Saturday, May 19, 2012


Imatra is a small town in South Karelia, about 300 km to North East from Helsinki. Imatra is living upon paper mills, ruled by social democratic party and the demography of the citizens is heavily turning to the senior side. I’m not sure which of those three characters are causes and which are consequences, but they are definitely going hand-in-hand. Due to the paper mills the smell in the town is sometimes quite thick. The aboriginals don’t care about the stink – ”it’s the smell of the money”, they tend to say.

The paper industry originally landed on Imatra’s soil because of lake Saimaa and river Vuoksi. And those are definitely the most beautiful things in Imatra. River Vuoksi has been dammed for energy production, but in the summer time they open the gates and let the river run wild every night.

The basic tone of Imatra is a bit depressive for the most of the year, although in summer the town starts blooming. The tourist guides always highlight the river Vuoksi and its white waters, hotel Valtion Hotelli and the Church of Three Crosses as the best tourist attractions, but in my opinion these are the best sides of Imatra:
  • Virkkukoukkunen – adorable, colorful and cheerful handicraft/design shop at the center of the town. Really one of the kind.
  • Enso/Svetogorsk border crossing station - the money of the Russian tourists keeps the local business alive.
  • The visa services of Itämatkat – professional visa services for Russia with more affordable prices than what you get in Helsinki region.
  • Vuoksen piirakat – the best  commercial rice pies (nothing beats self made rice pies, of course). You can find Vuoksen piirakat also in the freezers of the grocery stores in Helsinki region.
  • Restaurant Buttenhoff – the best restaurant in Imatra. Their vegetables come from local farmers. It’s not fine dining, but the place really stands out from the crowd of the local competitors: 5 pizza-kebab-places, Rosso, Café at ABC gas station and McDonalds.

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