More history

Our host at the b&b is also the caretaker of the nearby church, called The Church of St. Mary, Saltvik.

Some of the excavations show use of the site since Viking times, and that it was used as a “landsting” or the parliamentary assembly location in Åland in the Middle Ages.

What we could see when we were there has some elements from many ages, starting with 1200s (the tower, porch and nave). Some of the wall paintings date from that age, although much of the church has been added onto and altered through the ages. The last restoration, 1956-7, restored the church close to its original shape and design.

There is a door high on one wall, and historians have puzzled about its possible use for many years. New discoveries indicate that the door was used primarily in the Middle Ages when priests were delivering the stories of the Bible to an illiterate population, so they dramatized many of the teaching stories from the Bible. In those dramas, the high door was used to deliver angels to earth, and to exit saved souls to the heavens.

Martin also told us that in its original form, the church had no windows on the north side, which was considered “the devil’s direction.” Thus no windows, and also women were seated on the north side of the churches. Quite rude, I thought.

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On to Åland

The ferry ride was blissfully uneventful, and beautiful. Our weather has been spectacular and everyone is remarking on how unusual it is. Lunch aboard was included in the ticket, as well as a cabin where we changed into biking clothes as we were off the ferry and onto bikes immediately, for our ~20 mile ride to Kvarnbo.

Rented bikes from the lovely folks at Ro-No Rentals in our ferry port, Mariehamn; bags were taxied to our b&b (for what I felt was an exorbitant 45 Euros); and we began the trundle up past Godby to Kvarnbo. The islands are part of Finland politically, but the language is Swedish, so we have small familiarity with the signage and map language. Happily, the currency is the euro, AND everything seems to be less expensive here than it was in Stockholm.

Passed a lovely church and a restoration of a Viking village along the way.

The lovely folks at the Kvarnbo Guesthouse (Ella and Martin) welcomed us and our bags were already in room 14 upstairs, a huge room with bath en suite. More on the history of the building later. They recommended the Stellhagen Brewery for dinner, and were kind enough to motor us over there. As we left for dinner, Ella, a classically trained violinist, was with her Celtic band, auditioning a new member who plays banjo, accordion, harmonica, a d is a great vocalist, too. We enjoyed some of their rehearsal from the lawn.

Amazing dinner, amazing place, amazing beer (and we indulged to have two!)! Got a brewery tour from Christian, but I didn’t have my iPhone with me, so pix of the place will have to await desktop computer download.

Here’s a slurry of photos from our long day yesterday, Monday, our first Åland day “a la bicyclet.”

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