Summer holiday 2006 is a pretty quiet affair so far. Mostly we have been at home, but we have a few things planned, a couple of which we have already done.
The others I’ll add here as we get them done. So this will be updated sometime.
We had planned to spend one day lazing around on the island fortress in the Helsinki harbour. Since it was looking like it was going to rain later in our first week off we decided to head there before the weather turned bad. As it turned out that was probably the worst day to go there as it was windy and mostly cloudy. The rain never turned up at all and was stinky hot every other day. We might go back again if we have time and the weather is better.
But anyway, it wasn’t so bad and we had a few drinks and sat in the sun (when it was around). And a nice sailing ship went past at the exact moment we turned up at the harbour channel.
The lighthouse is about 28km south west of Hanko in the Bay of Finland. Hanko is about 120km south-west of Helsinki and is a major port. Most cars for Finland arrive here and many are transported over land to Russia from here as well (something like 300,000 last year). Hanko is the green arrow in the map.
Anyway, back to the lighthouse. It is a major tourist attraction during the summer with several boats visiting there daily. We had been planning on visiting there for a while now, but never seemed to make it. This year with such a run of hot weather we thought it would be good to take a break from the heat with a nice cruise out to the island and the bookings for Friday (7th July) were quite light according to the tour company’s web site. As it turned out, it was nearly 30 degrees in Hanko and it was stinking hot even out on the water. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky the entire trip and our “sensible” sea clothes turned out to be a sweaty mistake.
On the trip out there they supplied us with lunch (salmon soup) and there was a guide who a talk on the battles there during WWII, especially with the Russians. There are still shell casings to be found on the island and unexploded grenades have been found as recently as year 2000. In the lighthouse itself there are still marks from the battles with grenade marks visible on some of the stairs. Once at the island a guide gave another presentation on the island and lighthouse history from its construction in 1906. Originally three families lived there, which accounts for the large accommodation wing on the lighthouse. But now it is mainly a tourist attraction and includes a small hotel.
The island itself is nothing but a small group of well worn rocks with a lighthouse in the middle, so the couple of hours that we stayed there was definitely enough. It is easy to believe the story told by the guide, that when a six year old kid from one of the first families visited another island with trees for the first time he commented that “the flowers here grow very big.” They also mentioned that the island is swept clean during every storm, so if anything isn’t tied down it is lost. The lighthouse itself is built entirely from stone blocks and the tower is about 55 metres tall. It is possible to climb to the top, although the view isn’t so good since there really isn’t anything else to see from up there and there is wire across most of it.
Quite a few of those visiting on ours and the other boat had actually bought swimming gear with them and were sunbathing of swimming in the small inlet on one side of the island. The other side of the island was quite deserted with was a bit odd. The whole thing was only a few hundred metres from tip to tip.
After wandering around the lighthouse and the island for a couple of hours it was time to go back. The trip back was uneventful, and quite nice when you were out of the sun. As it turned out, we discovered that we had arrive in Hanko during the annual regatta. So that explained the lack of parking, but when leaving Hanko Friday evening we passed basically an uninterrupted stream of cars heading there. So the population probably doubled that weekend and it was just as well we went Friday and not during the weekend. Once we got off the main road it was an extremely quiet drive through the countryside home, but even at 8:30 that night it was still 28 degrees…