On New Year’s Day, we bundle up, set out and spent what few hours of daylight we had exploring Suomenlinna.
An inhabited sea fortress spread across six islands, Suomenlinna is just a short 15-minute ferry ride from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. Suomenlinna was built in the mid-18th Century to defend the Kingdom of Sweden (which Helsinki was a part of at the time) against the Russian Empire.
After the Finnish gained independence in 1917 the fortress was renamed and served as a garrison and a harbour. Following WWII the role of the fortress steadily declined until 1973 when it was converted for civilian purposes.
Today, Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki and is home to some 850 inhabitants.
Our New Year’s day trip was my second visit to Suomenlinna. I first visited in the summer of 2012.That day the sun was shining, the grass was green and I felt like I had all the time in the world to explore. This visit was drastically different, but wonderful all the same.
We boarded the ferry from Helsinki mid-day and already we felt like our daylight hours were limited. We spent our time wandering the frozen ground, admiring the new and old structures dotting the islands, and staring out at the ocean as the sun began to set.
Although we were hardly the only tourists exploring the fortress that day, the islands felt calm, peaceful and quiet. It was like we were alone in the middle of nowhere just a hop, skip and a jump from the city centre.
After nearly two hours, as darkness began to envelop the island, we gave into the cold and headed back to the ferry. Although we only spent a short time on the island, it was the perfect getaway to kick-off the New Year.
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