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19 tips for travelling foodies: visit these places to get a true flavour of South East Finland

In co-opetarion with Visit Kouvola, Visit Kotka-Hamina and GoSaimaa

South East Finland has some of the country’s most rugged and wild landscapes with access to excellent services. Only a short journey away from Helsinki, amidst the sounds of rushing rivers and rustling forests, you can find yourself amongst quirky cafes and excellent restaurants. We put together a list of 19 places or local delicacies that every visitor to the area should try.

1. Keisarinmaja Kahvila’s Finnish pancakes are the best in the world

📌 Address: Keisarinmajantie, Kotka
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

In 1889 the Russian Tsar Aleksander III commissioned a fishing cottage to be built in the beautiful surroundings of Langinkoski river. It ended up as a stylish villa, where the Tzar with his family and friends spent carefree summer days. These days it houses the lovely Keisarinmaja cafe, whose Finnish pancakes (thick pancakes baked in an oven served with jam and whipped cream) are reported to the be the best in the world.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

2. A cute cafe in a yellow house – with a fantastic view out to Langinkoski river

📌 Keisarinmajantie, Kotka
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

The yellow cafe on the shores of Langinkoski river used to be where the guard of the Tsar’s fishing cottage lived with his family. From the cafe terrace there are beautiful views down to the river. The cafe has lots of cozy nooks which also look out onto this view. Lunch is also available daily.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

3. Kymen Paviljonki: food, herbs, farm animals and rapids

📌 Helsingintie 408, Kuusankoski
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

If you’re travelling on Route 6 there are many good reasons to stop at Kymen Paviljonki (Kymi Pavilion). Here you can get a decent lunch as well as take a refreshing break from driving. Walk down to Kymijoki river’s shores, get to know the farm animals and explore the wonderful herb garden, where you can pick herbs to serve with your meal.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

4. Relish the campfire atmosphere in Repovesi National Park

📌 Riippusillantie 55, Kouvola
ℹ Read more

Repovesi National Park has many scenic campfire spots perfect for having a picnic in beautiful natural surroundings. You may make a fire in a designated campfire ring as long no fire warning has been issued. Firewood is provided on site.The easiest campfire meal is a hot dog barbecued over the glowing red coals served with whatever relishes of you chose to bring!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

5. Into Repovesi National Park via RepoTassu

📌 Riippusillantie 55, Kouvola
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

RepoTassu is a great little kiosk at the gate of Repovesi National park, by the Lapinsalmi entrance. Its handy location makes RepoTassu an easy place to stop off on the way in or out and prices are reasonable. There are a wide variety of refreshments available as well as lunch and coffee. You can even reserve a canoe!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

6. Orilammen Maja offers accommodation and great food

📌 Voikoskentie 138, Hillosensalmi
ℹ Homepage

Orilammen Maja is legendary in the Repovesi area. This family business has grown over the years into a whole holiday village located right by a lake with lovely views. Here you can feast until your belly is full in peaceful natural surroundings. This place is definitely worth adding to your itinerary if you visit Repovesi National Park.

Photo: Tomi Pohja

7. Historical Fortress island: Fort Elisabeth and Restaurant Vaakku

📌 Varissaari, Kotka
ℹ Homepage

The old sea fortress Fort Elisabeth is also known as Varissaari (Crow Island), and is a popular day trip destination and recreation area in Kotka. From June to August you can get there on board the ferry M/S Klippan from Kotka’s old harbour in Sapokka. The fortress was completed in 1796 and it was named after the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth Petrovna. Although the fortress itself was destroyed in the Crimean war, plenty of relics and monuments from the island’s history remain. As well as offering ‘fun dining in a stately environment’, according to their motto, Restaurant Vaakku also rents out SUP boards and a sauna boat!

