We arrived at the capital of the Åland islands at dawn. It was four o’clock and we headed to the little cottage we had rented for the weekend.
While we were walking on the reddish roads of Mariehamn, I realised that the place hadn’t changed at all since I was last here. The streets and houses looked like part of a film set. I remember I had the same feeling the first time I visited the islands three years ago; time seems to have stopped here.
Walking made us get even more tired, so we went to bed as soon as we arrived to our little cottage and, after getting some extra sleep, we set out to explore the city.
The first thing on our to-do list was renting a bike. We wanted to visit the city and the beaches around it and we had also planned a road trip by bike for the following day, so we went to RO-NO Rent, near the western harbour. To be honest, I didn’t believe we could find a suitable bike for me since all the bikes I’ve seen in Finland seem to be three times higher than I am, but luckily we found one that was small enough (and not one meant for kids – yeah!).
From my point of view, there aren’t so many things to do in Åland, but that’s exactly the thing I like the most about these islands. You can go there and stop thinking and planning and worrying. Being in Åland is all about finding the peace you might not find in the city.
|Cycling is a dream come true in Åland.|
Sunday came and with it our big plan for the weekend: touring the south of the main island. Our road trip pack included anti-punkki (tick) spray, some sandwiches and water.
We left the town behind us and took Järsövägen road, which ends in Järsö, a little island. Our aim wasn’t to go all the way there because it was too much cycling for us. It’s actually only 18 kilometres to get there, but then we had to make the return journey by bike also... We stopped a little while after the Nåtö Biological Station, where we ate the supplies we had with us, and then continued cycling back to Mariehamn.
Words can’t describe how amazing the landscape is there. We had to stop every 20 minutes in order to appreciate the beauty around us, and take pictures too. The small red cottages were reflected on the sea, which seemed infinite. The sea was of blue and silver, with such clear water that you could see the bottom. It was a mirror of everything around it: the cottages, little boats on the shore and the fairytale forests. The sea breeze and the sunshine were just perfect for cycling.
The League of Nations granted Finland sovereignty over Åland in 1921, as long as Finland gave autonomy to the region.
The Åland Islands consist of around 6,500 islands.
The population is 28,000.
23 per cent of Ålands’ energy comes from wind power.
Åland also has its own flag, which was voted on and chosen in 1953.
A demilitarised region, there can be no military presence in the province, and no forts or military bases may be built on its islands. Ålanders are also exempt from military service.
While we were crossing one of the bridges that connect the islets, one of my friends was so impressed about the breathtaking nature we were witnessing that he described it as “surreal”. I told him that it looked like a dream and he agreed with me. Åland is a real dream. You realise that it is indeed a dream when you leave the islands and come back to your reality. The best thing about this dream is that you can experience it every time you want, you just have to travel there. All that I think about when I remember this trip is that I can’t wait to dream this dream again.