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.
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.
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.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Suomenlinna (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Suomenlinna.
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