Photo: Sari Selkälä

8. At Fortress Restaurant Kamu you can step into Hamina’s history

📌 Raatihuoneenkatu 12, Hamina
ℹ Homepage

Hamina’s fortress is one of the few ‘star forts’ in Finland. It was based on the one in Palmova in Northern Italy, which represented a utopian city. These types of forts are rare. Both Swedes and Russians have built hefty fortresses in Hamina. In the depths of Hamina’s Bastion, lies the atmospheric Restaurant Kamu, whose delicacies must be tried if visiting the area.

Photo: Julius Koskela

9. Anjala’s Manor House charms against a backdrop of Ankkapurha’s grand rapids

📌 Ankkapurhantie 15, Anjala
ℹ Homepage

Ankkapurha is the ancient Finnish name for Kymijoki river’s biggest rapids. Although the river has since been tamed to produce hydropower, the milieu of Anjala’s Manor House is still well worth a visit. There are walking trails in the area and all visitors are encouraged to try them and enjoy nature. Foodies should head to the Makasiinikahvila (Warehouse cafe) to sample the coffee and cake.

Photo: Julius Koskela

10. Salmiakki cheddar and hydrogen-powered cars at Kirjokivi manor

📌 Rudolf Elvingintie 109, Vuohijärvi
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

The idyllic Kirjokivi Manor and its surroundings are a sight in themselves, but once you’re there, you can fill your stomach with exotic treats. How does salmiakki (salty liquorice) cheddar cheese sound? Kirjokivi manor house is part of Woikoski Feeling – a company that provides a range of experiences in the surrounding area. The place’s special feature is the car museum, where all the cars reveal interesting parts of Woikoski’s and all of Finland’s history.

Photo: Julius Koskela

11. What on earth are Vety and Atomi? Taste Lappeenranta’s specialities

📌 Lappeenranta, South Karelia

Vety and Atomi have already gained quite a reputation. These local delicacies can be found at the hotdog kiosk, and should be enjoyed in in Lappeenranta’s urban surroundings, where they might be ordered by locals at the end of a night out. In true Finnish-style, you can wash them down with a glass of milk. Vety is a high quality meat pie, filled with either ham or egg. Atomi is filled with both.

Photo: Julius Koskela

12. Särä is Finnish food, with a thousand year history

ℹ Restaurant Kippurasarvi Homepage

Särä is the oldest dish in Finland, and its history goes back at least 1000 years. The name ‘särä’ comes from the wooden trough, on which lamb and potatoes were served. The meat rests on a bed of potatoes and is dished up with rieska (Finnish flatbread) as an accompaniment and homebrew to drink. Looks pretty good, don’t you think?

Photo: Julius Koskela

13. Melt-in-your-mouth hot smoked salmon in Lohela

📌 Karjalantie 372, Puntala
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

Could this be the world’s best hot smoked salmon? Test for yourself. Many travel from afar to buy Lohela’s smoked salmon to take home, or savour it slowly there and then. The quaint shop there has plenty of other items for sale, including delicacies and souvenirs for the traveller.

Photo: Julius Koskela

14. At Korpikeidas you can fish and meet some other animals

📌 Vesikkolantie 415, Joutseno
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

At Korpikeidas you can fish and smoke the salmon yourself. There is a wide range of fun things to do for families with children. You can also get to know the resident farm animals which include an alpaca and a peacock!

Photo: Julius Koskela

15. Pulsan Asema is an instagram hit

📌 Pulsan Aseman tie 21, Pulsa
ℹ Homepage

Pulsan Asema (Pulsa Station) is an old station building that has been converted into a cafe, interior design boutique and bed and breakfast. The station’s interior decor is very photogenic. You can see the passion that has gone into creating this place. It’s certainly deserving of its media and social media attention, but go see it for yourself!

Photo: Julius Koskela

16. Konditoria Huovila – if there was a cafe in Moominland…

📌 Fredrikinkatu 1, Hamina
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

While wandering the picturesque streets of Hamina, step into Konditoria (Patisserie) Huovila. Its colourful cakes, the cinnamon buns overflowing on the counter and light fresh interior bring to mind the coloured Moomin books from childhood. Now in its third generation of ownership, this cafe is a part of Hamina’s street views. Make sure you at least taste the crown pastries!

