Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kvarken Archipelago and Vaasa

The graphic shows how the ground is rising over 4000 years.
We spent two nights in Vaasa so we had time to drive out to Finland's only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kvarken Archipelago. All the others are cultural. It was added to the UN list in 2005 when it was added to Sweden’s High High Coast across the Gulf of Bothnia. Together they show how glaciers change the landscape. Here in this Finnish archipelago, we can easily see how the land is left as a glacier retreats.

You can see old boat houses in the background.
The land has risen enough that they had to be abandoned.
Eventually these boat houses will also have to be moved.
During the Ice Age, Kvarken was under 3 km of ice. The pressure pushed the land a full kilometer below its normal level. When the glacier retreated it left behind a series of parallel ridges rising from the water. The hiking trail follows these ridges and leads to a high tower where one can get the overhead view. Called De Geer moraines these are best seen from above. What we see from ground level are the thousands of boulders left behind. Today we see them as tiny islands or rocky points protruding above the water making piloting a boat here a real adventure.

Viewing tower
Views from the tower

We can also see the evidence of the land returning to its normal level. At first it rose at about 1 meter per year. Today, the uplift has slowed to about 8 cm per year, a little over three inches. In about 2500 years this land will rise enough to fill in the part of the Baltic Sea joining Finland with Sweden by land. We see the uplift in the abandoned boat houses in the distance. The water is no longer deep enough to accommodate the boats so they have been abandoned and the entire town was moved to its present location. This will happen again before too many more years have passed.

Boat houses
Time for a snack
We bought a couple of presents from this Swedish-speaking woman.
The changing landscape also creates an interesting mix of flora and fauna with a variety of birds and 16 plant species endemic to the Kvarken. From a human perspective another unique installation here is Kalli’s Inn built to facilitate viewing the Northern Lights in winter. The bathroom has normal walls, but the rest of each cabin is made entirely of glass including the roof. While this does not create much privacy, it does provide a magnificent nighttime view of the Lights. We aren’t sure if it is open in the summer. While some of the reviews indicate it might be, the gate at the entrance was locked on the Sunday we visited.

Not much privacy, but a great view

We stopped back at our hotel to relax a bit with a glass of wine before venturing downtown to dinner. Before eating we walked along the shoreline a bit finally deciding to eat at Faro’s where we had a wonderful fresh shrimp mixture either as an open-faced sandwich or baked potato stuffing. A Napue Gin and tonic from Kyrö Distillery was the perfect pre-dinner cocktail. Our waitress spoke perfect English without accent even using proper idioms. She told us she had been an exchange student in Minnesota where she perfected her use of English. Another of the waitresses was from the Seattle area. She has moved permanently to Finland to be with her boyfriend whom she met after traveling the world for two and a half years. She says she struggles a bit with the language, but plans to stay.

Tomorrow we are off to Turku with a stop at the Sundom Crater formed millions of years ago when a large meteor landed here.

Buildings in Vaasa
This used to be the railroad station
A cute tourist train
Public art
Dinner and dessert

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