking market with everyone setting up old tents, wearing medieval clothes and some knight performances with good music and food!
I didn’t plan to come here in my original plan, but I found out I have made the right choice to come! It is definitely a brilliant place to visit with all the great people and fresh air. Maybe I will go back and see how it looks like during winter!