Photo: Julius Koskela

17. Discover Ylämaa’s spectrolite in Korupirtti

📌 Kivikyläntie 7, Ylämaa
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

Spectrolite is a dark stone that shimmers blue and gold when held at certain angles in the light. Korupirtti (Jewellery Hut) with its services is a good base for gemstone miners. Next to the hut is the mining museum and it’s also possible to go see the mine itself.

Photo: Julius Koskela

18. Mustila Arboretum fairytale forest and Mustila wine

📌 Mustilan Puistotie 21, Elimäki
ℹ Homepage

Finnish berries and fruit are known to be superfoods, but did you know that you can make wine from them? Mustila’s wine shop and wonderful garden store is near Kouvola. As well as stopping at the shop, you can go for a work in a real fairytale forest, Mustila’s Arboretum.

Photo: Milla von Konow

19. Viini Verla – a winery in a world heritage site

📌 Salonsaarentie 127, Verla
ℹ Homepage

The idyllic Verla Mill village is a world heritage site. The old groundwood and board factory’s picturesque mill buildings feel like a journey back in time, within beautiful and photogenic surroundings. When visiting, make sure you stop at Verla Winery (Viini Verla). In addition to their wine and sparkling wines, they make a variety of berry liqueurs and table wines as well as stronger alcoholic drinks.

Photo: Milla von Konow

Snowshoeing in Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Snowshoeing in the city at Kuopio? The answer is Puijo!

Sometimes you get lucky and can find just the thing you are looking for very close to you. We chose Kuopio as our destination for a winter weekend mostly because it offers plenty of great winter activities within a very short distance from the heart of the city.

Puijo Tower at Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The city’s famous landmark Puijo ridge with its iconic Puijo Tower is less than 3 kilometres from the city centre. However, Puijo is also a haven for nature lovers: it is among the oldest nature conservation areas in Finland, having been established on Puijo ridge already in 1928.

We had already had a great time kicksledding on Lake Kallavesi, straight from Kuopio’s passenger harbour. Next, we headed up to the Puijo hill for a bit of snowshoeing.

Trail signs at Puijo, Kuopio in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

We parked our car at the car park closest to Konttila Farm and grabbed our snowshoes. The map of Puijo paths indicated clearly marked paths and when we arrived at the signposts, we saw to our surprise that we would have been fine even without snowshoes: the paths were well trodden.

Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

However, very soon we abandoned the marked trail and set off to find our own way in the gorgeous, snowy forest wearing our snowshoes. The great thing about leaving your own footprints in the snow is that you can’t get lost – you can always see where you came from and retrace your steps, if necessary.

Snowshoeing in Puijo forest in winter. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The fir trees of Puijo have enjoyed peace and quiet for decades, thanks to its status as a nature conservation area. We started heading towards Satulanotko.

Snowshoeing at Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Every once in a while we stopped to gaze the trees above. Suddenly we saw something colourful behind the tree trunks: a trail runner following the path closest to us. We preferred a slower pace.

Fallen fir tree at Puijo conservation area, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

There is absolutely no logging at Puijo conservation area. However, sometimes trees happen to fall down naturally, just like this poor fir tree fellow.

Snowy fir trees at Puijo conservation area, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Suddenly we heard a strange, creaking sound pretty close to us. It took us a while to locate its source: a fallen tree had got stuck, leaning against another tree, and whenever the fir tree swayed even a bit in the wind, the contact made it sound like a creaking door.

Other than that, it was almost totally quiet. Although we were so close to Kuopio city and the distance to the closest roads isn’t great, we could hardly hear any cars through the dense forest.

When you are snowshoeing, you don’t usually need to worry about getting cold. However, when the temperature is about -18 °C, you soon get a craving for a hot drink. We turned our faces towards the beautiful winter sun and began walking back, towards Konttila Farm.

Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

You just can’t miss Konttila Farm – it dates back to 1770 and when you enter it, it feels like you are stepping back in time. The farm is open all year round and welcomes visitors to its café and nature & guiding centre. Konttila Farm is open most days until 6 pm.

Cafe at Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio. Photo: Upe Nykänen

We left our snowshoes outside and stepped into the main building. Hot chocolate? Yes, please! We began sipping our delicious cups of hot chocolate and just enjoyed the moment, listening to the fire start roaring in the traditional old fireplace.

I wonder when I will dare to try the cross-country skiing tracks at Puijo…

Konttila Farm on the map

Read next:

On a one horse open sleigh at Puijo, Kuopio

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

On a one-horse open sleigh at Puijo, Kuopio

Prancing through the snow, on a one-horse open sleigh? Come on, it’s not Xmas… Little did we expect that our day trip to Puijo hill on an ordinary winter day in February would include a sleighride!

Our main reason for visiting Konttila farm on top of Puijo ridge, only few kilometres from the city centre of Kuopio, was that there is a small café which serves also hot drinks along with a selection of sweet and savoury snacks. A mug of hot chocolate never goes amiss on a cold day like this: -18 °C.

Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The main building at Konttila dates back to 1770 and is among the oldest in Kuopio city. These days, the farm welcomes visitors on a daily basis all year round to learn about the surrounding nature as well as to its café that is located in the main building (just try the door handle). The farm is usually open until 6 p.m.

We were just about to leave the warmth of Konttila when our host asked if we’d be interested in a sleigh ride? Yes please!

Finnhorse Miilu at Konttila, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

 

Who would be doing the hard work? The 27 year old gelding Miilu (a Finnhorse) whose grandad Vieteri was a Finnish harness racing champion, just like Miilu’s uncle, an equally famous Viesker.

We walked to the end of the shed, sat down on the open sleigh and our host drew a warm blanket over our legs before we set off.

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Miilu turned towards the track and we moved swiftly on top of the crisp white snow, with the lovely winter sun shining above us from the perfectly clear blue sky.

You just can’t compare this to a snowmobile ride.

Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

The track took us round the open space, right next to the lovely, snowy forest, and at intervals, our host stopped Miilu so that we could take photos.

Sleighride at Konttila farm in winter, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

When we were getting closer to the main building of Konttila farm, we thought the ride was almost over, but now: our host led Miilu towards the small road. Finally, thought Miilu, and our sleigh picked up speed when he started trotting happily.

The lovely 15-minute sleighride really made the Puijo visit special.

Puijo tower at Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

However, our trip to Puijo wasn’t yet over. To finalize our great day on top of Puijo ridge we walked the few hundred meters from Konttila farm to Puijo Tower which isn’t just an observation tower but also has a nice restaurant/café.

View from Puijo tower at Kuopio, Finland. Photo: Upe Nykänen

Below our feet were the ski jumping tower, the downhill skiing slopes, and the forests of Puijo nature conservation area. Puijo Tower is well worth a visit as from there you can get a lovely view all over Kuopio and its surroundings, maybe even spot the location of Konttila Farm.

Thanks again to Miilu, we’ll definitely be back at Puijo!

Konttila Farm, Puijo, Kuopio, Finland on the map

A Rock like no other – the Kummakivi of Ruokolahti

In this little Finnish village called Ruokolahti, by the greatest lake of the country lies one of the most spectacular remains of the last ice age. Yes, yes we have all seen the ridges and kettle holes but this is quite something you would not expect.

There is about a kilometer long walk from the nearest point where you can leave your car. We walk through some wet areas so rubber boots or something waterproof for you feet is recommended. After crossing a clumsy looking bridge made out some branches the path finally takes some higher ground and your feet will be safe or dry at least.

We are arriving into a regular looking forest with absolutely no hints of anything special. After a while of walking it hits us by a surprise even though we had already seen the pictures beforehand.

