- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2004

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Traveling through the archipelagos of Sweden and Finland means experiencing new flavors and food traditions.

In a bid to attract tourists to the spectacular Baltic Sea islands between these northern neighbors, a project was started in 1996 that treats visitors to local cuisine while helping residents make a living.

Mixing trends with more traditional recipes, the restaurateurs of the almost 2,000-square-mile archipelago are using local ingredients — fish caught fresh daily from the Baltic, vegetables raised on nearby islands and lamb from local breeders, as well as wine and liquor from small Finnish vineyards and distilleries.

“Good food is an essential part of the archipelago experience,” says Marika Sundqvist, an official of the project dubbed Skaergardssmak, or A Taste of Archipelago.

The project was started to increase jobs in the islands, which run from the Swedish capital, Stockholm, in the west to the Aland Islands — the natural center of the archipelago — and onward to the districts of Turku and Hanko on the Finnish mainland.

Participants include 33 restaurants, 31 craftspeople, 20 food suppliers and 21 shops. They’re spread evenly across the archipelago, with 33 members in southwestern Finland, 34 on the Aland Islands and 38 in Sweden.

Some restaurants are big and stylish, while others are more like small boathouses. Many are open throughout the year, with fall and winter becoming increasingly popular; hovercraft and small boats can manage to navigate the ice-encrusted water.

Tourists can buy a 16-day archipelago pass, which gives them unlimited boat travel through the whole area.

With Stockholm as a base, the card can be used for day trips or more extensive excursions, including spending a night or two at one of the many bed-and-breakfasts, hostels or hotels.

Some islands also have campsites, but others feature nothing more than a natural harbor; some are uninhabited.

Several passenger ferries run between Stockholm and Aland, where the islands can be explored on bike or by car.

From Aland, some ferries continue on to the Finnish-owned part of the archipelago; travelers who venture there will be rewarded by the sight of wind-swept pines, ocher-colored homes, and cliffs rubbed smooth by the waves.

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