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

Upcoming tour dates : 26 – 29 September 2019, 01 – 04 May 2020, 22 – 25 May 2020

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.

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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.

Depending on seasonality, we might be able to opt for Isosaari instead, another military island fort that has been inaccessible to the general public until recently. It features interesting fortifications, casemates, barracks, a Civil War era prison memorial, the mysterious Englishman’s grave, and a torpedo test station. There’s plenty to see and do in either island, and all is linked to the A Lion Rampant’s narrative.

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 lonely civil war grave, and a hilltop flak battery 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.

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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.

In the afternoon, we’ll visit the abandoned flak towers in Rajamaki, the birthplace of the Molotov cocktail, and another important relic of Finland’s 1939 Winter War epic. Depending on seasonality, we might be able to visit the town’s obscure Industrial and Alcohol Museum.

Day 4 : We are back to Helsinki for the last day, where we will spend the morning admiring the significant architectural heritage of its western suburbs.  From the ambitious T3 urban regeneration project in Tapiola to the iconic Brutalist water towers around Espoo, to the more recent defensive architecture of a city that’s prepared for everything and the future.

Departures will be in the afternoon/evening

The Water Tower at Haukilahti

Where will we stay

We will be residing and dining in traditional style accommodations and restaurants, maintaining an authentic, historic feel at all times !

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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.

Pricing

The price of the tour is GBP750 per person sharing a twin room. The single person supplement is GBP100

The price includes :

  • 3 nights accommodation (including taxes)
  • Breakfast and two meals per day (including one drink per meal)
  • Transport in a new, fully licensed and insured vehicle
  • 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 6 persons max. The aim is to keep it small, and personalised.

A Lion Rampant will be available to book up to one month prior to departure. To declare your interest and book, I will require a 10% deposit. This will remain fully refundable until the closing date above, or in case the trip doesn’t eventually go ahead.

The remaining balance has to clear by 2 weeks prior to departure, so I can be able to begin guaranteeing the remaining accommodation, transportation and dining for the group. I will regrettably not be able to refund you within 2 weeks of departure.

Sometimes there are unexpected situations. It can happen to any of us, an emergency, or an unavoidable event. Instead of forfeiting your deposit entirely, and provided that there is a genuine reason for you to cancel at any point after a deadline, I would be happy to discuss with my suppliers about transferring the balance and reservations towards the next available tour date : I’ll be more than happy to host you at another, more convenient time !

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

 

 

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