Där sjöng en fågel på lindekvist (Finnlandish song)
The goal - a tour on Saimaa Canal.
August 1-5, 2004
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Sunday August 1
At 1.30 PM a Bollnäs-bus left the terminal in Ljusdal with Russia as the goal. When more passengers had been picked up after the road we were 37 people including the Swedish guide "Dacka" and the driver Mats.
A summer Sunday - people swimming in the river, the wind went over the barley fields and making silvery greenish lights. The second harvest of hay.
Stockholm harbour - embarking the ferry Silja Festival. We had a rich buffet with lots of different kind of fish, cold and hot dishes and desserts. Barrels with taps for wine, beer or non-alcoholic beverages, just what you wanted!
Monday morning waking up on the sea in Turun archipelago and arrival at Turku at 8 AM (Finnish time). Our bus left the harbour at a quarter past eight. Our guide told some facts about the houses we passed, e.g. the castle and the University. Turku is the oldest town in Finland.
Our bus went the main road to Tampere through the flat agricultural landscape. A short cut on a smaller road between Kylmäkoski and Toijala was much more interesting than the main roads. Here we saw glimmering lakes, villages and houses in gardens. The landscape was more undulating.
Arrival at Iittala where the glass factory had started in 1881. This visit was a disappointment. There was no guided tour ordered. In the museum the history of the factoring was illustrated on the windowpanes. But all the text was in Finnish, a language I don't understand. The factory shop had a rich display of articles from all the factories in the cooperative group. A typical tourist trap!
On the road again, the main road to Lahti. Soon the nature was different, a forested undulating landscape, fairly alike the landscape in our home county Hälsingland, pine heath. Even the flora on the roadsides was like that at home.
We drove up to the great Stadium in Lahti and felt dizzy at the sight of the ski jump. We had a pause in town for lunch at the market square. Lahti definitely is a Finnish town, most people did not speak English at all, and of course not Swedish. We were not especially lucky in finding some nice food.
The tour must go on. The main road to south-eastern Finland by the undulating hilly pine heath landscape named Salpausselkä onto Lappeenranta. We had a good hotel Lappee.
After a common dinner we had a walk around one of the well-cared cemeteries for the fallen soldiers during the wars in the 20th century. A nice warm evening, 23C and no winds.
In this town you find a castle from the Swedish time. It is now a garrison station.
Tuesday August 3 Early morning with the aim to avoid the queues at the Russian border. We had a very nice woman as our guide. She talked Swedish, Finnish and Russian, sincere especially in the contacts with the border police.
The first sign that we were going towards a border was the Finnish Toll Station. On our side of the road there was a blue-white barrier, on the other side there was a red-green barrier. The arrangement of our guide with the early start had the result she had wished. We were the first tourist bus at the passport control. Our group had a common one-day visa for Russia. Our passports were controlled at three different stations, at one of these we had to be out of the bus for about one hour. That was very fast, really a record due to our guide! We were allowed to embark at 9 AM Finnish time, that is 10 AM Russian time. The third time zone on our tour!
Arriving in Vyborg we had sex hours until the boat was leaving. I felt a bit afraid at the thought of staying so long time in a town where I did not know the language or was able to read anything in the signs. Russia is using a different alphabet, not the Latin one we use. But when we had a fixed time and place for the reunion I felt better.
At the arrival we passed a beautiful house from the Swedish time centuries ago - the old town hall. In front of that house was a statue of Torgils Knutsson who founded the town and the castle in 1293. We made a tour with the bus around the central parts of the town. Our guide presented some of the buildings. Among others she mentioned that most of the official buildings seem to be fairly well maintained, but we saw some earlier beautiful houses in decay. The residential houses are very often in a miserable state.
Our bus was left in a guarded parking near the Market Hall. Beside you find the characteristic Round Tower, a remainder of the former town wall. In front of this tower was a large market. Sellers and beggars, old women, children and young mothers carrying babies immediately surrounded our bus. But our driver did not open the bus until the guides were back. They had gone to the bank to change money for those of us who wanted their help with that. It is forbidden to use other values than Russian rubles. We were warned to use our euro even if the sellers mostly say their prices in that value.
When we had got our money we made a common walk through the Alexander Park to the Red Square where we see a statue of Lenin. In this town he is still allowed to remain. Then Roland and I walk around and saw the library, a building in decay made by the famous architect Alvar Aalto in the 1930th, situated in a neglected park, and passed a wall overgrown with grass, turned around a corner and finally arrived to Church of the Glorification of Christ, a shining white orthodox church with golden cupolas. The iconostasis inside was just under repair but the area under the dome was like the hall of most orthodox churches with many small altars and burning candles, and lots of people moving around. We had a quiet time there.
