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Published: August 10th 2014
Savonlinna, eastern Finland 8 August 2014
After leaving Kuopia after lunch we drove about 100 kms SE through the Lakeland Region of eastern Finland. The roads continued to be good, but the abundance of speed cameras was annoying, particularly as a lot of the speed limit was set at 80kms/hour and Mollie was capable of doing more than that!!!!
Savonlinna is stretched out on a series of islands in the middle of Lake Saimaa. Some say the town is the prettiest town in Finland. Savonlinna is surrounded by lakes and you can also go around town centre by a cruise ship. It was beautiful on this clear, summer day when we visited the town.
Our main reason for driving out to this town of 28,000 people was to see the medieval Olavinlinna (St. Olaf's Castle
) which is the city's symbol and main attraction. Built in 1475 by Danish knight Erik Axelsson to protect the eastern border of the Swedish-Danish Kalmar Union, it was named after the patron saint of knights, St. Olaf. The Russians were soon on the offensive, but the castle withstood several sieges before capitulating in 1714. The Swedes recaptured it in 1721, but lost it
again in 1743, and it stayed in Russian hands before the Finns took it over. The castle has stayed in such good shape: for the Russians, it was far inland and militarily useless, and hence not a target for the enemy either.
Today, Olavinlinna is the world's northernmost medieval fortress and easily Finland's best-preserved and most attractive, and it's quite a sight perched on the shores of the lake. The interior, though, is surprisingly small and sparse (virtually all furniture and decorations were lost in fires in around 1870). Our guided tours took one hour. We also visited the two small museums inside the castle.
We couldn't visit the whole of the castle because 1/2 of it was sealed off. Each year, a large, custom built marquee is erected, to stage a 6-week opera season ....which unfortunately finished last week. Apparently the acoustics are incredible.
We drove around the town, admiring all the lakes and lake-side activities. It was certainly a lovely town. As it was heading towards 6.00pm, we drove out of town and found a lovely forest-based spot to park for the night.
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