Vanhankaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Vanhankaupunki or Helsinki Old Town is 5km from where the center of town is now situated. The town was established in 1550 by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, as Finland was under Swedish rule at the time. By 1570 it is thought that there were around 500 inhabitants. By 1640 the town was moved from this location to its current one, for better harbour conditions in order to boost the city commerce.

Now nothing is left of the Vanhankaupunki but in its place there is a beautiful wooded park. Though, there has been construction in the surrounding area the buildings are still very impressive, old brick buildings and wooden houses, some of which date back to the 19th century but nothing anywhere near as old as 1600 and nature is still a key element here.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Monuments of the Old Town

There are two entrances to the site of Helsinki Old Town. One on Vanhankaupungintie where, in the over grown bushes, you can find an sign of how the town had looked and what was there now to mark important sites. The other entrance is between two newly built houses and seems more like the access to the rear of one of the houses.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Stairs to Gustavus II Adolphus Memorial

Either way takes you to an excellent rocky lockout and a short walk through the natural surroundings where there are a number of monuments with historical significance.

Vanhankaupunki

There are three monuments in the Vanhankaupunki dedicated to the Old Town and its history, the 400th anniversary of the founded of Helsinki erected in 1950, the first church and graveyard, and the memorial to Gustavus II Adolphus.

The most interesting part was the site of the old church, now marked with a replica of a gravestone of a merchant named Hans van Sanden had been found here in 1866. The stone was carved just like the original and placed in the same spot in 1890.

From here it is a short walk up hill to the top of a rocky outcrop where you can view the surrounding area. To your west the city, to your east nature. You can see the water that was once a harbour and its not hard to imagine the ships sailing in many years ago when there was little else here.

© Our Shadows Will Remain

From the site of the Vanhankaupunki It’s a short walk to the red brick Power Station and turbine from 1890. The water levels were high and it rushed over the fall crashing at the bottom and sending a spray through the air. The roaring water was loud but 50m further the sound had gone and was replaced by tranquility as the Vanta River entered Vanhankaupunki bay.

Vanhankaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

From the Power Station buildings there is a beautiful walk around Vanhankaupunki bay, where great views of the buildings can be found. From here you can also find your way to Lammassaari Nature Reserve or take the bridge across to Verkatehtaan park and back to Arabia.

Don’t forget to sit and enjoy the view with the Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg statue.

Vanhakaupunki, Helsinki Old Town

Vanhakaupunki bay and Power Station Buildings

The Sami of Lapland

Sami is an indigenous culture that live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a small part of Russia and is known as Sapmi, or more commonly Lapland. They are thought to be the first people to reenter Europe after the last ice age some time around 8000 BC.

The Sami of Lapland

Sami Flag created in 1986

After the 15th century the Sami faced increasing pressure from the countries in which they inhabited. It was at this time that reindeer husbandry, which had so far been limitedly practiced, became their main source of hunting. This led to a decrease in numbers of wild reindeer and all reindeer became more or less tamed with each having an owner.

In the last 200 years there have been many changes in the surrounding countries that have directly effected the Sami. In 1826, the Norwegian border was established and the Sami were no longer allowed to roam freely as they once had. They could still cross between Finland and Sweden until 1940.

The Sami experienced the most pressure in Norway during the first half of the 20th century when the government invested money to wipe out Sami culture in an attempt to make Norwegian language and culture universal. In Finland and Sweden the efforts were less dramatic but with increased development in the north led to a weakening of status and economy for the Sami.

Conflicts continued through the 20th century with the proposed hydroelectric dam in Alta in northern Norway which would flood the Sami village of Masi. The protests against the construction had a large impact on the nation’s politics and were successful in saving the town but construction continued, this time with less environmental and cultural impacts. During the protests the first unofficial Sami flag was used which led to the introduction of a second design in 1986.

Today, reindeer still play a central part in Sami culture but their economic value is decreasing and they look to other avenues. With the increased pressure to assimilate to modern culture only nine Sami languages or dialects have survived to the present day and they are still threaten. In recent years there have been positive developments in the preservation of Sami culture with the introduction of the Sami Parliament and a National day on 6th February.

This post continues with the Sami’s involvement in Indigenous Tourism

A Quick Stop in Vaasa

Located on the west coast of Finland is Vaasa, a largely Swedish speaking area of Finland. Finland is a dual language country, meaning that they have two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Swedish speaking Finns live throughout Finland but the city of Vaasa and its surrounding area is know for its large number of Swedish speaking inhabitants. In this area of the country you will see the road signs in Swedish first then Finnish!