In the parks plantations and lawns were mostly very badly cared. In one place we saw some young people raking the grass that had probably been mowed by hand. Large puddles of water told us that they had had much rain even here, but this day we had brilliant sunshine and temperature up to 27C in the afternoon.
We walked down to the Market Place looking for a place to get something to eat. But we did not find a homely place so we bought bananas and newly baked bread and water in the Market Hall, and then sat down under the trees in the park, observing the people and the commerce in the Market. We had a walk along the riverbank and then went to the assemble spot. The bus drove us to the boat station that is situated near the castle. A man was playing the Swedish national anthem on a trumpet when we arrived. Then he played many Swedish tunes. There are different ways to try earning a living!
Roland was very tired, and that was as plain as ever so the guide came up to him and helped us to pass the passport control and embark the ship before all others. A very nice and caring woman!
The ship M/S Karjala is going up and down Saimaa Canal between Vyborg and Lappeenranta with tourists. This canal was opened 1856. Between 1963-1968 it was modernized and repaired. Now there are 8 locks, 5 on the Russian side and 3 on the Finnish. The area around the canal is managed by Finland. It is leased for 50 years and the contract is written until 2013. The canal is using the many lakes in this area. The height is near 76 metres.
The tour is five and a half hour. We had dinner onboard. The day was extremely lucky with no winds, sunshine and temperatures between 22C- 25C. No pass control on board. The control had been before we could embark the ship. But still we observed a difference when we had passed the border to Finland. On the Russian side the banks were just forest. But on the Finnish side there were houses and pasture land, and a walk along the canal where we saw people going with dogs when we came near Lappeenranta. Just as we had left the canal and came out on the large lake Saimen the sun was setting. Brilliant!
Wednesday August 4 Depart for Helsinki at 9.30 AM. We had to pass this lasting transport on main roads to get in time. Mostly the road passed pine forests. Our Swedish guide told some facts about those old Swedish towns we did not see along the coast. Here in the old Swedish area Nyland the road signs has two languages - Swedish/Finnish.
Helsinki is the capital that is still having trams! We arrived to the central Senate Square in Helsinki and had about one hour for strolling around and look for something to eat. Roland and I found a nice place in the crypt of the Lutheran Cathedral where we had coffee and sandwiches. We sat down in peace and enjoyed the atmosphere.
We had a guided tour around the town for two hours with a local guide. He apparently knew everything about all buildings and pointed out authorities, embassies, churches, hospitals, etc. and mentioned the name of the architect. We visited the Temppeliaukio Church, the famous church that is built inside the cliff, we visited the Sibelius Monument, saw many famous sculptures, the large beaches in the capital, The Olympic Stadium and lots of other things, most of this from the bus windows. The parks are very well cared for in Helsinki, contrary Vyborg --!
At last the bus drove up in front of the terminal for the ferryboats to Stockholm. Silja Symphony was waiting to carry us home to Sweden again. That is a giant ferry with shops, restaurants etc. A tourist experience in itself! But one time is enough for me. Our cabin was cosy and roomy and we slept all night.
Thursday August 5 a bright and sunny morning through the archipelago of Stockholm. We arrived the harbour at 9.30 AM Swedish time. Our Bollnäs-bus left at ten o'clock for Hälsingland, a fairly sleepy ride. We had a real downpour rain when we were near our goal but luckily that was over until we arrived Ljusdal. And soon we were at home again in Hansegården. Open up all the windows to let fresh air in!
But we were astonished when controlling our rain measuring at home - no rain at all during the days we had been away. This summer the weather really is characterized as "local showers" and our place has got nearly no rain. So we will still have to water our garden.
Some inpressions The boat tour at Saimaa Canal was very fair, and the weather was beautiful. As this canal is situated so far away we had long time bus drives mostly on not very interesting roads.
The town of Vyborg was a new experience for me. It seems to be a poor town and many old buildings are in decay. To be a tourist in a town where you don't know the language or the alphabet gives special qualifications.
Names on places in Finland. - in this diary I have tried to use the Finnish form. In the Swedish diary I use the Swedish form when there is one.
Vyborg is the Russian form of the name of this town. The Swedish form is Viborg, the Finnish is Viipuuri.
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Bakgrund, foto och text av ©Ingegerd 2004