I ended up in Kokkola on a spring evening, during a hitchhiking trip from Vilnius, Lithuania to Nordkapp, Norway and back. Heading out of Helsinki on a crisp morning, my only plan was to head north.. when someone offered to take me to Kokkola, I looked at them blankly as I'd never heard of the place.
Kokkola, as I was about to find out is the capital city of the Central Ostrobothnia region, about 600km northwest of Helsinki on the coast opposite Sweden. Kokkola known as Karleby in Swedish is bi-lingual and has more than 20% of Swedish speakers. The road there from Helsinki, is a never ending straight line with rows of trees on either side, there is little possibility to see the scenery behind the trees and this makes the journey surprisingly tedious actually. In fact the driver himself told me, he normally flew from Helsinki (his workplace) to Kokkola (his hometown) because without company, it was difficult for him to stay awake on the journey!
Kokkola is easily reachable by train from Helsinki or Rovaniemi. There are regular flights to other Finnish cities throughout the day but to be honest Kokkola wasn't all I had hoped it to be, it was fairly dull and fairly dead. Whenever I tell a Finn, that I've been there - they look at me in the same blank way as I had told the driver. That could just be my poor Finnish accent causing that reaction though!
Kokkola was formed as a port for tar in the 1600's when Finland was part of Sweden by King Gustav II Adolf, due to the prolific tar industry, Kokkola quickly established itself as the wealthiest town in the whole of Finland at the time. Only in 1933 did Finnish become the main language of the town, before then Swedish was always used by the majority.
Britain / Kokkola antics
In 1854, the Skirmish of Halkakori took place there. What was the Skirmish of Halkakori, I hear you thinking! It was infact an attack on Kokkola by the British Marines who at the time were taking part in the Crimean War and hoped to ransack the town. Locals armed with hunting rifles and most probably bottles of vodka, soon got rid of them though, killed 9 and in the process a gunboat became the proud possesion of the Finns. This remains in the Museum in Kokkola's English park, much to the dislike of the UK who have regularly requested the boat be returned.
The Finns aren't having any of it though and after 400 years, I think it's unlikely it'll be returned!
Today, Kokkola is quite an industrial city, I saw quite a few factories and it added to one of the reasons why it's not really necessary to go there!
My advice: Go to the Aaland Islands, Turku or even the Eastern lakes before considering visiting Kokkola.