Mariehamn, Åland Islands, Finland

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Yesterday was a day at sea. Nothing to do except some organised onboard events, reading, relaxing and (surprise) eating! The sun goes down late in northern latitudes. We were treated to the most beautiful of sunsets to end our day at sea.

Today as we approached Mariehamn, we saw some of the many tiny islands that make up Åland. Quite a lot of skill needed negotiating them by the Captain and Pilot.

Politically, Åland is confusing. It’s been a part of many other countries (including, briefly, the UK) over the last few centuries. A League of Nations treaty finalised its current situation in the 1920’s. Although it’s nearer to Sweden, it’s a part of Finland, demilitarised, so its citizens cannot be called up to join Finland’s army.  The language used is Swedish. It has autonomy over everything except foreign policy, border controls and Finnish law, although it has a separate legal system. It has its own flag and internet domain (.ax). The currency is the Euro. Get your head around all of that, if you can!

The weather was a little unkind, inasmuch as overcast and showery didn’t, perhaps, show it at its best. It’s very affluent. It is the home of many international companies and makes quite a lot of “foreign” goods (e.g. potato chips) itself, rather than import them. The towns and countryside are picturesque. About 20 ferries a day connect it to Sweden, Estonia and Finland which makes it a very popular destination for tourism.

We had a very good tour of all of this by coach. It’s just a short stroll from the harbour to town, so exploring independently is very easy.

Off to Stockholm tomorrow.