And there it is, a massive rock standing on its own pedestal. It is not even that common to come across to a rock this size not to talk about it balancing on another rock. It seems that you’ll be able to flip it over anytime, but not even 10 000 years have done it.

Another interesting thing is that the rock beneath the other one is almost perfectly smoothened out. It looks like something you would expect to see by the sea or somewhere in the middle of great rapids, but here in the middle of the forest it just looks like it doesnt belong in here.

I’m pretty confident this is something quite unique even in larger scale. It is something you won’t come across in any other place in Finland and I doubt to find something like this anywhere. This such a peculiar rock, and that’s exactly what it’s called here in Finland: Kummakivi.

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The Salpa Line trail

The Salpa Line is the largest construction project in Finland’s history. It was created as a deterrent, so that the enemy wouldn’t dare attack. The Finns suspected that the Soviet Union, not satisfied with the territorial gains they had made during the Winter War (1939–1940), would plan another invasion.

Built at the beginning of the 1940s in preparation for another war, The Salpa Line spans more than 1000km along Finland’s eastern border. It contains a total of 728 field fortifications either made from concrete or excavated from rock. Sweden provided assistance in the construction, both financially and in the form of manpower.

The line’s southern part was the most strongly fortified. The Salpa Line can be explored by following the South-East Salpa trail, which is a 50km one-way hiking route in Virolahti and Miehikkälä. There are points of interest suitable for everyone: formal museums, accessible roadside features as well as more hidden fortifications for the adventurous traveller, found off the beaten path.

For those interested in military history, the Salpa trail is an endless treasure trove. Along the trail are 13 picnic and overnight spots as well as 4 reservable saunas. A mountain bike is the ideal mode of transport for this route.

For the trail, wear good footwear and bring a powerful lamp, preferably two. The bunkers can be dangerous and dark places. There might be water on the floor or ice, even in the summer. The walls often have iron fixings and there can be metal rods poking down from the roof. Sewer lids might also be missing and some wooden structures may be rotten. Explore the bunkers at your own risk!

Almost all of The Salpa Line’s 25 caves are unfinished. They were intended to be accommodation dugouts for soldiers and regimental aid stations, where men injured in battle had their worst wounds dressed before sending them away from the front line for further treatment. With each step you can sense the past all around you.

5 points of interest on the Salpa line.

  1. Ventovuori area, Virolahti

The Salpa line’s best offering for the independent traveller. In a small area you will find three cave systems, a dugout and a petrol filling station. Map.

  1. Anti-tank barrier fence (dragon’s teeth)

Hundreds of miles long, this barrier, normally made from concrete blocks, is made with large blocks of excavated natural rock stacked several rows deep. For each rock, a hole was dug half a metre deep, leaving the rest of the rock poking out one metre above the ground. The fence can be seen in the yard of Virolahti’s bunker museum. Map

  1. Pääkaupunginkallio – The Capital’s Rock

A 14 metre high and 50 metre long vertical rock wall, from which stone was quarried for building materials. Map

  1. Klamila cannon batteries

The round cannon battery is a thought-provoking sight. This was the firing position for a 152/45 C -type gun. Ammunition stores, as well as accommodation facilities are located at its periphery. Map

  1. The Salpa Line Museum

There are many trails in the area, along which you can explore the history and construction of The Salpa Line. There’s an exhibition inside the museum as well as a short film. Other things to see include a wooden aircraft control tower and one of the better known tanks from the Second World War, the T-34. Map

5 CAVE SYSTEMS

  1. Salmenkylä tunnel, Hamina

A 20-metre-long cave, which is almost completely in its original condition. The floor is concrete and the furnaces and smoke ducts are made from moulded bricks. Map

  1. Lusikkovuori cave, Lappeenranta

The largest cave on the Salpa line is located in Lusikkovuori and was made by 400 men. In winter, icicles of up to one metre in height grow upward from the ground. The cave is open by request and can also be booked for private events and concerts. You can inquire about guided tours from Hilkka Suoanttila, tel. 040 565 4462. Map

Kuva: Jukka Siiskonen

Photo: Jukka Siiskonen / willimiehen jäljillä

  1. Vahtivuori cave

Vahtivuori cave is 32 meters long and meant for 80 persons. On the side of the accommodation tunnel is a machine gun chamber, and on top of the rock is a hemispherical lookout shelter. Map.

