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Finland: Suomenlinna

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Suomenlinna > Finland > Europe

[Visited: June 2006 and several times before]

Just a 15 minute passage from the market quay in Helsinki, you arrive on the quay of Suomenlinna, on Iso Mustasaari island. From here, you can easily explore the islands by foot. You soon reach Suomenlinna church, which towers above the low island landscape and which you saw already from a distance, before you arrived at the island. This is a church with a story. Originally built as a military Russian Orthodox church by the Russians in 1854, it was transformed into a Lutheran one after Finland reached independence. The typical onion-shaped domes were removed. What makes the church unique, is the fact that it doubles as a lighthouse, providing safe passage to boats and planes from the top of the bellfry.

Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Lighthouse at the southern tip of Kustaanmiekka island, Suomenlinna

Walking on from the church, you can either visit barracks on the same island, or cross to the largest island by bridge. From here, you have a good outlook on the defensive walls on the Iso Mustasaari, and you can also see most of the remaining walls and buildings of the old fortress. Construction started in 1748, when these lands were still part of Sweden, as a protection of the kingdom. Although the fortress was considered unconquerable, the Russians managed to get hold of the islands and the fortress in 1808. Russian influence can still be seen now, as Suomenlinna became a stronghold of the Russians. The worst damage was done when the fortress was bombarded by an Anglo-French fleet in 1855.

Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Iso Mustasaari: passageway in typical building

On Kustaanmiekka, you can see more of the defensive walls, you can walk through one of the many tunnels under the fortifications, enjoy views of the higher areas, discover cannons invariably pointing towards the sea, walk right on top of cliffs, see small ponds, and if you stay long enough, one of the large boats might pass by on their way to Stockholm or other destinations. Apart from the sights, museums and bars, there are also many places to just relax, lie in the grass, on the mostly rocky beaches, and enjoy the tranquillity of these islands. Where Suomenlinna once started as a military fortress, it has now turned into a peaceful place.

Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Suomenlinna church on Iso Mustasaari island seen from below
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Fortifications of Suomenlinna on the southern shore of Kustaanmiekka island
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Kustaanmiekka island: small bay
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Iso Mustasaari island with Suomenlinna church
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Suomenlinna defensive wall on Iso Mustasaari
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Typical Suomenlinna house sitting high on the rocks of Kustaanmiekka island
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Colourful houses near Suomenlinna fortress, Kustaanmiekka island
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): King's Gate of Suomenlinna fortress on the southern side of Kustaanmiekka island
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Suomenlinna fortress walls seen from inside the wall
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Kustaanmiekka landscape: pond and Suomenlinna fortress
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Small square seen from under an arch on Kustaanmiekka island
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Augustin Ehrensvärd memorial, the first commander of Suomenlinna fortress
Picture of Suomenlinna (Finland): Underground walkways of Suomenlinna

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