This year, just like in all the previous years, my summer holidays are taking place after the main holiday season in Finland. Unlike everyone else, I did work the whole month of July. Now, just as everyone is slowly returning from their holidays and are suffering from the worst phase of post-holiday agony, I turned on the out-of-office replies and started my short summer holidays. Like in every year so far, the fun won’t last long and the holidays are over in just little over a week as we are taking a longer break during christmas.
When planning the summer holidays, I started thinking about the quite common discussions I’ve been having lately about how I’ve travelled so little within and near my home country. The Åland islands, St Petersburg, Tallinn.. Just to name only a few of the places where I’ve not visited in ages or in a long time, but where it feels like all the other Finns have been. I even just did my first proper visit to Stockholm in May. Based on this, it was actually pretty easy to realize that maybe this year, it would be a good idea to skip booking any flight tickets and just explore the destinations closer to home. So this year, my summer holidays include some new, exciting and totally different destinations for me, even though many finns might think it is just the old and boring ones.
So, on thursday, it was finally time to hit the road. Our original plan was to hop on a ferry across the gulf of Finland towards Tallinn on the afternoon. However, as the morning was still free of any plans, and the weather forecast had claimed the day to become one of the prettiest this summer, I made an ex-tempore decision that instead of waiting until the afternoon for a departure, I’d hop on a bus early in the morning and spend a day in our lovely capital, Helsinki, before hopping on the ferry. Helsinki is only a two-hour busride from my home city, but I’ve never really spent any time there and would make the worst tourist guide in the city, as I haven’t seen even half of the main attractions there. Therefore, I chose one major attraction for this trip that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time now. That attraction is Suomenlinna, a UNESCO world heritage site, an island lying in the gulf of Finland just 15 minute ferry ride from Helsinki.
Suomenlinna is easily reachable from Helsinki city center, the quick 15-minute ferry ride departs from the market place, Kauppatori. The ferries run regularly approximately every 20 minutes and a return ticket that can be purchased from a machine just in front of the pier costs 5€. The ferry ride is a nice and easy one, with beautiful views of the city.
Suomenlinna is built on a set of islands during the 18th century as a maritime fortress. It is easy to spend hours on the area and the best way to explore the islands are by foot. Even though the walking paths are in good condition and every now and then you see a car on the roads(the island is inhabited), the majority of the roads are cobblestone and walking from the ferry pier to the furthest corner is around 1,5km, so proper walking shoes are a must if you want to get everything out of the visit. This place is really not for heels.
I had little over two hours for my visit in Suomenlinna and even though I got to see most corners of the islands, it was still less than I really would’ve liked to spend. I loved the time I had there, wandering down the streets. Several times, I could not help but wonder why I have not visited this place earlier. I mean, I do live rather close to Helsinki and the city has so many beautiful places to visit, so why is it so hard to travel to the destinations nearby and why I always have to, and want to travel further? Because these places are so close by that you can travel there any time. But for some reason that time never comes.
My time in Suomenlinna was over before I even noticed. While strolling down the streets, several times I did walk past a lovely cafe and would think that I’ll walk around the island first and then sit down to enjoy a cuppa. Somehow, I ended up not having time for that after all. I spent the whole two hours walking down the streets and still had the feeling that I would’ve loved to see more. So no coffee for me this time. Oh well, at least I know I have a reason to go back there. Maybe next time I will spend the whole day there so I have time for the coffee, or even a nice picnic in a park (there is a little market just next to the pier, from where you can buy food) and enjoy a lovely summer day.
Quite often we finns complain how expensive it is to travel in Finland, but this time was an exception. Thanks to a low-cost bus company, Onnibus.com, the two-hour bus trip from Tampere to Helsinki was only 8€ and the return ferry ticket was 5€. Not too bad of a price to pay for a lovely day in one of the most popular attractions in Finland.