Friday, June 26, 2009

Åland, the curious little place in the sea

Ever since I heard about it - and I never had, ever, before Postcrossing, and that only because there are so many Finnish postcrossers - I have been very curious about this place. Åland (pronounced Oh-lahnd) is definitely an unusual place. It is a group of islands and big rocks (80 inhabited islands, over 6000 total in the island group) located at a strategic position in the Baltic Sea, at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. To get to Stockholm, Sweden or Turku and Oulu, Finland, you have to pass by Åland. In the past, Sweden and Finland have fought over who gets the rights to this important little place, and in 1921 the now-defunct League of Nations decided that Finland gets it technically, but for all intents and purposes, Åland is an autonomous entity. Åland has its own national flag, its own police force, prints its own stamps, issues its own Åland Euro, and is exempt from Finnish military service. And most importantly, people of Åland do not consider themselves Finns, at all. In fact, travel websites encourage you not to mention their connection with Finland at all. They are very nationalistic. And in fact, why wouldn't they be? They are geographically isolated, they speak exclusively Swedish, and they govern themselves.

It seems to me that Åland has a very striking landscape. Take a look at the map below, and check out how many islands belong to this place:

Åland is a very popular vacation destination for Scandinavians in the summer, and tourism is one of its major industries. However, because of its strategic locations, shipping is its main industry, making up a considerable 40% of the entire economy.

I think the best part of Åland are the sights, so I'm going to leave you with a nice slideshow of photos from around the archipelago. Enjoy sightseeing around this cool little place with its very own unique identity!


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