I’ve been so busy these last weeks that I only find the time now to write this post! Well, I won’t complain, I’ve been lucky to go for almost one full week to Estonia and discover the four Lights on! Project’s sites over there. I’ll talk about this unforgettable week in my next post 🙂 .
Today, I’ll tell you about my trip to Vallisaari, a lovely island located near Helsinki which has been opened to the public since this year. On the advice of my internship supervisor, Nina, I kind of decided to go there at the last minute (the day just before my departure for Estonia), as it was one of the last days where the water bus would operate before winter. I arrived in Helsinki Kamppi and found my way to the Market Square where the water bus leaves for Vallisaari. The JT-Line ticket doesn’t cost that much (7 euros if I remember well), I expected more. On the boat, I’ve chosen to sit outside, it only takes 20 minutes to reach the island but believe me, it was enough to take a big breath of fresh air (I mean cold wind!). I had only taken the boat once before and actually, I really enjoy this means of transport so common here in Southern Finland!
On my trip to Kuusisto Bishop’s Castle Ruins, I was almost alone on the bus/site, but this time, the boat was full, I was surprised! When you disembark, one of the first thing you see is a building with in front of it, one big sign called “The Headless Colonel of Vallisaari Island”. You can put your head in the hole planned for the “fallen head” and it can make a great souvenir photo (I did it 🙂 )!
I loved the work Metsähallitus did with the information boards, they are well presented and contain interesting and clear information. They have mixed old pictures of the place with new ones, great idea to help people imagining how life was on the island some decades ago. The one with the owl (on which the instructions for the visit are written) is my favorite one 🙂 . There is a guided tour in English, but I was too late for it. Anyway, discovering the island on your own by walking on the paths and reading the information boards is, I think, a wonderful and enjoyable way to “feel the place and the nature”. You can choose between 2 marked trails: the Alexander Tour and the Kuninkaansaari Island Tour, I’ve done the first one and a part of the second.
By walking along the trail, you can notice the wilderness of the place but also some ancient military buildings, as Vallisaari was the place of military service for thousands of soldiers. It was also a home and a workplace for many people (you can still notice some remains of this, like a disused swing). Many times along the walk, you will go through incredible viewpoints, among which one with Helsinki on the horizon.
After having read all the information boards, you will realize how much this place is the home to many and sometimes rare species like butterflies, bats, birds and others, and how much it is important to preserve and protect this valuable environment. This is exactly one of the main goals of the Lights on! Project, attracting visitors while protecting the sites.
Regarding the facilities, you will find many picnic places with wood tables, water points and dry toilets (I had never tried those 🙂 ).
Before leaving, when I was queuing to get in the water bus, I was quite shocked when I saw a few tens of people getting off another boat to visit the island, all with one or two alcohol bottles in the hands. This is kind of weird for me, but I’ve been told it’s common here in Finland, so next time I meet such a group, I’ll try not to look as amazed as I was this time 😀 .
I really enjoyed going to Vallisaari and if you’re looking for a trip which combines history and stunning nature, I warmly encourage you to visit this beautiful new tourist destination when the water bus operates again, it’s totally worth it!