For the past two weeks I have been traveling around Finland and a few of its neighbouring countries. I had the chance to visit my boyfriend in his home town of Helsinki to see where he grew up and to meet his family. I had not explored much of Europe since moving to the UK two years ago. Now that my visa is nearly up, I feel pleased with myself for finally getting out of London for more than just a weekend to experience a few unexpected places. Plus, having a local tour guide always helps! This trip was a very much needed vacation after what feels like two non stop years in London. However, I rarely turn my brain off from working, so I was able to take in these fantastic sights, hoping to refuel my inspiration for new projects in the near future.
I flew into Helsinki where I spent most of my two weeks. On my first full day, we took the ferry from the city's Market Square to visit Suomenlinna, a historic sea fortress located in the harbour, just a few minutes from the city centre. The moody weather complimented the old and overgrown landscape of these islands.
Construction for Suomenlinna started in 1748 when the country was under Swedish rule and was originally known as Sveaborg. The military base stretches across six closely situated islands and was to protect the country against the growing Russian naval power in the Baltic Sea.
In 1808, the fortress had to surrender to the Russia, where it remained a Russian naval base for the next 110 years. Eventually when Finland became independent in 1917, the fortress was returned to the country and renamed Suomenlinna, which means Castle of Finland. In 1991, UNESCO added Suomenlinna as World Heritage Site because of it's "unique monument to military architecture" and long history of importance since it served as defence to three different powers, Swedish, Russian and Finnish.
Today, Suomenlinna is home to nearly 900 residents who live there all year round. Many of the old garrison building have been converted into residential homes and properties. There's a number of cafe, restaurants, museums and galleries spread throughout the islands.
There were many textures and colours that I loved about this place. The first few photos of the overgrown military bunkers next to the sea reminded me very much of home and of the bases along the Nova Scotian coast. As we wondered through the town these colours of faded reds and pinks on many of the buildings caught my eye too. It was a perfect first day in Helsinki. I was able to learn a little about the city's past and begin to soak up some of these inspirational colours and views.