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Aland Islands

Description of Aland Islands

The Aland Islands is a region of Finland. It is located where the Gulf of Bothnia meets the Baltic Sea. The islands are Finland’s smallest region. The main island of the region is Fasta Aland and this is where 90% of the population lives. The rest of the region is made up of 6500 islands and skerries. Fasta Island is just 24 miles off the coast of Sweden. The only land border for the island is the skerry Market, which is uninhabited and shares a border with Sweden.

The autonomous status of the island means that the powers that are normally given to representatives in central Finnish government are mostly exercised by their own government. This autonomous status was affirmed in 1921 by the League of Nations. Aland Islands are entirely demilitarized and politically neutral. This means that residents of the island are exempt from being a part of the Finnish Defense Forces.

History 

The islands were formed as part of the territory that was ceded to Russia from Sweden through the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in the year 1809 in the month of September. The treaty resulted in the islands along with what is now Finland becoming the Grand Duchy of Finland. 

Sweden did not secure a provision for the islands not to be fortified during this process. This issue was important for both Sweden and the UK as both countries were concerned that any type of military presence located on the island could be a threat to the military and commercial interests of the country.

In the year 1832, the fortress of Bomarsund was built by the Russians to fortify the islands. A combination of French and British warships captured and destroyed Bomarsund in the year 1854 during a Baltic campaign of the Crimean War. The entire set of islands was demilitarized by the Treaty of Paris in 1856. 

In 1918, during the Finnish Civil War, the Swedes acted as a peacekeeping force between the Red and White Finnish troops and the Russian troops. Some historians think that Sweden actually planned on occupying the islands. In just a few weeks the Swedish troops were overtaken by German troops. The troops from Germany occupied the islands by request of the conservative “white” troops from Finland. 

After the year 1917, the people who lived on the islands worked at having the islands ceded to Sweden. In the year 1919, the residents signed a petition for secession from Finland and integrated with Sweden. Almost 95% of the residents were in favor of this petition. There were several reasons for this strong sentiment towards Sweden. First, there were the anti-Swedish tendencies in the country of Finland. Another issue was the nationalism of Finland because of its struggle to retain autonomy. There was also the issue of the resistance to Russification that was taking place in the country. The final issue was that the population was apprehensive about their future with Finland because of the conflict with the Swedish speaking people and the Finnish speaking population who had been prominent in the political life of Finland since the 1840s. 

Finland refused to cede the islands to Sweden and instead provided autonomous status to the islands. The residents did not approve of this and the dispute was sent to the League of Nations. The League of Nations determined that Finland would keep sovereignty over the islands, but they would be made into an autonomous territory. This meant that the residents of the island could maintain the Swedish language, including their own local traditions and culture. During this time an international treaty was established to provide the islands with a neutral status. 

Throughout the 20th century many of the islanders have found the sovereignty from Finland to be beneficial. The combination of being disappointed by the lack of support from Sweden during the League of Nations, the disrespect from Sweden for the islands demilitarized status during the 1930s, and some of the feelings shared with Finland both during and after the Second World War has changed many people’s point of view about the islands being a possession of Finland to a part of Finland. The island was safe during World War II because the merchant fleets would sail for both sides of the war and because of this it was not attacked as each side did not know who the merchants were carrying for at any time.

Visit Aland Islands

When visiting the Aland Islands it is important to note that many of the attractions are only open during the late spring and during the summer months. When the attractions are closed they can only be viewed from the outside. This being said, there are several tourist sites that you should consider visiting on your trip to the islands.

The Kastelholm is a castle located on the northern part of the main island. The castle was created in the 1380s and was the home of many Swedish kings who ruled over both Finland and Sweden from this area. There are guided tours of the ruin available.

Another place that is close to the Kastelholm is the Open Air Museum. There are a number of traditional buildings that have been moved in from other areas. In 2008, the admission to the museum was free, but there was a charge to tour the prison museum located in the same area.

Fortress of Bomarsund was built from 1830 through 1854 by the Russians. It was mostly ruined during the Crimean war. Today you can find a small museum with artifacts and pictures of the fortress on display.

While you are on the islands you will find plenty of activities to keep you busy. You will want to take advantage of the many great hiking trails that are available as well as the quite countryside. You can also find many great beaches and bath houses in the area. It is important to note that shopping on the islands can be quite expensive as most of the items have been imported.

The official tourism organization of the Aland Islands, Visit Aland, promotes tourism to the region.

Aland Islands Tourism

Compared to other areas of Scandinavia, the Aland Islands have a relatively mild climate. That makes it very attractive to tourists that don’t like the harsher and colder climates of other Scandinavian nations. The Aland Islands have more sunshine hours each year than any other site in the region. During the middle part of the summer, the sun rises at 3:30 AM and sets at 10 PM. The summers of the Aland Islands are warm and its winters are mild, making it a favorite holiday destination for visitors from Finland, Sweden, and the rest of Europe - including Americans that know about the milder climate.

