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November 12th 2015
Published: November 13th 2015
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I booked a guided one-day tour to Lappeenranta via Orienta Tour website for 750 roubles. The procedure is very simple: you leave your name and phone on their website and they call you back to communicate the details. The money is paid on the bus.

The departure was at 7-10 in the morning from Chernaya Rechka metro station. The majority of tourists embarked at Ploschad Vosstaniya which is the starting point for most excursions to Finland but I live near Ozerki metro station which is only two stations from Chernaya Rechka.

The bus was new, comfortable and full with tourists. Actually, those were not tourists for the most part but people intending to buy food products and other goods in Lappeenranta’s supermarkets. Our attendants told us a lot about those supermarkets and even a wholesale supply base. I intended to look at the products and buy something as well, if I liked it.

Our first stop was soon after crossing the Finnish border. It was Laplandia supermarket. I eagerly scrutinized the shelves but finally decided not to buy anything because I realized it made no sense. There are plenty of such supermarkets in Saint Petersburg. However, other people bought a lot. Given the almost twofold increase in the currency exchange rate, of course that makes no sense.

The Finnish and Swedish names of the city are different. The Finnish name means somewhat line “Lappee’s shore”, but the Swedish name is more interesting and unusual: it comprises two words “vildman” (a savage man) and “strand” (shore), translated as a “wild shore” or a “savage man’s shore”.

Lappeenranta is situated 26 kilometers from the Russian border so we very soon reached it. The bus drove us to a bus stop in the city’s centre and I immediately went on sightseeing. The bus would take us for the return journey from the same bus stop. The majority of people went to shopping malls, such as Iso Kristina, Prisma and Galleria. The bus stop was located near the city’s memorial cemetery where I saw a couple of interesting military monuments, a church and a bell tower. The wooden church, St. Mary’s Church of Lappee, was built in the 18th century. The view of the church, however, was a little spoiled by the construction fence and cranes on its background.

I then decided to follow the same street, which seemed the central one, to the Linnoitus (the Fortress). I saw the former City Hall building, considered the oldest timber building in Finland (built in 1829). Upon entering the fortress, I enjoyed the view of a multitude of old and timber buildings and views of grass-covered ramparts. The city seemed incredibly clean and orderly, even the fallen tree leaves were carefully collected in heaps to be disposed. I ascended one of the ramparts to an exciting panorama of the city’s marina, boats, and beautifully designed residential four-storey buildings on the far bank of the lake.

In the Linnoitus is the oldest church in Finland, the Orthodox Church of Holy Protection of Ever-Virgin Mary, dating back to 1741 when the town was seized by Russian troops. It is high time to point out a couple of facts from the town’s history, which is unavoidably linked with the history of three different states – Russia, Sweden, and Finland. Sweden and Russia disputed over the town in the XVII century. Military interest in the town was well justified because of its geographical location. The town became part of Russia in 1743. ItwashandedovertotheGrandDuchyofFinlandin 1811. The town suffered three wars in the XX century: during the Civil War of 1918, Soviet-Finnish winter war of 1939-1940, and the Second World War (1941-1944).

After I left the Linnoitus, I followed the embankment of Saima Lake, seeing many boats of various shapes and sizes stored away for winter on props under canvases. Some larger boats and cruising ships (they offer cruises on Saima Lake, Saimaa Canal and to Vyborg in summer) were moored afloat.

After all that I felt a huge urge for a lavatory, but the street ones required a payment in coins, but I had no coins (I use only my bank card on such short tours) and had to get back to the shopping mall (two of them are near each other, Iso Kristina and Galleria). The lavatory in Galleria was also paid, but free of charge in Iso Kristina. I stayed in this shopping mall for a while, then decided to walk some more before finally having a lunch in the Subway in this very Iso Krisina. I went to find another church marked on the free map I managed to pick in the shopping mall. The church was situated in a beautiful (if it can be so in late autumn with bare trees) park, a suspended pedestrian bridge leading to it above the highway. I also saw small coffee booths (kahvikioski) looking incredibly appealing and cozy in this cold autumn time.

I returned to Iso Kristina just in time to have a bite before finally boarding the bus back to Russia.

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