Thursday, March 17, 2016

Helsinki - Fortress Suomenlinna, Part 2

Date of visit: 20th October 2015

Tourist to Fortress Suomenlinna shall have no worries as they can access the whole island on foot. Below map can be found inside "free pamphlet" area being distributed and/or made available at the Jetty Barrack Gallery, the first building you may encounter upon arrival at the Main Quay. The map can be use as a guide to explore all the 5 islands, except Sarkka which is not accessible vide bridge. Please take note to explore 3 important main islands, i.e. Iso Mustasaari, Susisaari and Kustaamiekka as most of the key attraction are at this area. 

There are few key sights of the fortress that is suggested to the tourist. Firstly is the Suomenlinnna Church, marked as no. 8 on the map. The church was built in 1854 as a Russian Eastern Orthodox garrison church to serve the Russian troop. It was converted into an Evangelical Lutheran place of worship during the 1920s, i.e. early days of Finnish independence. Today its central dome doubles it's function as a lighthouse making it one of only a few churches in the world that double as a lighthouse. The signal blink is the Morse code for the letter "H" for Helsinki. It is a very popular wedding church and one of the first landmarks for people arriving in Suonmelinna.

Locals teenagers that we met at the Church's compound

Second place that you must not miss to visit is The Great Courtyarddesigned by Augustin Ehrensvard. Upon its completion in the 1760’s, the Great Courtyard served as the main square and administrative centre of the fortress. The houses surrounding the courtyard were for the fortress commandant’s house and the main guard house. The administrative centre was given a suitably impressive architectural setting where its placement and concave facades of the buildings around the courtyard was created as a false perspective which made the courtyard look grandeur. In the middle of the square seated the tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard. This memorial tomb was designed by King Gustav III of Sweden together with the deceased son, Carl August Ehrensvard.

Augustin Ehrensvard died in 1772 and was temporarily buried elsewhere for 10 years until the tomb in Viapori was finished. The monument was completed in the early 19th century, just before the end of the Swedish rule in Finland. The Great Courtyard was badly damaged in bombardments during the Crimean War in 1855, but it is still an impressive sight to see till this day. You may see that the courtyard is surrounded by residential buildings and the Ehrensvard Museum, located in the former Commandant’s House. You may find the place by following no. 29 in the map.

The tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard

Ehrensvard Museum

We used an entrance of the old fortress wall with remnants of where the garrison used to occupy to arrive at the Great Courtyard. The old fortress wall are there in between the courtyard and the Drydock. Suomenlinna is unique to the fact that it has served in the defence of 3 realms, Sweden, Russia and Finland. Although it is a bastion fortress, it is irregular in shape as a result of being built on a cluster of rocky islands with highly variable terrain, requiring a very free adaptation of the theory of fortifications developed in Central Europe. It makes Suomenlinna, in large extent is a historically authentic, i.e. consisting of original structures. Several significant layers of historical development in fortifications and shipyards may be seen on Suomenlinna. The dry dock, for example is at the heart of the fortress was the state of the art in 18th century technology. 

Remnants of the Fortress wall

There are 6 museums altogether in the Island. An entrance to Suomenlinna Museum is charge at Euro6.50 for adults and discounted rates for Pensioners and children. The main museum of the fortress is located in the Suomenlinna Centre and is open throughout the year. Inside are the permanent exhibition showcases the history of the fortress, spanning more than 260 years. There’s a touch-screen operated picture book for the visitors to learn more about the historical events surrounding the fortress and the lives of people who lived and worked in Suomenlinna. The exhibition also features utensils, tools, weapons and ammunition that have been found in the excavations and attics of Suomenlinna. Its upper floor displays an extensive restoration work carried out at the fortress. It also houses temporary, annually rotating Suomenlinna-related exhibitions. The entrance fee includes access to see a short film about Suomenlinna’s history, screened every half an hour in the auditorium.

No. 18, Suonmelinna Museum
Displayed items in Suonmelinna Museum
Both Anne and I agreed that it's not necessary for us to enter the Suomenlinna Museum, but we did try to locate the remaining 5 museums. We found Ehrensvard musuem, located next to the tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard at the Great Courtyard. The museum, originally the official residence of the fortress commandant, displays more about the history of Suomenlinna's Swedish period. We also found Manege of the Military Museum where it exhibitions narrated the history of Finnish soldires accross the centuries, through war and peacetime.

We accidentally entered Kruunulinna Ehrensvrd in Iso Mustasaari Island which is located in a long crown shaped fortress. The building composed of 2 wings of the building which became a defense line between them. The building's foundation stone fell in 1775 during the Swedish king Gustav III. At present the building operates partly as a kindergarten, office of Suomenlinna Governing Body, residential area, banquet and a meeting place for hire "Pirunkirkko ballroom". The basement is used as a workshop.

What we like most was a view overlooking the Guest Marina, as seen in 2 below photos. The Marina seated on Susisaari Island not far from the 2 island connecting bridge. The guest marina is where an arrival point for visitors arriving by boat. It has 40 berths with upgraded amenities including sauna and shower facilities for the guest to use.

Part of Suomenlinna Museum and Vesikko Submarine museum are visible in below photos. At the far end of the Vesikko Submarine is where the King's Gate (No. 44 on the map) is located. King's Gate is the iconic symbol of Suomenlinna. It was built right from the beginning of Suomenlinna's establishment, i,e, between 1753 and 1754 as a ceremonial gateway to the fortress. The gate is built on the site where a ship carrying the fortress's founder, King Adolf Frederick os Sweden was anchored while he inspected the construction fortress in 1752. We skipped no. 44 in our itinerary as it was too far to go.

We left the island with heart full of contentment's after spending close to 4 hours exploring the above places that  I mentioned above. What makes the fortress island more meaningful and beautiful are due to colorful autumn leaves. The natural colors that painted the whole island added glory to all the photos that we snapped that day.

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