Finland Archipelago and Åland

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The Finland Archipelago and Åland

If you define an island (and not just a rock) to be a piece of land that's at least 100 square meters (or about 1000 square feet), then there are about 81,000 islands in the Finland archipelago. We sailed across it, first reaching the city of Mariehamn in Åland. The Åland archipelago has its own identity. It's officially part of Finland, but many of the residents speak only Swedish. Its currency is the euro, like Finland's, but you can't use Finnish postage stamps to send a letter there.

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Finland Archipelago
The vehicle of choice in the islands is the ferry. Some of them are as big as cruise ships (and the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki is an overnight trip.) But these yellow vessels are ubiquitous in the archipelago, ferrying people across small channels constantly and reaching a surprisingly high number of the islands. There's barely an island around without a summer home tucked away on it somewhere.
Midsommar
The first day of summer is a very important holiday in Scandinavia, especially in Sweden. Here in Mariehamn, because of its cultural ties to Sweden, Midsommar is also quite a big deal. Here, the town's male population is out hoisting the Midsommar pole. The pole is decorated with local memorabilia, and it will stay up until next Midsommar.
Pommern
The Pommern, a turn-of-the-century, four-masted merchant ship, sits in Mariehamn's west harbor. The Pommern was a cargo ship based in Mariehamn from 1923 until World War II broke out in 1939. During that time, the ship visited its home port only five times, and spent most of the time moving grain from Australia to the United Kingdom.
Monument of Liberty
The Monument of Liberty in Hanko is an example of changing regional allegiances. It was erected to commemorate the Germans who liberated Hanko from the Russians in 1918. The text was loquacious and complimentary. It was removed around the time of World War II. Then the townspeople put it back up, for the sake of tradition, but then Russia objected to it. So it came down again. Now it's up again, but without much text. It simply says, "For our Liberty."
Spa Park
Hanko was a spa retreat for Russians at the turn of the twentieth century. They built numerous wooden villas, many of which are still standing. For some reason, they all have women's names, and some have been turned into bed-and-breakfasts or galleries. The tourism council refers to these buildings as "Spa Park", but the locals simply call them "the old ladies."
Saunas
Just about every marina in Finland offers a sauna to the boaters that visit. We held off for a while, but we got pretty addicted to relaxing in a place that's even hotter than Florida. It's very common for Finns (and Swedes) to have saunas at their homes or their summer homes. There were times that we saw smoke rising from an island in the archipelago while we were sailing, and if we were downwind of it, we could smell the wood burning.