Three Nations Border Point

The Three Nations Border Point can be reached by ferry or an 11 km one way walk from Kilpisjärvi. There are a few different ways it can be reached of varying difficulty, I chose to take the ferry one way and return on the Malla Trail to Kilpisjärvi Via Pikku Malla making the total distance 16 km.

From the ferry drop off point the Three nations Border Point is an easy 3 km walk along the fenced border between Finland and Sweden. The exact point is located 10 meters into lake Goldajärvi and can be reached by following a planked walkway to where the monument has stood since 1926. The idea is that you walk around the monument and visit each country by doing so, this allows you to see it from every angle and with a different country in the background.

Three Nations Border Point

Norway, Sweden, Finland

Once leaving the border point the trail takes you through the trees and up onto the mountains. Once up the walking is fairly easy and continues with beautiful scenery over Kilpisjarvi and Saana which is unlike any I have seen elsewhere in Finland.

Would you visit or have you visited the point where three borders meet?

© Our Shadows Will Remain

The Three Nations Border Point features on my post 5 Things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer

Lapland often refers to the northern parts of Sweden, Finland and Norway that are inside of the Arctic Circle. The area is mainly considered a winter destination with many international visitors coming to visit Santa Claus and experience other winter activities.

The area of Lapland also has a lot to offer during the summer, that’s right, even within the Arctic Circle there is a summer. The landscape is varied and breathtakingly beautiful with a history and culture unknown to most.

I have compiled a short list of 5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in the summer from what I have experienced during my time in the Arctic Circle.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer

Ylläs

Fell Walking

Finland has many superb National Parks with miles and miles of marked and maintained trails, fireplaces and overnight cabins. Among the best are Urho Kekkonen, Lemmonjoki, and on my doorstep Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

Take a walk over the fells and enjoy a sausage cooked over an open wood fire in the Finnish nature. Be on the lookout for wildlife, Finnish Lapland is home to around 200,000 reindeer that are allowed to roam freely.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in summer

Aakenus

Visiting the Three Nations Border Point

The Three Nationals Border Point can been reached from Kilpisjärvi by a 11km one way walking trail, a ferry then a short walk, or a combination of the two. The monument marks the point where Norway, Sweden and Finland’s borders meet.

Even though the walk is long the terrain is fairly easy. Once elevated the route is flat, you are then presented with views in all directions and across three different countries. Using the ferry connections allows even the less able to visit the the Three Nation Border Point monument.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in summer

Three Nations Border Point

If you are visiting Kilpisjärvi it is also worth a walk to the top of Saana, a three hour walking route that consists of 742 steps! The Saana fell towers over Kilpisjärvi providing great views and its unique shape dominates the surrounding landscape.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in summer

Kilpisjärvi and Saana

Experiencing the Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun can be experienced all over Finland with Midsummer celebrations being a large part of Finnish culture. Usually people will spend it at a cabin with friends and family while they watch the sun never completely set. In Lapland 24 hour daylight lasts for well over a month!

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in summer

Midnight in Lapland

Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church

From the town of Inari  Pielpajärvi Wilderness church is a 7km walk, but if you have access to a car you can park further up the trail, shortening your walk to 4km each way. The path winds through the forest littered with rocks then follows the lake until you come to an open area that was once the town center many, many years ago.

The first church was erected in this area in 1646, while the present church that still stands there today, after some restoration, was built in 1760. When the nearby town of Inari grew a new church was built there, leaving this church unused for many years. It wasn’t until after World War II, when the Inari church was destroyed, that Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church was used again.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer

Inari Wilderness Church

While you are in Inari the Siida Museum is well worth a visit, with exhibits that detail the history of Lapland centered on Sami culture. Sami culture is very important in the history of Lapland and it is impressive to see how people survived in this remote area with difficult weather conditions during those early years.

Berry Picking

Finland is a firm believer in the Everyman’s Right, this means that everyone is allow access to Finland’s beautiful and secluded nature with as little restrictions as possible. People are free to walk, camp and collect berries, mushrooms and other edible treats that grow from the forest floor.

During the summer months many people will be out collecting what nature has to offer, but you have to be quick as the herds of reindeer might beat you to it. Long sleeves are a must if you want to avoid the mosquitoes.

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer

Blueberry Fields Forever

There are still many other activities available in Finnish Lapland that I haven’t included in this list such as mountain biking, fishing, canoeing, bird watching, Frisbee golf and many others. Lapland is also home to many summer events and festivals including the Sodankylä Midnight Sun Film Festival, making Lapland well worth a visit any time of year.

Tell me what you think. Is there something that I have missed that you think is a must when visiting Lapland in the summer?

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