Day 12, Saturday 16th July (Savonlinna)
Moose count = does a photo of a moose count?
The day started with a quick trip to the market to get supplies to have with the lörtsy for dinner, and to extact some items from the car like maps and guidebooks. The kauppatori at Savonlinna is smaller than some but was a remarkably friendly place, the stallholder I bought fresh peas from putting in twice as much as I’d paid for because I said how much we were enjoying Finland! There were also several stalls selling nothing but lörtsys in all possible flavours from savoury to sweet. We already had a meat one for dinner that night (which would go with some chanterelles, with the peas as a pre-dinner nibble), so I bought cloudberry jam lörtsys for breakfast the following day. It seemed like a good if sticky plan!
Breakfast for the day done (with some lovely Finnish strawberries to get the vitamin C levels up) we headed out for the day to the castle to start with. It was much quieter out along the lakeside without the opera crowd, and we were pleased on arriving at Olavinlinna to find that the entry ticket included a guided tour in English if we wanted it. We did. It was just about to start as well so that was most convenient. The guide taking us round was very good, very well informed about history in general and the castle’s history in particular. She was also in the mountain goat category with regard to agility. There’s a lot of climbing involved up some uneven and odd height steps to get to the roof but it was well worth the clamber. The castle contains some fine features including a medieval heating system which we would see again elsewhere with channels through the walls to the rooms above the kitchens, including of course a King’s hall, which was nicely preserved and used for conferences and the like.
There is also a tiny chapel near the top of the building. It’s used for weddings to this day though as the guide said, brides wanting to marry there need to be fit enough to get their wedding dress up there, either carrying or wearing it! The frescoes that are to be found in many a Finnish church of sufficient antiquity were also in evidence, most of them simply having been whitewashed over in the course of the Reformation.
After the tour finished we stopped off at the castle restaurant for a restorative coffee and munkki, before heading to the museum (we had a joint ticket to the castle and the museum for an extra €1 so we were keen to see the exhibitions in there).
We had been considering a lake trip but the timing was now a problem as we’d discovered we could go back for a backstage tour at 16:00 included in the price for the day and we were keen to see that as well. The boat trip plan would have to be consigned to the bin.
We moved on to the Lake Saimaa Nature and Culture Centre (Riihisaari) next. The permanent exhibition covering the lake, its history and its wildlife did at least supply a picture of a moose! Finally! It also provided a lot of information about the way in which the area has developed and changed over the years, a great insight into life on this massive lake, the largest lake in Finland the fourth largest natural freshwater lake in Europe.
In addition there were some temporary exhibitions including one on the history of the local police force with things for children to do like solving a crime scene they were presented with. The local force seems to have been started to a) prevent drunkenness in the streets and b) keep pigs from roaming loose around town, causing havoc. The issue of pigs in the streets was also mentioned in Turku in the archaeology section of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, as there were problems in medieval times with pigs destroying peoples crops and even digging up bones from the cemetery.
The next exhibit we came to was one of some strange felt toys, made to recreate scenes from famous artworks. And no, I don’t know why.
The final section comprised between 30 and 40 magnificent photos of European castles. There seems to be a book associated with it too though it certainly wasn’t on sale in the museum shop (perhaps fortunately as it appears to be a doorstop of a tome). As it was I came away with two books, “A Taste of Savo”, a cookbook of regional recipes, and a guidebook, “Castles around the Baltic Sea“, put together by The Association of Castles and Museums around the Baltic Sea, which has hatched a plan for a totally separate roadtrip in the not too distant future.
It was now 15:00 so we decided it was time for a second coffee. There’s a pretty little café on the lakeside, somewhat eccentric but in a charming way, part of Lossiranta Lodge. We opted to buy shortbread biscuits in the shape of the castle, and settled down just as a free open air concert began in the garden.
The singing was of varying quality (some of it was very good, some of it wasn’t exactly) but we enjoyed it anyway as the three singers, their pianist (and possibly music teacher) and even the girl turning the pages for the pianist were enthusiastic and obviously keen to impress if they could. We sat huddled under the blankets provided while the rain decided whether to hold off or not and drank our coffee. A hat was passed round for contruibutions afterwards and then it was time to go back to the castle for the backstage tour.
This time photography was not permitted so you’ll have to take my word for just how cramped and chaotic the backstage area is. And I can only say that I feel sorry for the small props department, a member of which seemed to literally be in a dungeon abrading some sort of discs, hundreds of them. The stage manager also has my sympathy and I just hope they don’t suffer from vertigo given the sheer drop down to the stage from their perch up in the tower, especially as it doesn’t seem to be fenced off at all. It’s incredibly cramped and incredibly basic back there with dressing rooms about as lacking in luxury as it’s possible to get, but at least they do now have the auditorium covered. The roof structure seems very solid and permanent but it’s put up every year and then taken down again after the festival and it was very interesting to get up above the roof and see how it actually works.
It was getting on for 17:00 by now and we were running out of energy after a pretty full on week of sightseeing. We walked back through the old town area. On the way the local wildlife was busy being cute (and who knew adolescent gulls could actually do cute).
Uncharacteristically we also stopped off to do a spot of unscheduled shopping in Modo Mio where I got a lovely red and black top, and a red necklace and Lynne found a lovely green tunic with a suitable matching necklace for herself. It got complicated trying to pay for it because the shop assistant was only standing in for her friend, and when he came back it turned out neither of them could figure out how to make the new card payment app on his tablet work. It took about half an hour but eventually we got the clothes and jewellery paid for and went on our way.
The sun was out now so we walked round the corner from the apartment to the Original Sokos Hotel Seurahuone and the 6th floor bar and Muikku Terrace where they fry masses of vendace up to order – it’s a bit smoky to get in there but there are good views of the lake and like the Moro bar in Tampere it has both and inside and an outside area. It was a bit breezy out there and the wasps were being a pain but we enjoyed a beer in the sun, watched the scenery for a while, and then retreated to the apartment for dinner and an early night (much needed by then).
We also spent some time amusing ourselves reading the menu which offered several dishes that included “Finnish squeaky cheese”, more properly Leipäjuusto or bread cheese!