  1. Soikonvuori cave

The unfinished accommodation tunnel was excavated from the rock along with a dugout for two machine gun positions, where the walls and floors are covered in stearin and at one end stands a large wooden cross. It turns out that every year, a candlelit evening service is organised here.  Map

  1. Pallokorsu

A furnished round dugout, with pure white walls. It feels like being inside an eggshell. In the corner there is a small stove. and most of the space is taken up by a two-storey wooden gun carriage. Map

Things to note before a trip here

A wide range of guided day trips are organised on the Salpa Line. Services are provided by K-linnoiteretket and Korsumatkat Bunker Tours. In addition to these, a Salpa line hike is organised each year, where a small group of 10-15 participants can explore the terrain under the leadership of a trained guide.

If just walking or cycling along the Salpa trail, wear clothing appropriate for the weather and bring a packed lunch. In the summer be prepared for mosquitoes and other bugs, as well as vipers that might be found in the thickets.

In the dugouts there is no lighting. Entrances are generally low and thresholds high. Large chunks of rock can fall from cave walls and ceilings  and there may be other things hanging down, such as barbed wire. For photographing in dingy spaces a tripod and separate flash could be useful.

Some sites are on private land, in which case you should be aware of and remember Finnish Everyman’s Right.

The Salpa Line fortifications are protected under the Antiquities Law and their alteration, concealment, excavation or any form of deformation or vandalism is prohibited without the permission of the National Heritage Board.

The world ‘Salpa’, means ‘locking bolt’. The fortification line was intended to be the ‘lock’ on Finland’s defence, the final barrier if the Russian’s would have continued west. However The Salpa Line never had to receive a war, as they didn’t make it that far.

Historical sources used for this article were the work ‘Matkalla Salpalinjalle’ and leaflets from the museum.

Article by Harri Leino. Photos by Harri Leino, Virpi Bordi and Janne Lumikanta. Translated by Becky Hastings.

The Photographic Playground of Pohjois-Karjala – Outokumpu

Living in North Karelia has had many great benefits for me, including the wonderful nature and the great photographic opportunities it provides. I’ve spent most of my time in Outokumpu and it’s surrounding areas, cycling around and taking pictures. From colourful farmlands to forests that look like they’ve been pulled straight out of a fairytale book, North Karelia has a lot to offer.

jason-tiilikainen-the-old-mine

Here are a few pictures that I’ve taken from and around the Outokumpu area.

jason-tiilikainen

Pictured above is the old copper mine in Outokumpu, a place where my great-grandfather used to work. These days it’s a local attraction, and during the summer months it opens for tours and other activities. Kumpurock, a rock music festival, is also held at the old mine annually, bringing in artists from all over Finland.

jason-tiilikainen-outokumpu-barn

An old barn in Outokumpu’s countryside. It’s fun just to cycle around and soak in the sights and sounds. Lot’s of old buildings hide in the farmlands, and it’s nice to find them because they can sometimes appear as if they have a story to tell.

jason-tiilikainen-sunset-in-outokumpu

A sunset over some forest in Outokumpu.

jason-tiilikainen-beach-outokumpu

Above: Sandy beaches are also easily reachable, only a few minutes drive from the center of town. Camping areas are also available and have been placed in some interesting locations.

jason-tiilikainen-forest-outokumpu

Forests in Outokumpu are vibrant at certain points in the year, and walking through them can often be a pleasure to experience.

Next time you’re driving from Kuopio to Joensuu or vice versa, pop into Outokumpu and check out the old mine. It has a lot of history, and can be quite interesting to see in person.

Map. Address of the old mine: Kaivosmiehenpolku 2, 83500 Outokumpu.