Finland Stories and Tips


General Mannerheim, Mikkeli Photo, Finland, Europe

The fourth and final destination on my farewell tour of Finland was Mikkeli or St Michel to give it its Swedish name. As I pulled into the city I had a tremendous feeling, as if a wave of serenity washed through the bus. It was a beautiful city. I almost leapt off the bus. I couldn't wait to be unleashed on the city. Right from the beginning I was taken in.

There was a park with a small performance stage, it was such a small stage that I thought it must belong to a Sami company. I retraced the bus route to take a look at the FC Mikkeli football stadium, it looked so much better than the JJK football stadium. Across from the stadium was another lovely park. It had a statue of General Mannerheim. Mikkeli was the city from where Mannerheim beat the Russians in World War Two, a victory which the Finns are extremely proud of after years of rivalry between the two nations. Indeed some of the old army barracks have been converted into houses complete with perimeter fencing and cannons in the grounds.

As far as the 'typical Finnish town layout' the square and town hall were together but the church had been placed some 500 metres away, it takes pride of place on a small mound surrounded by grass, it is an amazing sight. It looked identical to Jyvaskyla's layout but Mikkeli seems to use the space a little bit more wisely. I had planned to go to the Headquarter's Museum, the place where this famous defeat was planned, but I frustratingly found it closed.

Mikkeli seemed to break the typical Finnish town format, slightly. Up from the Headquarter's museum is the observatory, but this bizarre looking building is the least impressive thing about climbing the steep road to the top. About three quarters up the road, near the car park there's a little path and steps which lead up to the edge of the hill which is a rock face and provides a terrific view of Mikkeli. The path actually leads up to the summer open air theatre, which are popular in Finland because of the hot weather during the summer.

Heading west I stumbled across the Stone Sacrisy. This is a very, very small church which is surrounded by the road, it's like a roundabout with a church on it. I ventured inside and was followed by a woman who unnerved me by standing in the doorway of this 5 metre by 5 metre building, there wasn't much to see and I felt guilty for only spending 5 seconds inside it and disturbing the woman from her book. I panicked and placed a donation in the box and left.

I made my way down the road which led into the commercial centre of Mikkeli, but I wasn't interested in shopping. I knew there was a harbour somewhere and was going to find it. Mikkeli is a surprisingly compact city which is littered with World War Two bunkers, there was one on the way to the harbour which was like a brick igloo and built in the garden; they obviously weren't as organised as the British government in organising the protection against aggression. I found the harbour which was very peaceful and I sat for a while looking at the lake and the two maritime sculptures which are near the harbour shop.

The city was busy but it didn't feel as busy as Tampere, the whole atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful. The harbour is little more than a jetty and Mikkeli doesn't feel like it needs or has a harbour as it's out of the centre and not a centre point. I made my way back over the dual carraigeway and the railway, to catch the bus back to Lahti. I hadn't been there very long, about 3 hours but it was enough to see everything outside.

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