I am a traveller obsessed with landmarks and geographical extremes. In other words, I am quite happy to take photos of street and road signs, mailboxes and post offices, leaving such touristy insignifica such as Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and the CN Tower behind. Now, if I could take a picture of a sign pointing the way to the Statue of Liberty, then I’d be quite happy.
I also enjoy taking pics of extremes such as Point Pelee, Canada’s southernmost point on the mainland, and yesterday I was snapping away in Hanko/Hangö, the southernmost point on the Finnish mainland. I was prevented from walking further south by a barbed-wire fence and a checkpoint-Charlie kinda entry office. Seems I came across the entry point of Finland’s vapaasatama, or free harbour. NO ADMISSION allowed and in spite of this I still walked through and talked to the security guard who was not in the least interested in my personal reasons for being there. She couldn’t care one bit that I wanted to snap pics of the Finnish mainland’s southernmost point while standing on that very point and she was not in the least bit impressed that I could tell her all this in Finnish either!
I did walk as far south as I was allowed to, and had to photograph the southern extreme from a distance of 400 metres away.
Hanko is a relatively new town (population 10.000), founded in 1874 as a playground for the then-ruling Russian nobility. Its dozen villas line the southern coast, and the czars and their families and friends would stay here on holiday from St. Petersburg. The villas are all now pricy guesthouses. Hanko is 56% Finnish-speaking and 43% Swedish-speaking, and while in the shops I heard the two languages spoken. In this part of southern Finland, some towns, such as Tammisaari (Ekenäs in Swedish) are overwhelmingly Swedish in majority and it is interesting to see the street and road signs flip-flop to Swedish on the top and Finnish on the bottom. Hence road signs to the capital read “Helsingfors – Helsinki” instead of vice versa. And I now have three pics of Finn mailboxes for the philatelists among those on this mailing list: Finnish/Swedish, Swedish/Finnish, and Finnish only. I wonder if there will be Finnish/Sami mailboxes on my next destination…
NOW GRAB A MAP KIDS
I have five days off at the end of July and talk about extremes, man, I am going to talk about extremes.
I am planning on taking a trip to the Finnish (Sami) northland, up to Utsjoki and Nuorgam. Nuorgam is the northernmost place in Finland, and they don’t kick you out if you want to take pictures 🙂 In order to make this trip possible I am going to have to ask my professor if I can take my July exam just one hour before the rest of the class since the once-a-day train leaves from Helsinki to Rovaniemi while the exam would be in progress.
More details on this trip as the plans unfold.
I am in the Meteori Café in downtown Helsinki, sending off this travelogue to you all. I spent the first half hour of my 30-markkaa-an-hour surfing the Net looking at the Finnish sites for Utsjoki and Nuorgam, and making plans for my trip. I will save all postcards I write in the week before my northern trip for posting in Utsjoki/Nuorgam. Apparently I might just be on the same bus as the postcards I send, since I will have to take a postal delivery bus on the way back from Nuorgam to Rovaniemi!
Tell me all the latest Library, Scrabble, Rack of Lambda and Family news. I am only using Internet services once a week. That will just mean I will be writing even more postcards than usual!