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 : Open departure between 16/07 and 15/08 2021
A narrative of epic proportions, and 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.
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.
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 muster at the Kauppatori market by the port, where we’ll have some strong coffee in a tent, and select our lunch for the day : dried fish and meat, smoked salmon, boiled potatoes will be wrapped in paper parcel for us to take away. 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. Then we will have a picnic at the battlements with amazing sea views of the archipelago.
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.
In the evening, we will escape the city, and head west into the woods. We will stay at a wonderful, traditional B&B wooden house, where we can enjoy sauna and the magical onset of the Finnish White Night.
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.
We will take lunch at a local buffet, such as the Four Winds Cafe, once owned by Marshall Mannerheim – the legendary Finnish military leader and statesman himself. In the evening, we will retire to our traditional B&B for another relaxing night.
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.
In the evening, we will retire to our hotel in Helsinki, and get ready for the final day’s urban adventure !
Day 4 : We will spend the morning admiring the significant architectural heritage of its western suburbs. From the ambitious Modernism of the 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. We will take a luxurious buffet lunch at the top of the iconic Haukilahti Water Tower, admiring the urban sprawl of Helsinki around us.
In the afternoon, we will see some of Helsinki’s most defining monuments – at least as many as we can fit in : The modernist Tempelliaukio Church carved into granite, the humming Sibelius Monument, the Brutalist Module, the socialist realist Soviet Peace & Friendship Monument, or the mind blowing tower of the Olympic stadium, before we head for farewell snacks and drinks !
Day 5 : The last day will be free in Helsinki. Depending on whether you need to catch a flight to your next destination, I will be available to direct you to more of the city’s best kept secrets. I could join you in visiting one of Helsinki’s main sights or museums, or we can go for a memorable swim in one of the Finnish capital’s heated open air-pools. Anything goes on that morning really, depending on your mood and how much time you got !
Where will we stay ?
We will be residing mainly in traditional style accommodations, with an effort to maintain an authentic or historic feel at all times ! The tour includes 4 nights accommodation, that depending on seasonality can vary from hotels and B&Bs, to traditional log cabins. It may or may not be required to share accommodation among us, ie in case we stay at a farmhouse comprising several rooms and shared facilities. However, I will always take into account your individual preferences, and check with you prior to booking accommodation. And I will never ask you to share a room with someone else ! If you won’t be in Helsinki already, you’d have to book the previous night directly, and I could help you make arrangements.
Where will we dine ?
We will sometimes 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. There will be a choice of local restaurants we will use for dining. The tour includes a memorable buffet meal on the top of Haukilahti Water Tower.
If you’re looking to extend your trip to Russia, please check our friends Soviet Tours. In this highly recommended, nostalgic trip from Leningrad to the Arctic, Soviet Tours will take you from Karelia and Lake Onega to Petsamo in the Arctic. Click on the photo for more info
The price of the tour is £699 per person sharing a twin room. The single person supplement is £150
The price includes :
- 5 day / 4 nights accommodation (including breakfast & taxes)
- Transport in a new, fully licensed and insured vehicle
- All entrance fees and public transport tickets
- One group lunch at the top of the iconic Haukilahti Water Tower
- An experienced, passionate, knowledgeable, tireless, and fun guide (that’s ME !!)
The price does not include
- Flights to Helsinki
- Airport Transfers (can be arranged for a fee)
- Any meals and drinks (except as mentioned above)
- Personal expenses such as additional services, shopping, gifts or souvenirs
- The pre-trip overnight. An additional night(s) accommodation in Helsinki can be arranged for a fee
We will travel as a small group of 7 persons max. The aim is to keep it small, and personalised.
A Lion Rampant will be available to book up to one week 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 48 hours 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 !