The capital of Aland is Mariehamn, and it has a long and rich maritime history. It is mostly a shipping town, and it is also the site of a museum ship that remains in its original condition. The Aland Islands are a bunch of islands that are inside an archipelago, and the eight islands in the archipelago are the site of a number of tiny villages, a lot of which have architectural monuments like castles and abbeys. One of the most popular attractions is Kastelholm Castle, which dates back to the 16th century.

Aland brings in a lot of tourists that want to participate in outdoor activities, with camping, horse riding, hiking, paddling, and diving being some of those activities. It is also possible to hunt in the Aland Islands, and the local tourism organization encourages it.

Over 200,000 tourists come to Aland each year. Most of the tourists are from Sweden and Finland, and just roughly 12% are from other countries. The average stay is a little over two nights. Tourists stay in hotels, guest houses, and cottages, and some of them even camp.

Attractions & Excursions

Attractions

The Aland Islands and the Port of Mariehamn are welcoming toward all cruise passengers. The Aland Islands are a unique and and exciting cruise destination in the Baltic region. There are shore excursions that can be set up for any of Aland’s big attractions.

The Maritime Museum And The Museum Ship Pommern

The Maritime Museum and the Museum Ship Pommern, both world-renowned, tell the story of how seamen lived aboard ship.

The Russian Fortress Of Bomarsund

This Russian fortress is a fun destination for a short excursion. It was created in 1832 by the Russians, and the work continued on until the fortress was overtaken by the Crimean War in 1854. Even though the fortress was overthrown, it is still one of the coolest sights in the Aland Islands.

The Castle Of Kastelholm

You should take a short tour of the Castle of Kastelholm. The castle was developed in the 1300s, and it has gone through both piracy and sieges throughout history. It was once the home of a Swedish king, King Gustav.

Jan Karlsgarden

Go a couple hundred years back in time. Take a trip to the gorgeous Jan Karlsgarden, a traditional farmstead from the 1800s. It shows how life was like before the modern era. The farmstead is near the Castle of Kastelholm You can also check out the nearby Vita Bjorn.

The Aland Churches

A large number of churches were built on the islands in the 1200s and 1300s. You can still find a dozen or so medieval churches. These are maybe the most interesting memories from the Middle Ages.

The Aland Hunting & Fishing Museum

Life for Alanders was sometimes hard and food was scarce. This museum shows what it was like for hunters and fishermen to keep food on the table.

Excursions

Check out ASS Segel-paviljongen on the western harbor. It’s the oldest restaurant in Aland, the the cuisine is exquisite and tasty. It is a culinary experience that you don’t want to miss.

Stallhagen

If you are interested in drinking beer, then the brewery Stallhagen is a great spot for you to visit. The brewery will give you an insight into how beer is brewed, and you can sample the Stallhagen Lager in the pub. The brewery used to be a Russian military barrack.

Viking Village

The Vikings were an interesting people. How did they live and what did they eat? You can see what it was like to eat like a Viking when you sit at the long table in Viking Village. You will get served up with entertainment and food in a Viking fashion. You can come with a group of up to 50 people.

Culture & Sights

There is a lot to discover in a little space in Aland. The big island isn’t any bigger than 45 km in a north-south direction and 50 km in an east-west direction. The island has a small size, and so it is easy to discover everything that the island has to offer.

Sightseeing on Aland means checking out everything from Mariehamn to Kastelholm Castle. There are a number of fine museums on this beautiful archipelago, as well. Don’t forget to peruse what the local artisans have to offer in terms of arts, crafts, and designs. You should purchase and take home some souvenirs from this unique Scandinavian region.

If you’ve never seen the most beautiful part of Scandinavia, then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. The best part hasn’t even been mentioned: the people. The people are truly fabulous, and they are some of the nicest, warmest, and most hospitable in the world. When you visit eateries, bed & breakfasts, cafes, and pubs, you will find that the people of Scandinavia – and especially the Aland Islands – are a kinder, gentler, warmer people than what you might be used to back home. Of course, if you’re from elsewhere in Europe, the contrast won’t be as stark. Be sure to sample the local cuisine and beverages. Some of the seafood and ale is considered the best in the world. Take your smartphone so you can capture Instagram photos of your delicious meals and beverages.

Some facts about Aland Islands

Population of country 26,711 people
Area of Aland Islands 0 sq. kilometers
Located on the continent (EU)
Capital of Aland Islands Mariehamn
Currency at Aland Islands Euro (EUR)
Domain Zone .ax
Phone country code 340
FIPS code of Aland Islands

Gallery of Aland Islands

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Aland Islands video guide

More information about Aland Islands

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Top cities of Aland Islands


City Name Population State Coordinates
1 Mariehamn 10,682 people Mariehamn 60.09726 x 19.93481
2 Jomala 3,662 people 60.15 x 19.96667
3 Finstrom 2,412 people 60.26667 x 19.93333
4 Lemland 1,829 people 60.08333 x 20.1
5 Saltvik 1,691 people 60.28333 x 20.05
6 Hammarland 1,395 people 60.21667 x 19.75
7 Sund 1,080 people 60.25 x 20.11667
8 Eckero 1,028 people Eckeroe 60.21249 x 19.61442

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