From 1638, under Queen Kristina’s rule, the historic Postal Route ran from Stockholm to Turku and on to St Petersburg across Åland. Åland was a part of the Swedish realm then. When the post began to be freighted directly between the cities in 1910, Åland was a part of the Russian empire.
Åland farmers were responsible for transporting the post and travellers over the sea and for providing horses, accommodation and food on the way. The post was to get through all through the year, no matter what the weather was like.
There were cairns showing the mailboats the way at sea while milestones guided the postal farmers on land. Today there are information signs at interesting spots on the 65-kilometre-long route through nine municipalities in Åland.
The old mail pier in Eckerö has gone, but it was situated approximately where the stone pier is today. A visit to the Postrotemuseet will tell you about the hardships suffered by the postal farmers. It is situated in the Post and Customs House, which dates back to 1828 and was designed by the same architect as was responsible for the Senate Square in Helsinki.
In mid-June each year the Postrodden race is held, in which boats typical of the period rowed by people in peasant costume take part. The race runs between Eckerö and Grisslehamn in Sweden in memory of the postal service over the sea in Åland. About 40 crews of four take part. Every other year the race starts in Sweden, the finish line being in Åland. The race runs the other way each alternate year.
Parts of the old postal route are still in existence in Storby and Marby. After the bridge over to Hammarland, you turn down towards Marsund with its old harbour, stone warehouse and picturesque boathouse. Hammarland’s medieval church is beautifully situated by the main road.
After the turn-off to Finström you go past a well-preserved stone bridge in Bjärström. At Jomala Gölby you continue northwards over Färjsund bridge towards Saltvik. There was also a harbour and a place of execution in Haraldsby, where Ålander women were burned as witches in the 1660s. Alongside the postal route you pass Kastelholm Castle in Sund, which was the centre of power during the time when Åland belonged to Sweden.
The main post office was moved from Bomarsund at the start of the time Åland belonged to Russia, before the founding of Mariehamn in 1861. At the main road you drive alongside the foundations in Skarpans on towards the main fortress and the old mail pier, from which the post used to be rowed to Vårdö in former times.
On the way from the mail pier in Vargata towards Hullvik harbour in Vårdö there are several large shipmasters’ homesteads. The postal route then went over the water to Marskil in Kumlinge, where St Anne’s Church and Hermas museum are worth seeing.
Today both the post and people travel by Ålandstrafiken from Vårdö via Kumlinge to Brändö, which is the final destination on the Åland postal route. There is a signed cycle path from Storby in Eckerö to Hullvik in Vårdö. There are cafés, shops and places to stay along the way.