🇦🇽 Access to the forgotten nation of Åland

🇦🇽 Aland Islands (2020)

Diary Entry

It is remarkable. While I left Germany anxiously, where precautionary measures regarding Corona were taken everywhere, you seem to have arrived here on another planet. Even if it feels like there is no Corona here, the numbers speak a different language. It’s just being ignored.

We spend the night south of Stockholm in Älta with Couchsurfer Steve. We would have camped in the park too, but for once it is raining today. We have some time to explore the city before Steve picks us up.

At five o’clock in the morning we leave for the ferry on our next adventure.

Åland is part of the EU and theoretically this archipelago in the Baltic Sea belongs to Finland, although only Swedes live there. But the country is autonomous with its own parliament, its own economy and domestic politics. No one is allowed to enter the country at the moment because of Corona. So we have to find a solution to still visit this unusual country, which is just around the corner and can be easily reached by ferry. During the research we find a website of the German embassy and an honorary consul of the Federal Republic of Germany with name and mobile phone number. We have an idea.

Why don’t we ask the lady for an interview on … a topic. We write to her on Whatsapp that we are German journalists and that we are doing a report about Åland in Corona times and that we want to interview her. She is interested and agrees, but we haven’t found an appointment yet. We book tickets, take the ferry and, as expected, are intercepted and stopped by the border police. We have to justify our stay.

Sure, we explain our report’s intention and say that we want to interview the consul of Germany. We give him the number, he calls the woman and talks to her for five minutes, then he calls a colleague and calls her again for five minutes and then … “Welcome to Åland”. We really did it.

Out on the street, we also start putting people in front of the camera and asking about them and the personal and general effects of Corona in Åland. We are really doing a report that we want to publish.

We find shelter with Couchsurfer Jonas, a lovely middle-aged guy who, however, has been severely affected by the corona crisis professionally and who is about to give up his life in the capital Mariehamn. He takes the time to show us around the island and tell us a lot about the history. There is even a medieval castle and the ruins of a fortress used by Russian occupiers during the modern era.

The first we get to know Melker, a young man who does the job of the harbor master and also plays in the national curling team. He tells us about his love for sailing in the archipelago and the lack of tourists, which hits the island hard. But he is sure that his country will survive it.

A lady named Ann in a craft shop is also excited to talk about herself.

Harry Jansson is the Deputy Chief Minister of the Government. As we stroll to the government headquarters, register there and ask if anyone there would like to speak in front of our camera, he agrees. He makes a nice statement about the situation and is confident that if it only gets back to normal soon, it will turn out well.

In a café we get to know the young Olivia. She is a passionate blacksmith and is working towards opening her own art café with a wine tester and a baker. Corona is bad for them at first because they have to wait for the crisis to begin.

Jonas is also available for our interview. He used to be a large music producer who already participated in the Eurovision Song Contest and then switched to IT. His employer in the shipping industry went bankrupt because of Corona and Jonas has to orientate himself to Finland.

We get to know Per-Ole as soon as we enter the island. He used to be a tourist guide and speaks good German. He has to wait and see how things go from here.

Thanks to Katarina Mörn, we came to the country and are allowed to interview her. She is German, but has lived on the island for decades. Her main job is also a tourist agency, of course she is very affected by Corona.

The town of Mariehamn is pretty. There is a small town center with a pedestrian zone. In the summer there are even big music festivals in the small town, which attracts thousands of visitors. A historic German sailing ship lies in the harbor: the Pommern.

In the country people are a bit surprised to see us, but they treat us like heroes, we are the only tourists, everyone is happy to see us and our interest.

We ended up doing interviews with people on the street, in shops and cafes. We had the honorary consul of the German representation of the Federal Republic of Germany and at the end even the minister of the Chancellery in front of the camera. Everyone wanted to be there. The word got around that even the border police said goodbye to us when we had to start our return journey to Sweden.



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