Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Helsinki - Fortress Suomenlinna, Part 1

Date of visit: 20th October 2015

As there are so many pretty scenery photos that I snapped in Fortress Suomenlinna, I wish to split the entry into 2 parts. First part would be on the history of the place. The latter part would be places of where to "at least to visit" by tourist. I opined that no one would be able to cover this huge complex in a day. It would be best if you can overstay a night and 2 and takes time to explore every inches of the 6 clustered islands. 

The main island, where the guest harbour are

Suomenlina is a sea fortress, founded in 1748, is one of the most popular sights in Finland with close to a million visitors annually. Hence, it is only accessible by water as it is an island fortress. A ferry service runs from the Market Square to Suomenlinna throughout the year. In the summer season, a water bus service to Suomenlinna is also available. The guest harbour in the middle of Suomenlinna caters to visitors who may be arriving by their own boats. We were super excited to take the first available ferry to depart, i.e. at 9.12 am. We purchased the ferry ticket using the machine seated next on the dockyard where the ferry supposed to arrive and leave to/from Suomenlina. You may entered your desired duration to stay, us we chose a half day trip. For those who wish to explore more, may visit their website to find out whether or an overnight stay is allowable or not.

Shaded waiting area and a place to buy ticket (using the machines located on the outside)

The trip to Suomenlinna takes only about 15 to 20 minutes and it offers a magnificent views of Helsinki city overview and the surroundings area from the sea. It was said that during the cold winter months, the trip through the ice-covered waters is a unique experience. There were a lot of other tourist who were with us on the ferry, mostly school children.  Tourist may join the guided walking tours that I mentioned earlier on who will take it's tourist through the historic Susisaari and Kustaanmiekka areas and provide information on the colourful past of the fortress. The tour introduces, for example, the Great Courtyard and the dry dock, which once was one of the largest in the world. We opted to explore the island on our own using free pamphlet that we took from the information centre. But for those who opted for a guided tour, it start from the Suomenlinna Centre (the building where the ferry arrived) and last approximately only one hour.

Tourist information centre

At the onset, let me take you through a brief history of the fortress, as printed on the pamphlet:-
1748   Finland is a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. Construction of the sea fortress commences, was led by Augustin Ehrensvard.
1750   Fredrick I of Sweden gives the fortress the name of Sveaborg.
1788   The fortress serves as a naval base during the Russo-Swedish War.
1808   Finnish War. The fortress surrenders to the Russian army and remains as a Russian naval base for the next 110 years.
1809   Finland is incorporated as an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.
1855   Crimean War. The Anglo-French fleet bombards the fortress, which sustains heavy damage.
1918  Finnish Civil War. A prisoner-of-war camp is established at the fortress. The fortress is annexed by Finland and named Suomenlinna.
1939  Start of the Second World War. The fortress serves as a coastal artillery, anti-aircraft and submarine base.
1973  The Finnish garrison vacates the island. The Ministry of Education and Culture assumes responsibility for the fortress. 1991 Suomenlinna is added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites as a unique monument to military architecture.

Suomenlinna, called in Finnish or Sveaborg, in Swedish was until 1918 an inhabited sea fortress built on 6 islands, named Kustaanmiekka, Susisaari, Iso-Mustasaari, Pikku-Mustasaari, Lansi-Mustasaari and Langoren which now forms part of the city of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular with not only tourists from abroad but to the locals too, who enjoy it as a picturesque picnic site. It’s originally name Sveaborg, means Fortress of Svea was renamed as Suomenlinna, means Castle of Finland in 1918 for patriotic and nationalistic reasons, though it is famously known by its original name.


The Swedish crown commenced the construction of the fortress in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. The general responsibility for the fortification work was given to Augustin Ehrensvard. Augustin was a Swedish military officer, military architect, artist, creator of the Suomenlinna fortress and the Swedish archipelago fleet. The original plan of the bastion fortress was strongly influenced by the ideas of Vauban, the foremost military engineer of the time, and the principles of star fort style of fortification, albeit adapted to a group of rocky islands.

In addition to the island fortress itself, seafacing fortifications on the mainland would ensure that an enemy would not acquire a beach-head from which to stage attacks. The plan was also to stock munitions for the whole Finnish contingent of the Swedish Army and Royal Swedish Navy there. In the Finnish War the fortress surrendered to Russia on May 3, 1808, paving the way for the occupation of Finland by Russian forces in 1809.

Suomenlinna was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991 to preserve it for future generations as an example of 18th century fortress architecture in Europe. The World Heritage Convention obligates the Finnish government to see to it that Suomenlinna remains in an optimally authentic condition. The basis of the plan for the use of Suomenlinna is that the appropriate use of the fortress will secure its preservation for posterity. The World Heritage Site is restored, maintained and governed by the Governing Body of Suomenlinna that operates under the Ministry of Education and Culture. Suomenlinna is a home to about 500 staff and workers who are still working on the refurbishment and responsible for running day to day operation.

As the site manager of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Governing Body of Suomenlinna is responsible for preserving the monument and associated historical and architectural values for future generations, too. The preservation work is guided by the Suomenlinna management plan that has been drawn up by the Governing Body of Suomenlinna together with several interest groups. The management plan includes a separate action plan, which defines the concrete actions to be taken and their schedule.

Together with its stakeholders, the Governing Body of Suomenlinna has created a sustainable tourism strategy that serves the dual objectives of site conservation and tourism development. The strategy was prepared with the aim of making Suomenlinna a model destination for sustainable tourism. The strategy includes a separate action plan that, combined with the strategy, consitutes a roadmap for the development of tourism at Suomenlinna from now until 2020. The action plan will be available in autumn 2015.

To be continue..
Post a Comment