Our fourth day in beautiful Finland brought us to the capital city of Helsinki. In the morning, we split up into several groups to explore different aspects of this vibrant and historic city and its surroundings. In the afternoon, we added new activities and repeated some so that everyone had a chance to see all the highlights. Some of us went foraging for wild foods in a nearby forest, some visited the famous fortress island of Suomenlinna, and others made the trip to the Mannerheim Museum, home of Finland’s most famous soldier and statesman.
National Geographic Explorer
Christiansø and Bornholm, Denmark
A better, lovelier first expedition day would be impossible! The easternmost point of Denmark is an archipelago called Ertholmene. We landed in the early morning on this gorgeous, sunny day, and we had the islands almost to ourselves. Between photography, nature, and exploratory walks, we found many ways to get to know these picturesque little islands. Christiansø and Frederiksø are connected by a small bridge. Around 100 people live here today, but the population was around 800 at its peak. The islands were used as strategic military and trading outposts since the early Middle Ages. Territorial disputes between the Danes, Germans, and Swedes mark the islands’ history. We observed a fortress from 1684 and the remaining towers and cannons. The scenery and natural environment of the islands are absolutely fantastic, and Ertholmene has been an inspiration for poets and writers. We spotted the neighboring islet of Græsholm, a protected nature reserve. We observed grey seals loudly vocalizing while swimming and resting on the rocks. We also saw black-headed gulls, black-backed gulls, razorbills, common murres, and mute swans. The iconic eider ducks chose these islands for the protection offered to their nests. We spotted many females with chicks along the shores. In the afternoon, we anchored at Bornholm and took our Zodiacs ashore to Gudjhem. Some of us visited the impressive medieval fortress of Hammershus, the famous round churches of Bornholm, and the castle ruins. Others took a ride along the countryside’s colorful landscape to visit Bornholm’s Food Culture House, an open-air museum where we learned about Bornholm’s culinary culture. We enjoyed a very memorable visit to a family-owned business that produces organic sea buckthorn, also known as Nordic lemon. We tasted many delicious, locally-produced products and heard inspiring stories of entrepreneurship and cooperation. It was a tasty and unforgettable experience. There was so much to see in a beautiful place with such lovely and welcoming local people.