What is a German type-II U-boat doing as a museum on the shores of Helsinki’s Suomenlinna Sea Fortress? Here’s the story. Built by the Dutch in 1931, Vesikko was a secret submarine built for experimental purposes for the German Navy. It was built in secret in Finland because, after World War I, the Treaty of Versailles officially banned Germany from making armaments.
In 1935, however, the Finnish Defence Forces bought Vesikko submarine, and its navy successfully used the sub to protect Finland against encroaching Russia during World War II. After the second world war, under the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, Finland was banned from keeping submarines and was ordered to sell its little fleet of five to Belgium for scraps in 1953. The only submarine left in the country was Vesikko. But what does “Vesikko” mean? It’s the Finnish name for the European mink. After all, both submarine and animal are small predators.
One of the most advanced submarine designs of its time, a visit inside is quite a shock to the modern visitor. By today’s standards, the submarine is tiny, and it’s fascinating to be able to go inside to see and touch everything, imagining just how a 20-man crew would have fit in its claustrophobic walls at the time. One of Suomenlinna’s main attractions, Vesikko submarine receives nearly 30,000 visitors a year.
The sub is open daily from mid-May until the end of August from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance costs 5 EUR. To reach the Suomenlinna island, a public ferry can be taken from Kauppatori.