When planning a trip we usually have a general idea of the places we want to visit but we make sure to leave enough time unplanned, to discover new places, be surprised or just wonder about. That proved brilliant in Helsinki. Searching for the perfect Finnish lake to chill for a couple of days before entering Russia, we realized that the fast train from Helsinki to Petersburg stops in the forgotten old town of Viipuri – Vyborg. It turned out to be the perfect place to say goodbye to Finland and hello to Russia.
Vyborg was part of Sweden; it then became Finish and ultimately was handed to Russia after World War II. The influences of these three countries can be seen in its diverse architecture. The town lies on the Baltic Sea, at the end of the Vyborg Bay, scattered with several islands, peninsulas and sea inlets everywhere. The sea surrounds Mon Repos Park, a fine example of an English garden. We biked to the park. You cannot bike within the park, so we tied ours and walked through this magical place. On our way back we climbed the 13th century Vyborg Castle to enjoy breath taking views. We ended our day having dinner at the old Round Tower. What a memorable experience: the place is over 500 years old and the food delicious.
The city center is full of crumbling neoclassical palaces and gray buildings from the soviet era. There is a lovely Alvar Aalto library too. We stayed at the Druzhba Hotel, a brutalist building perfectly located with great views to the lake and free bikes to discover the town. We got a Japanese inspired suite, so there we were in a Japanese room in a Swedish-Finish-Russian city! Vyborg truly surprised us. What could be better? Other than organized tours, we were the only foreigners in town. So as you can tell, leaving time for the unexpected is a must!