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Princess Anastasia to St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg was high on our list of destinations, but visiting in Dirona would require obtaining Russian visas, not to mention the challenges of bringing the boat into Russia. Special rules for cruise ships and certain passenger ferries, however, allow visa-free stays for up to 72 hours. So we booked a trip from Helsinki on…

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna sea fortress was built on an island group outside Helsinki in the 18th century to protect Swedish-held Finland from a Russian attack. Today much of the fort is open to the public and is a popular day-trip from Helsinki. Besides the extensive fort ruins to explore, the island also is a prime viewing location…

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was a German-dominated Hanseatic League port starting in the early 13th century and has a marvellously preserved Old Town, one of the best in Europe. The city also has an excellent maritime museum, a TV tower with great views and a wonderfully restored 18th-century Russian palace and grounds. And Tallinn…

Katajanokka Island

Katajanokka Island is home to Helsinki Marina, where Dirona berthed for two weeks, and to several large commercial docks, including the Icebreaker Base and the terminal for Viking Line ferries. The island also has some beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and a wonderful modern construct, the Allas Sea Pool, with terraced decks overlooking the harbour. On…

Helsinki City Walk

Helsinki is a city of striking architecture, both modern and traditional, including Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Modernist. The city also is full of sculptures and other works of art. As is normally our custom when arriving in a new city, we went on an extensive walking tour, this one a 10-mile Lonely Planet-inspired Helsinki “Iconic…

Helsinki Arrival

From Oro we made a two-day run to Helsinki, where we would stay right downtown for two weeks to explore the city and make trips to Tallin and St. Petersburg. We had wonderfully calm conditions for the entire run, enabling us to check out a couple of offshore lighthouses. We also passed a large fleet…

Oro

Oro has been a restricted-access military base since the early 1900s, when Russia built a fortress here, and has only recently been opened to the public as part of Finland’s Archipelago National Park. After a century of military activity, the island is full of fortifications and ruins, most open and publicly accessible. And the park…

Kokar

In 1965, baron Goran Akerhielm purchased land on Kallskar, a small island on the edge of the Baltic Sea in the Kokar island group at the southwest extreme of the Aland Archipelago. There he spent 18 years building extensive gardens and a villa where he lived spring through fall until 1983. He later donated the…

Kumlinge

Kumlinge is a group of about 800 islands in the northeastern Aland archipelago. Besides the complexity of islands to explore, a major attraction for us was an old Finnish coast guard station, now converted to a resort and marina, with a 130ft (40m) observation tower that provides sweeping views over the area. Below are trip…

Bomarsund

The Russians began building Bomarsund Fortress in 1830 as a western outpost when Aland and mainland Finland were part of the Russian Empire. The overall plan was for a massive fortified circle almost 3/4 mile (1.1 km) in diameter and extending north-to-south nearly two miles (3km) and designed to house 4,000-5,000 men. The fortress was…