Sunday, April 25, 2010

Åland Islands ahoy!

Chris' parents are visiting us--they arrived after an ash-inspired odyssey that included time with family in London. We went to the Åland Islands for a night on the Viking Ferry, a very relaxing way to travel with the added benefit that there was plenty of time to teach Sophia how to play Hearts.

The Åland Islands are an "autonomous, demilitarized, monolingually Swedish-speaking region and historical province of Finland". I stole that definition from Wikipedia, but let me explain what it means.

Between Turku and Stockholm lie a multitude of beautiful islands--some with houses, some with giant windmills, some just damp rocks. The first set of islands through which the ferry weaves is the Turku Archipelago, the largest archipelago in Europe. Then, after a brief lull, the ferry enters the Åland Islands.

The Åland Islands are culturally Swedish. After Finland became independent from Russia in 1917 and during the strife of the Finnish Civil War, the Åland Islands sought their independence from Finland. This dispute was one the first issues decided by the newly formed League of Nations! Geography played a large role in the decision--the islands are connected to Finland by ice during the winter months. This makes me wonder what role global warming will have on geo-political boundaries in the future.

Åland's autonomy is governed by the Act of Autonomy. The current Act of Autonomy is the 3rd such act and dates from 1993. The Åland parliament has legislative authority over medical care, the environment, the promotion of industry, internal transportation, local government, police power and the post, radio and television.

Finland controls foreign affairs, most civil and criminal law, the court system and customs.

I plan to return to the islands one summer with a bike. There are several bike+ferry trips you can take and I am now armed with the map.

About the pictures - from the top:

A Map from Wikipedia

Sophia and Marilyn playing Hearts as a team

Marilyn watching the islands

Once you arrive in Mariehamn most people get off the ferry heading to Stockholm and shuffle on to the ferry heading to Turku thereby spending their day cruising in tax free comfort. You can see the 2 Viking ferries connected by the passenger walkway.

Mariehamn had lots of boats, boathouses, and boardwalks.

The Parliament (Lagtinget) building with the Åland flag flying+it was Åland's flag day.

The museum ship, Pommern

The Johnsons!

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