With Easter Weekend upon us we decided to take the opportunity to get away and into the wilds of Eastern Finland for a few days. We grabbed a rental car on Thursday afternoon and set off from Helsinki mid-morning on Friday to meet the others in Lappeenranta before heading on to our lakeside cottage beside a lake in Imatra, just 1km from the Russian border.
This was my first drive in 8 months and first one on the right hand side of the road for over 2 years so took a bit of getting used to being behind the wheel again. Ironically it wasn’t till I had driven over 700 km’s and was about 1 km from returning the car that I found myself on the wrong side of the road, getting ready to turn onto a main road and wondering why everything felt strange and everyone was looking at me… Whoops, luckily I managed to get turned around before the lights changed and everyone came charging at me….
The drive to Lappeenranta takes around 3 hours and is all highway driving so no where near as tiring as driving the same sort of distance in New Zealand. Imatra is about 30-40 minutes beyond Lappeenranta, again on highways so we arrived late afternoon at our home for the next few days, Villa Rajala on the banks of Lake Immalanjärvi and about 1km from the Russian border. The villa is fantastic and great for a family getaway. Our unit had 3 rooms with double (or bigger beds) as well as a double size bed in the lounge with a modern kitchen and views out over the frozen lake.
On Saturday we had some fun out on the lakeside in the snow before heading off into Imatra in the afternoon. We headed to Imatrankoski Rapids to checkout what they look like in winter after having experienced them in the summer 2 1/2 years ago. This is a nice area to take a walk and enjoy the nature of this part of Finland.
On Sunday after cleaning up the apartment we headed off on our journey home but not after checking out the Russian border. This has been one of those strange things I have always wanted to do (I guess having always lived in an island nation I have never had need to cross a land border…). The border zone is an ominously quiet place with a sign stating very clearly NOT to proceed any further, there is no fence, no towers with armed soldiers, no bright lights or dogs, just a piece of tape around the tree trunks on each side of the border zone to warn you not to go any further. We got our photos taken and then headed off to Lappeenranta to kill a few hours while we waited to deliver the girls back to the St. Petersburgh bound train at Vainikkala.
This part of Finland is almost more Russian than Finnish, with many shops set up for duty free shopping for Russian visitors, and the K-City Market in Imatra can only be described as absolutely huge, I don’t think I have ever been in a supermarket quite as big.
While we went to Imatra more for a wilderness getaway there is plenty to do there including skiing, spas, Reindeer sledding and more in winter along with swimming and lots of outdoor activities in summer.