You may be aware that alcohol is extremely expensive in Scandinavia due to taxes. This means that a bottle of cheap wine can not be found under let’s say €6, not to speak about stronger spirits. However, there are a few loopholes. Most of you may know that airports have a duty free section, but did you know that you can also buy booze duty free on boats in between countries? As a consequence there is a big market in ferry-transfers over the Baltic sea, where people drink and buy a lot of drinks. Quite some people go on these ‘booze-cruises’ without actually visiting the place they are going to, or only for a few hours, just for the sake of buying cheap alcohol. These cruise-companies face strong competition and are therefore extremely affordable. Have you ever heard of Åland? Me neither, until last weekend. This beautiful group of islands belongs to Finland and even though it lays in the middle of the Baltic, the journey towards it costs only a little more than a bus ticket to university. And it is STUNNING!
Sun-deck on board of the ferry
Together with my friend Caitlin I spent two wonderful days hiking around. We were extremely lucky with the weather, from the moment we were on deck of the ferry enjoying the sun it felt like instant holidays. After a bus, a boat and a bus we arrived in the capital of Åland named Mariehamn, where we had planned to first pay a visit to the tourist information centre. We weren’t really sure which route we wanted to hike and thought going partly by bus, bike or kayak could be nice options. However, after August the whole place sort of closes down. Not only the bike rental closed the first of september, the tourist information wasn’t open during weekends. Buses didn’t go anymore because of the ‘winter schedule’. Pffft. We were definitely taken by surprise and asked a guy who worked in a sports store which way he thought would be nicest to go – and that direction we went.
From Mariehamn we hiked southwards. The hike out of town lead along nice beaches and some forestry areas. After hiking for an hour or something we took a break at a really nice spot along the waterside and went for a swim. One word: refreshing! Hahaha. From the main island onwards we hiked for a while over a car road which connects several smaller islands. Though a hiking trail might have been more cosy, the views here were breathtaking. As the sun was setting we had to start looking for a place to put up our tent and we decided to do that a few islands further on a bigger one named “Nåtö”.
To profit from the last rays of sunlight we tried to find a spot on the west coast of the island, which turned out to be quite challenging. The western side consisted of a forest area build on massive rocks and was not at all suitable to put tent pegs into the ground. Finally we found a spot which was sort of do-able and after building up the tent and making our beds we started cooking at the seaside. Though I have camped a lot, I had never camped ‘in the wild’ before and it felt like one big adventure. Besides being a great friend, Caitlin is also a real camping pro, which made me feel very secure – now at least one of us knew what we were doing, hihi. After a delicious meal we watched the sunset. Then we made a campfire and watched the moonset. And finally it was so nicely dark that we lay on big boulders at the seaside watching the Milky way. So beautiful.
The next day started of wonderful by making breakfast at the seaside. While eating hot porridge and watching over the islands in the bay Caitlin asked ‘Is that mist?’. The sky was clear but it really seemed as if there was a bit of fog starting to build up in front of one of the islands. Before we knew it the whole island had become invisible! It was crazy how rapidly the weather was changing and it felt also kind of intimidating. Quickly we started packing and while doing so we heard several foghorns. By the time we left our ‘campsite’ none of the islands were visible any longer and the wind had become much stronger. Still also the hike back on Sunday was very pretty and though most of the route was the same as the day before, because of the weather everything looked totally different. In Mariehamn we met up with another friend, Nina, and enjoyed some very well deserved fika before starting the journey home. And yes, of course we also brought home some alcohol 😉
Fog taking over!