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Unconventional vacation location #9 Feb 07

Afghanistan is no longer the first item in the list of countries you get on a Microsoft drop-down list. It’s the Åland Islands. It’s not exactly a little place, and it’s a nice place to visit, even though it is a little off the beaten path.

First, you pronounce it “Oland.” Second, it’s quite a few islands, about 6500, maybe one tenth inhabited, so you get a lot to pick from when you visit. Here’s a map:

Between Sweden and Finland

As you might guess from the Å, everybody speaks Swedish. But it belongs to Finland (and they use Finnish money). Specifically, it’s an autonomous province of Finland, and by law it has no army or military posts, and Finland has to preserve the Swedish culture. This was the result of some protracted negotiations that concluded about 90 years ago. They trace their history back to well before the early Greeks, but mainly they were Vikings starting about 800 AD.  Their history involves a lot of sea battles, and I imagine their waters are littered with the remains of old sea vessels. During the last couple centuries, the area changed hands several times, finally settling into the demilitarized area it is today.

They love tourists. And if you love spectacular scenery, seafaring culture and history, crafts, good food, and the performing arts, you’ll love Åland. Here’s a picture; you can find more on the web.

None in this picture, but they have lots of inter-island ferries for getting around on.

Next time you open one of the new menus letting you pick what country you’re from, you’ll know what the Åland Islands are. Maybe you could go visit! (ahem, a Serenity travel agent can handle the details.)

If you do go, be sure to share your adventure with us in the comments.

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Category: Adventure, Plug  | Tags: ,
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