The National Museum of Finland made a three-day excursion to the subarctic archipelago of Åland last week, paid for by the Maija Syrjänen Fund. Our mission was to survive five museums, five churches, four other attractions, and several large meals.

Day 1: Departure was by bus to Turku at 5:25 am, and then by ship from Turku to Mariehamn 8:45 am. Breakfast on board was paid for by the Fund, so we took advantage of it to the best of our ability. The lunch we paid ourselves. We arrived at Mariehamn at 2:25 pm. At Åland Museum the director told us about the museum and the administration of antiquities in Åland while we had coffee or tea and a bun. We saw the exhibitions of the Museum and Åland Museum of Art. At 5:30 pm we left for Eckerö by bus and checked in at Hotel Elvira at 6:00 pm. We had a good dinner - even the button mushrooms were tasty - at the hotel at our own expense. After the dinner my roommate and I went for a swim at the nearby beach.

Day 2: We left at 9:00 am after a hearty breakfast. On the way we visited Eckerö Mail & Customs House, the medieval churches of Eckerö, Hammarland, Finström, Saltvik, and Sund. At Geta Hill - between Finström and Saltvik churches - we admired the wide views, and my roommate and I had only Åland pancake for lunch. Then we continued to Kastelholm Castle, where we were introduced to the restauration works, and after that to Bomarsund Fortress ruins. We arrived at Hotel Cikada in Mariehamn at 6:00 pm, and most of us had dinner at our own expense at ÅSS Segelpaviljong, by the celebrity chef Michael Björklund, best known for his participation in the popular life style programme Strömsö that even I like to watch. The dinner started at 7:30 pm, the bread arrived at 8:30, and so on; we were done by midnight. I had mushroom soup, perch, and icecream, with a glass of white wine. It was definitely worth the waiting and the price (47 €), I thought.

Day 3: We had breakfast at the hotel, at 10:15 am we visited the Maritime Museum, then the museum ship Pommern, and Önningeby Museum, where we were given ciabatta with coffee or tea, and a local artist eagerly introduced his work to us, but we rudely had to leave before he had finished. We arrived at the harbour at 1:25 pm, and the ship left at 2:25. We had a long buffet lunch with wine on board, also paid for by the Fund. Surprising qualities were revealed during the meal: our table got absorbed in a discussion about wine and olive oil. And then tax-free shopping: various alcoholic beverages, enough chocolate to last for months, and strangely enough for a non-perfume person like me, Pure White Linen, which isn't my type of scent at all - my roomate and I met some of our table company at the perfumery, and a discussion of perfumes emerged, my oh my! Then we were told that there had been some mistake with billing, and that free beer was being served on the afterdeck... The ship arrived in Turku at 7:50 pm. In the bus on the way home, encouraged by the liquid refreshments, even I joined the other backbenchers in singing old hits and folk songs.

We arrived safe and sound in Helsinki at 10:30 pm, in spite of the square meals that made me feel round as a ball. Mission accomplished. It was both interesting and fun.


Åland pancake
6 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour
5 cups of rice (or semolina) pudding (cook some minutes the day before and leave to soak overnight)
3 tsp cardamom
1 l milk
2 tsp salt

Mix the eggs and the sugar. Add the rice pudding, flour, cardamom and salt. Add the milk and stir thoroughly. Pour the dough into a roasting pan and bake for about 25 minutes in 220 degrees. Let the pancake get golden brown and rather compact. Serve with raspberry (or plum) jam and whipped cream.