The Aland archipelago has a curious status. You would be right to wonder whether it’s Swedish or Finnish. For me, the giveaway was the change of currency to the Euro. For centuries a bone of contention, neighbouring countries have squabble over ownership, till they finally reached a compromise…..
Culturally and linguistically, they are Swedish, but politically they are Finnish……well, kind of….you see, Finland had to accept a League of Nations decree granting the islands political autonomy …so I suppose, they have a similar status to our own Channel Isles…..independent but attached.
It was nearly midnight (Finnish time UTC+2) when I pitched my tent by the beach….watching a blood red moon rise above the horizon, then 7 hours later its buddy, the sun, rising above the very same horizon. I always thought these perfect moments only ever happened to other people….
Big hugs for Jenny and Rachael as they headed to the airport, bound for their respective destinations, and I wrapped up loose ends in the AirB&B we had occupied before heading the 90km to the ferry port for Aland, a Finnish island beyond the archipelago.
I had a Stockholm SL travel card, which still had 3/4 days to run on it, so I stopped by the local station to find a lucky recipient…. A middle-easterner, probably a Syrian refugee, tentatively hung about the entrance with his aging bicycle. He had no English, but he quickly understood the good fortune of being given a travel card. I left him hoping it would solve some of his problems for a few days.
I am now waiting for a 19.00 ferry from Kapellscar to the island of Aland, where I hope to find a pitch for my tent (after dark), and switch currency from the Krona to the Euro….and hope that survival basics will be a little cheaper than in Sweden….
…..and so begins another adventure, this time meandering my way through 8 countries hugging the Baltic Sea and beyond, visiting their capitals, sampling life along their rural byways, meeting the people, hearing their stories and sampling their food. Each country will have its own language, its own culture and history. They will each have been occupied by an alien power at some time in their history, suffered and recovered, always struggling to hang on to their own identity and self-worth as a sovereign nation….
For 45 years, many of them lay hidden behind the iron curtain, subjected to the travails of Soviet communism, largely invisible to the rest of the world. With the fall of the Soviet system, we began to discover the beauty of these small republics, their rich histories and fine architecture, and their hunger to reconnect with the rest of the world.
Some of this I hope to find out for myself as I pedal the miles and share the hospitality of locals along the way. Come along and share this journey with me…..(you can subscribe for email alerts on my web page)….
Footnote: since posting on FB, a former pupil of mine, now living in Finland, has already invited me to dinner….how serendipitous is that?