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Keep the Samovar Boiling

Lappeenranta in southern Karelia is another almost-in-Russia moment, but it sees itself as Karelian before any other nationality. Until the Continuation War Vyborg (now Russian) was part of Finland and the links are still very close. There's several boats a day touring between Vyborg and Lappeenranta, delivering nostalgiac visitors to both cities.

In Lappeenranta you see tha Russian influence with the language spoken on the streets and blinis on the menu. My favourite spot was the Kahvila Majurska that reminded me of a Russian teahouse right down to the boiling samovar and tsarist furnishings. But as you examine the walls the war hero portraits are of Finns and then there's the oceans of coffee (Finns famously average 7 cups a day) that make it not a Russian teahouse. This is what makes a border town - the seeping together of cultures as nations can't seem to hold back these cultural overlaps.

Unfortunately for me they do hold back people who don't have visas so I forgo the cruise to Vyborg with a hundred nannas who are juiced up on too much cake from the Majursk. Probably best to avoid that sugar low when it hits.

Instead I wander over to Hiekkalinna, the annual sandcastle built for summer and washed away by autumn's rains. This year it's a Wild West theme complete with a sand saloon and train hold-up using a billion sculptured grains. There's even a John Wayne-like character sinking into the artificial dunes. I can't help but wonder what the Russians make of all this.

Sauna-o-meter: 7 - a rather fancy hotel venue including TV and mini-bar which was marred by some drunken Russians.
False Finnish Friends: The frequently seen Ale sign in shop windows might attract the odd thirtsy tourist and maybe guidebook writer), but it actually means Sale. What they do when beer is discounted I don't know.
Things you don't need to show the guidebook guy when touring your hotel: the laundry - we sorta assume you wash the sheets on a semi-regular basis. This rates with being shown how a plug works in a sink or light switches in terms of all-time boring tours.


  1. All very well to talk about Karelia and samovars and sugar-high Nanas, but did you hear the Demons pipped the Lions, the Sharks lead the Raiders at 1/2 time, and Eagles Daniel Kerr stepped on a stingray at St Kilda?

    Must be tough to keep abreast of the important stuff in all these coffee colonies up north.

  2. All good points, Anon, but what about St George's chances this year? Are Illawarra pulling them down or have they become a super team?
    Stepped on a stingray? Surely we've got to do something about this stingray issue. How many will they claim? Can't the government do something?


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