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davidx Savonlinna - A travel report by David
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Savonlinna,  Finland - flag Finland -  Ita-Suomen Laani
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davidx's travel reports

Sunny Savonlinna amidst Finland's fabled lakes.

  18 votes
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Does the sun shine in Savonlinna? No doubt, but we saw enough rain to last a long time – and almost no sun! We went there on a short visit, prior to Åland, mainly to weigh up the area for a future trip. Even in the rain there was a lot to marvel at.

Ovanlinna Castle 1, Savonlinna
Ovanlinna Castle 1, Savonlinna
We have our own Lake District in England, a beautiful area of lakes and mountains in Cumbria, our farthest north-west county. I didn’t expect the Finnish Lake District to be the same but it’s hard to appreciate that any two regions given the same appellation can be quite so dramatically different! The first difference is in the contours. Many people think the whole of Scandinavia is pretty hilly, even where it’s not mountainous. This is simply wrong and the Finnish Lake District is a good example of a large area with almost an absence of contours. You read about a dramatic ridge, the Punkaharju Ridge for example and envisage something narrow hundreds of meters up. It’s narrow all right – separating two lakes by a very short distance but it’s NOT high. Even to a fervent mountain lover like me, this flatness over huge areas mainly composed of water has a tremendous appeal of its own. Secondly there’s the sheer size of the Lakes. Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater in England are all a fair size but the Finnish Lakes are vast [OK, maybe not by trans-Atlantic standards] with boats spending whole days on their journeys later in the summer. The end of May is still not summer here. I’m sure that it’s necessary to get right in by boat –or even by car – to get a true experience of the area and its wildlife, which includes a seal type unique to this fresh water area. Thirdly there’s the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, all our Lakeland towns and villages in England are built on the mainland. In Finland Savonlinna is not the only town to straddle a number of islands and this gives it something very much extra. Will we go again? Probably to somewhere else in the Lake District, since we have seen Savonlinna but, more important, a bit later in the year when the boats are up and running. We definitely felt on the edge of things and the greatest appeal would come from being well in.

Favourite spots:
Ovanlinna Castle 2, Savonlinna
Ovanlinna Castle 2, Savonlinna
Strangely enough we didn’t go in Ovanlinna Castle, which has surely to be everybody’s favourite place in Savonlinna. The reason was that it was closing early because of preparations for the Ballet Festival the following week and that it was too pricey for the short time we should have had. It’s said to be the best preserved and presented castle in Finland and, even without seeing the others, I find no problem in accepting the claim. It was built in the 15th century and was occupied by the Russians from 1743 until well into the 20th century. Its main period of activity is in July when the Opera Festival takes place over three weeks in its courtyard, attracting world class names. Look at the prices before you decide on going! There is a fine museum attached that we did visit and three museum ships are moored nearby and open for visits. This is not too pricey, so even if you don’t feel you can afford the Opera Festival - -

What's really great:
Kerimaki Church, heating 1
Kerimaki Church, heating 1
I say it was raining but the morning of our full day at Savonlinna we could hardly through it and it was big drops too. Somewhere out of the rain had to be found and a bus ride followed by a visit to an indoor attraction sounded tops. Hence we found ourselves heading for the world’s largest wooden church at Kerimaki. I can’t say the description moved me much. World’s largest wooden – so what? Actually the church belies the idea that only small is beautiful. It’s a wonderful place and we were most glad to have been. It was built in the 1840s, when the population of the area was mor than double that today. The pastor of the Lutheran Church there wanted a building large enough for at least half the population to worship at the same time and it takes 5,000 people. More difficult is the heating – one website says there is none but see photo – it doesn’t look very new???

Church exterior, Kerimaki
Church exterior, Kerimaki
We stayed at Perhehotelli Hospitz, Linnankatu 20. It’s an art nouveau building in a street with quite a few. The backs of the buildings here have fairly long gardens which lead to the path around the shore, quite near to Ovanlinna castle. Apparently the name signifies that it’s a family hotel and it’s very comfortable with all necessary facilities, including a CNN channel on the TV. Given the weather, it was disappointing that they don’t start doing meals until June but they were able to recommend two reasonably close and very good restaurants. The price at the hotel includes breakfast.
Phone: 15515120

Keimaki Church, interior
Keimaki Church, interior
This one is worth finding but I can’t locate it by name. If you follow the road from the hotel above into the town you will come to the Kaupatori or market square. Turn right here, so that you are on the opposite side of the square to the bridges to another large island. There is a substantial hotel here and the restaurant is part of it. This sounds horrendous but I bet if you do eat here, you’ll enjoy it!

Other recommendations:
Kerimaki Church, Heating 2
Kerimaki Church, Heating 2
Note that the little Kaupatori station is much nearer to the market/harbour area and to most hotels than Savonlinna station, so-called. However the latter is quite walkable if the alternative is a significant wait.
Near to the station a bridge leads over to the Back Islands, on the first of which is the casino. The one straight on and across another bridge or the almost ‘natural’ little island over a bridge to the left are worth seeing.

Also worth seeing is a free National Park exhibition in a beautiful old house just beyond the castle.

Published on Wednesday January 26th, 2005

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Sat, Jan 29 2005 - 03:24 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii david,
what a nice pictures ,which camera do u have?
very good report too

Thu, Jan 27 2005 - 07:23 AM rating by rangutan

Your reports are brilliant - honest and open, always describe a city personally and exactly according to a travellers point of view, not a local point of view, always a lot of interesting sites, experiences and views, both positive and negative. Very effective, that makes me want to visit the places you have!

Thu, Jan 27 2005 - 06:32 AM rating by ardelia

I want to visit this small town one day!! very good writing,thanks

Thu, Jan 27 2005 - 02:08 AM rating by picasso

Very nicely written with good images and info.
Keep it up and share with us some more from your travels


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