According to the guidebooks and the online sites, Suomenlinna, Helsinki’s island fortress, is one of the top spots to visit when in Finland. On Ascension day (a public holiday in Finland) we caught a ferry from the main market square to check out the island.
Getting to the island was quick and easy – our Helsinki travel cards meant that the ferry ride was free, and as there were ferries leaving every 15 minutes we didn’t have to wait long. It was a bit of a scrum getting off the ferry and making our way through the crowds (arriving and departing) – and we had to move quite a way before we had some space to start observing our surroundings in a more relaxed way.
Suomenlinna is made up of eight islands, and was developed as a fortress to protect Helsinki from naval attacks. It bears the scars of 47 hours of shelling during the Crimean war. The island is now an UNESCO world heritage site, hosting a variety of museums and a few art studios and craft shops (in addition to still being a neighbourhood of Helsinki). Along with it just being a great place for a picnic, these facilities attract more than 700’000 visitors a year. It also houses a small minimum-security penal labour colony – fortunately they only seem to have a few “visitors”.
The island’s buildings are beautiful and the fortifications very impressive – it was great fun to wander in and out of the chambers in the defensive walls. However, we actually found our first visit to the island a bit disappointing. Unfortunately Suomenlinna did not really live up to our expectations – we could name a few places that we’ve enjoyed a lot more in Helsinki. But, don’t worry – our first visit was really just an exploratory trip, and we’re planning to return to visit some of the museums (they all have their own entrance fees, so it’s not worth rushing through them) again. We’ll reserve our verdict until then…
The trip was also a great opportunity to play with Brigitte’s new iPhone’s camera – she used the MoreLomo and MoreMono apps to create these rather cool images.
And just to end with a panorama of one of the largest unfortified buildings on the island – it seems to be a rather nice apartment block now.