A high number of men remember Kuuskajaskari as a place where they served their time in the army some decades ago. The days in the old military island might have felt painful at the time, but today, those days are just a series of golden memories from their teenage years.
For me, a woman, who didn’t go to the army, hardly ever listens to the sea weather forecasts nor lived back in the 1960s, the name of the old military island Kuuskajaskari stands for an adventure.
The archipelago of Rauma is full of hidden treasures. Kuuskajaskari is one of the best ones. No matter how many times I step my foot on the island, every single time I experience a different kind of adventure.
No matter how many times I step my foot on the old military island Kuuskajaskari, every single time it reminds me of how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place as Rauma.
What is Kuuskajaskari?
Kuuskajaskari is a 27-hectare island resting in front of my hometown, Rauma, on the South-West Coast of Finland. You can spot it quite a far away, thanks to the two watching towers that reach above the tall treetops. If you’re sailing pass, you can’t miss the cannons that are standing on the top of the rocks, pointing at the sea. Some of them are still functioning.
The distance between Kuuskajaskari and the mainland is four kilometres. I can easily reach the old military island with my kayak within half an hour. There is a small harbour where you can sail with your boat, but if you don’t have one, you can get to Kuuskajaskari in summer with a water bus or a taxi boat.
Both livestock and sharecroppers have inhabited the island since the 1700s. The first defence structures were built to Kuuskajaskari during the World War I. The coast cannons were placed on the island at the time of the Winter War to protect the harbour of Rauma. After the wars, Kuuskajaskari with its fortress, bunkers and cannons were taken over by the Finnish Army.
The old military island Kuuskajaskari was the place where hundreds, if not thousands of Finnish men served their time in the army. Many of them return to Kuuskajaskari every summer to look back at those times. The rest of us, who have never been to the army or did it somewhere else, return to Kuuskajaskari time after time to learn, hike and explore.
Kuuskajaskari – An adventurous travel destination
The army stayed in the island until the end of the 1990s. After the military period, the development of tourism started. Today, you can lunch, dine and sleep in the old barrack buildings that are whispering stories from the past. You can even play laser tag in authentic surroundings.
When the laser tag arena was opened in 2015, I was working in the local newspaper as a journalist. I had a little test drive in the newly-built arena, and you can watch a video about it here.
Besides laser tag, you can play paintball, try out shooting, descend the watching tower with a rope and even play bubble soccer (what is bubble soccer? See this post).
Kuuskajaskari is also home to cute sheep
During the summer season, a herd of sheep is pasturing in Kuuskajaskari. Previously they’ve been inside a fenced area, but this year (2017), the sheep were intelligent enough to escape. No matter how many times they were put back inside the fence, they always got away. Eventually, there was no other option but to let them walk freely around the island.
The sheep are kind and cuddly. At first, it might feel scary when a group of rams is running towards you full speed. But they only run because they’re in such a hurry to beg you to scratch behind their ears.
There’s nothing to be afraid of, but if you’re travelling with a dog, remember to keep your pet on a leash. We don’t want anything bad happening to the cute summer residents of Kuuskajaskari.
If I was told to give you one, and only one, tip to Kuuskajaskari…
…it would be this one: Walk the Kuuskajaskari Trail! And give it enough time. Even if the trail isn’t too long, only a couple of kilometres, there’s so much to see and explore that you don’t want to rush through it. The bunkers, cannons, trenches and other war-time structures – not to mention the sea views – offer a great adventure.
The nature trail is marked with yellow spots on the rocks and trees. The information signs are unfortunately in Finnish only, but if you’re interested, you can book an English speaking guide to go around the island with you.
When you’re standing on the rocks, you can spot the Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse. The water buses and taxi boats can also take you there after you’ve explored the old military island. In Kuuskajaskari, you’ll get the best views if you climb on top of the tower, in case you can handle the steep steel steps.
Besides the military structures, you can find several places for barbecue along the trail. Another option is to lunch or dine in the restaurant with a large outdoor terrace that is working in the main barrack building. Even if you weren’t hungry, I’d recommend you to step inside the building. The cosy rooms are full of memories from the military years in the form of furniture, photographs and other interesting items. The staff is also happy to share their knowledge of the history of Kuuskajaskari.
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