There are over 300 islands in Helsinki and today I conquered a new one! Vallisaari is an old military island that is slowly opening to the public. This year you can only visit it on a guided tour and still you need to have your ID with you, but in summer 2016 it will be opened to everyone.
For long Vallisaari was left alone. Only one house was used as a summer cottage, but otherwise it was nature’s turn to take over the control after the Russian and the Finnish army. Today badgers, hares, foxes, raccoon dogs, eagle owls and other birds have found their home on this closed island. The diverse flora of the islands makes the place magical – huge ferns, cliffs with a lot of lichen, different types of flowers from roses to violas and to turkish rockets – and attracts people and butterflies.
Vallisaari has an interesting, but a sad history. It is located right next to Suomenlinna sea fortress, on the other side of Kustaanmiekka strait. During the Swedish period it was used for pasturage and as the official cemetery of Suomenlinna, as the soldiers who died during the construction where buried there. When in 1800’s the Russians started to built a new defense line on islands on the shore of Finland, the construction on Vallisaari started. There is a similar ring of earthworks with artillery emplacements as in Suomenlinna. After the independence of Finland the islands where given to the Finnish army, and even though they were already old-fashioned, they were still used to storage guns and explosives. In summer 1937 a huge explosion took place and 12 people died. Due to the sad events, there are still explosives around the islands, why moving around is allowed only on marked roads and paths.
One of the highest peaks of Helsinki is on the top of one of the casemates in Vallisaari and the views are breathtaking. You can see Kustaanmiekka strait, Suomenlinna and the submarine Vesikko below and the towers of all the main churches on the horizon. I was in heaven during the whole visit, smiling like an idiot. I didn’t even notice the hard wind or the chilly weather. I just love to discover new sides of Helsinki, hear exiting stories and see my city from various angles. The island of Vallisaari and its buildings have so many stories to tell. I would love to go back, read all the writings on the old doors and take more and more pictures.