Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Road trip to Karelia

About a year ago I did a road trip back to my roots, to Karelia, to the places that used to be part of Finland but got under the Soviet reign after WW2.

We crossed the border at Imatra / Enso, stopped by at Kirvu (my family from dad's side is from Kirvu) drove by Lake Ladoga, stopped for the night at Sortavala, then went to see Kollaa, one of the most intense fighting fronts of the war between Finland and Russia. Eventually we got back to our side of the border at Värtsilä.

It was amazing to see how the time had almost stopped there. Most of the houses had not been touched since the Finns were evacuated in the mid-1940's.

I don't know if it was the weather, but it was somehow misty, nostalgic and a bit spooky there. For example the forests in the old Karelia were really wild and wanton. In Finland the forests are clean and like economic pine fields.

Yes, the nature was wild indeed. A lamb joined us when we were having picnic in Kirvu.

Roads and other infrastructure were really bad from time to time.

Quite many churches were demolished on the soviet times.

But the pearls of the soviet architecture were still standing tall.

This was the garrison where my grandpa from mom's side was called right before the war begun.

And the same building from the inside. Houston, we have a moisture problem.

Trenches and dugouts at Kollaa where my grandpa was fighting in 1941 - 1944. There were pieces of metal everywhere - you only needed to kick the ground a bit and you could hit your shoe into a boot of a Russian soldier.

Our hotel in Sortavala. Not exactly five star residence, but it wasn't that bad from the inside.

You could spot this particular shade of blue everywhere: in railings, window frames, doors, benches, cars, bus stops... Didn't feel like leaning on the railing though.

Why did I want to post these pics? Well, I wanted to show that even though some (usually older) people see Karelia as the golden dreamland which they want back and where they want to return to - the current state of affairs is far from romantic. We were actually quite lucky. On the other hand, I also wanted to show that there are exotic resorts right next to you. You don't need to search for adventures too far.

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