St Petersburg · travel

An Autumn Day in Lappeenranta, Finland

where's St Pete, I say?

Where’s St Petersburg, I say? I thought it was somewhere in the North-West of Russia, right? Well I don’t see it! It’s been fun trying to distinguish the city in all this mist looking out from the 23rd floor in the morning – and to fail. =) This post will interrupt for a bit the Greece series and tell you about the autumn in … no, not in St Petersburg but in Finland. It’s my second time this year that I travel to one of the nearest cities in Finland (and the EU), Lappeenranta.

Lappeenranta

I was there in April when everything was decorated for the Easter. I think I liked the appearance of the city more in spring but this time I could also enjoy the trip. Notwithstanding the minor things like going there with a bus full of hard-core shoppers and seeing cars with St Pete numbers on their plates everywhere. I mean the nature, the port and the old fortress, the things that filled the three hours we had to spend in the city.

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I had more luck with the weather for sure this time – now that I’m reviewing the photos from that day in April. This time I avoided even looking into the shops – to save some nerves when seeing the crazy Russian shoppers all over the place 🙂 Well, I used to go to Finland for that purpose too (but at least not for the shopping ‘business’, when you buy things there and then resell them in Russia) but now that we have almost all the brands a common shopping mall would have in Europe…

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So we’re in the fortress now, the place which defended the city from Swedes and where there’s an Orthodox church. And lots of buildings converted into various art workshops, shops and museums. The fortress stretches down to the port where there are more of the disused buildings turned into restaurants and a pottery.

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The view from the place was especially… special that day as there were dark clouds in the sky with occasional sun peeping through them – and all that was hanging above the woods dressed in the already fading colours of autumn.

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Compared to St Petersburg and its region, Finland is a much more rocky place – some of its roads are literally cut into the stone. The nature is tough-looking with rough weather conditions but the particular clarity of the colours creates the sophisticated beauty of the place. Our region called Karelia has a similar landscape. And similar traditional rye pies : )

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And well you know, those Nordic people just KNOW how to fit in all these tiny details to make their rough-looking living place into their comfort zone. i don’t like the modern urban architecture anywhere in the Finnish cities but I do like how they reconverted all these old wooden and brick houses into a cozy art & culture center.

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As I said, Lappeenranta is just several hours away from St Pete so there’s no surprise when you see signs in Russian rather than in the second official language in Finland – the Swedish. I was glad to find another language in the city:

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 It’s from this ‘thingy’ in case you were wondering.

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The fortress has this very strange aura about it – it looks a bit abandoned and yet there are people working there, also constructing something. There are tables and chairs and there are essentially Russian tourists walking around at leisure.

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I probably have to explain to you that the Finnish visa is the easiest way to get to the EU (Shengen zone) countries. But in order to be on good terms with the country, you have to have Finnish customs stamps next to your visa. Otherwise you will have to find another EU country to get the access to travelling throughout Europe.

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Meanwhile I descended into the port area, enjoying the small boats and the view on the Saimaa lake. They say Finland rents a part of the lake which now belongs to Russia for over a million euro a year and it also assumes the responsibility to do all the road works. Ha, and then Russians go to Finland and spend all these euro in the malls and come back again.

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I like this boat – it even has a bike in the same dark blue and white colours.

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Lappeenranta means the shore of Lapps people. Yes, those who live in Laplandia, the land of Lapps (aka Sami).

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I was standing on top of a small look-out tower enjoying the sun, the view and home-made sandwich (rye bread seems very appropriate for these Nordic places).

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Reaching the other end of the port I decided to walk through the fortress once more.

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I like this large white house (compared to the rest of the buildings) and the tiny stone ‘tower’ on the ground.

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This building looks very Russian to me (and yes, we used to rule Finland…)

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In spring there were buckets of yellow flowers everywhere – this time there were brown leaves and pots with autumn plants.

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And there was this angel praying for something. I wonder what for exactly?

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Last glimpse of the city before we hopped on our bus and were off to the border, to get our exit stamp on the visa and enter the Russian territory rented by Finns. Such a globalised world we live in! : )

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I’m off to Chelyabinsk this time, that very meteorite city far away from St Petersburg. Let’s see what impression it will make on me!

G.

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