In this long weekend trip, we will be exploring landmarks and locations relating to 3 centuries of foreign intervention in Finland : from the Great Northern War in the 1700’s, to the Cold War in the 1950’s and up to this day

I have been working on this trip for a very long time, researching history, exploring locations, and piecing together a narrative of epic proportions. It’s all about Finland : a country synonymous with peace, but whose unfortunate location at the northern border between East and West has seen it turn it into a battlefront of empires for the last 3 centuries.

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Trenches in suburban Helsinki

Swedish, Russians, Germans, and Soviets have trodden this land, sometimes as allies, often as enemies. And yet through blood and toil, through civil war and conflict, Finland emerged independent and free. This is an explosive, poignant and less known story that deserves to be told. It is a legendary tale of terrible odds and improbable hardships, of folkish innovation and unwavering spirit. Its result has defined modern Finland, the country we will get to know up, close and personal during this trip.

Such an astonishing story, however, deserves to be presented in absolute perfection. So ahead of a full launch later this year, I am putting together a final expedition, a sort of trial run before the main event launches in late 2019. It’s won’t be for the faint-hearted : It will be cold, and maybe snowy. You will miss the sunlight, and it could be hard to know where the sky ends and where the landscape begins. The woods will be dark, and the lakes still unthawed after the long winter.

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Winter War Flak Tower

What we will see

The narrative will take us through 3 centuries of history and conflict. I will recount the origins of Finland’s existence as a sovereign state, and explain the conflicts  and hardships the Finns endured to secure it. Here is a sample itinerary of the interesting locations we will visit to relate the story :

Day 1 : We will arrive in Helsinki and muster at the port. Hopping on a boat, we’ll spend several hours exploring Suomenlinna, the sprawling Swedish-era sea fortress that has guarded Helsinki harbour for centuries. We will discuss Finland’s national  emergence in a backdrop of war and conflict, and its important role in 18th century geo-politics, while exploring fortifications and tunnels, see bastions and naval batteries, and even enter an old coastal submarine.

In the afternoon, we will continue our exploration in suburban Helsinki, visiting a number of obscure historic locations. We will see a number of  abandoned trenches,  a civil war grave, as we transition from Russian Imperial times to the episodes of the Finnish Civil War, that led to Finland’s independence in the aftermath of the October Revolution in Russia. Afterwards, we’ll visit the abandoned flak towers in Rajamaki, and talk about Finland’s 1939 Winter War epic where Finland faced an overwhelming Soviet invasion, and won a series of incredible tactical victories. We will be discussing interesting aspects such as Orders of Battle, engineering, tactics, and equipment to bring these epic stories to life.

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AA Battery in the fog

Day 2 : We will make our way to Hanko, where we’ll understand the resulting effects in the aftermath of the Winter War, and the beginnings of Soviet intervention and presence in Finland : there will be monuments, tanks, and bunkers. We’ll talk about the Soviet enclave at Hanko, and the protracted siege of the city during WW2. Then we will discover the abandoned German Internment camp, and hear the complex story of the Continuation War, where Finland found itself in a precarious position : Deploying a carefully balanced political posture, they fought against USSR and the Allies as co-belligerents with Nazi Germany with a view to reclaim their territories lost during the Winter War. At the end of this conflict, Finland again found itself in the impossible position of switching sides again and betraying the Germans, as a prerequisite for peace with the USSR. It was now demanded that their former co-belligerents had to be expelled, sometimes forcibly, from Finnish territory. We will visit the site where they were interned as prisoners of war.

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Signs of Soviet Cold War presence

Day 3 : We will spend the last day of the expedition inside the Porkkala Parenthesis, the territory ceded by Finland to the Soviets as a prerequisite for peace. There are several interesting remains of the the Soviet Cold War presence : Buildings, airbases, bunkers, cemeteries and other places of interest. Here, we unfold the final chapter related to Finland’s Cold War history, the ultimate sacrifice in the country’s long road to independence.

Where will we stay

You can forget about modern comforts and trendy restaurants. The aim is to experience the hardship and ingenuity of Finnish culture first hand, by staying at a frosty lakeside cabin in the heart of the woods. There will be no electricity, no shower, and no stove. We will have to chop our own wood, start our on fire in the fireplace, use petrol lamps and candles at the night, grill our own dinner, and dry clean ourselves in the sauna – the traditional way. We will be clearing our minds in the silence and tranquillity of the forest – and try to not attract the attention of bears and elks. We will draw water from the lake, and sleep in hard bunk beds – sleeping bags will be required.

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Abandoned Soviet airfield

We will take lunch on the go – the Finnish staple of dried Silka fish, Karelian pies, smoked salmon and rye bread. We will also stop at traditional or historic locations, such as the Four Winds Cafe, once owned by Marshall Mannerheim – the legendary Finnish military leader and statesman himself.

So don’t worry, we won’t go hungry, or cold. And if you’re comfortable with the lack of comfort and abundance of history, be ready for a memorable, genuine adventure in Finland this spring.

Pricing

The price of the tour is £300 per person.

Full prepayment will be required. 75% refundable until Sunday the 14th of April 2019. A full refund will be offered in case the expedition won’t go ahead.

The price includes :

  • 2 nights log cabin accommodation in a bunk (including taxes)
  • Breakfast and two meals per day (including one drink per meal)
  • Transport in a private car
  • All entrance fees and public transport tickets
  • An experienced, passionate, knowledgeable, tireless, and fun driver/guide (that’s ME !!)

The price does not include

  • Flights to Helsinki
  • Airport Transfers
  • Additional drinks
  • Personal expenses such as additional services, shopping, gifts or souvenirs
  • Depending on your flights, additional Thursday night’s accommodation in Helsinki (upon request) from £50 per person per night (indicative on Airbnb)

We will travel as a small group of 4 persons max. The aim is to keep it small, and personalised.

Contact me at explore@explorabilia.co.uk for further info and reservations. I am looking forward to welcome you to A Lion Rampant : Expedition to Finland this spring!

 

 

 

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