Mariehamn | Åland
In the middle of one of Europe's most beautiful archipelagos situates the little port town of Mariehamn, the Finnish pearl perceived as just as much Swedish. On Åland you can pick sea-buckthorn, enjoy life at one of the luxurious spas or rock your shoes off at the Rockoff-Festival hitting Mariehamn every year in July.
The Åland islands are situated between Sweden and Finland, in the northern part of the Baltic Sea. They constitute an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland with its own flag. Åland also has its own stamps and internet top-level domain (.ax).
A total of 27,500 people live in Åland. About 11,000 of them live in Åland's only town, Mariehamn. The town was founded in 1861 and today it is the commercial and political centre. It is also Åland's seat of government.
The things that make Åland unique are its unspoiled archipelago and the beautiful bedrock, worn smooth by glacier ice, that gets its red colour from the area's rapakivi granite. Åland's 6,500 islands have a world to offer where the sea is always nearby. Did you know that Åland has more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Northern Europe between May and August?
Another of Åland's distinctive traits is the midsummer sight of maypoles, colourful garlands and olde worlde windmills. You can see some of them in the Jan Karlsgården open air museum in Kastelholm where you'll also get to see what a typical Ålander farm looked like around the end of the 19th century.
Information and pictures from www.visitaland.com
The islands' main industries include shipping, trade, banking, farming and the production of food items. Shipping has always been a particularly important activity for the region and, in terms of characterising the Ålanders, there is no other industry like it.
Visit the Maritime Museum, (temporarly closed 2010) the Museum Ship Pommern and the Maritime Quarter in Mariehamn to find out more about the islands' fascinating maritime history.