I’ve always had a thing about islands. I was born in Tampere, an industrial city pegged between two of the 190,000 lakes in Finland, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi. When my family moved to Stockholm, we didn’t get very far from water. The capital of Sweden is made up of beautiful islands. But as a Finn I would argue the archipelago surrounding Turku on the Finnish side of the Baltic is much more stunning. It’s where the fiercely independent, Swedish speaking Åland Islands are situated. Though closer to Stockholm than Turku, they still loosely belong to Finland.
About twenty years ago my mother settled there and we have since been going back every summer and sometimes in between. Life in Åland – or The Island as we call it – feels slightly old-fashioned. It’s as if floating in the middle of the Baltic allows you not to worry about the stresses and strains of modern living. There are cars, mobile phones, supermarkets, offices, but for some reason it’s as if it all happens in slow motion. Unlike the Finns in Helsinki or the Swedes in Stockholm, the Ålänningar prefer to observe rather than part take. Perhaps it’s because the Island is full of tourists from the neighbouring countries, doubling its scarce population during the months of June and July. Or perhaps it’s because most of these tourists arrive by boat, either on the many commercial ferries or small private sailing boats.
As the children have grown, they’ve started to make their own trips to the Island. This year daughter went on her own, last year son did the same. My mother keeps asking when we’re coming over. It is our dream to have our own place there on a clifftop in a low built house with vast windows over looking the sea.
This is the view from the sauna cottage, our occasional sleeping quarters, at about 2 in the morning on a summer’s night when the sun dips behind the horizon for a few minutes before coming up again.
This picture more than any others I’ve taken over the years begs the question: How on earth did I end up landlocked in Wiltshire?