Savonlinna is the "Finnish Venice" with Russian connections ...
Ecologically clean nature, a developed service sector and a multifaceted cultural life today attract guests from all over the world to Savonlinna. They go to see the "pearl of Saimaa", "Finnish Venice", one of the most beautiful cities in Finland and Northern Europe. But they are attracted not only by the picturesque nature of these places, reflected in the landscapes of Nicholas Roerich - many unique historical sights are concentrated in the city and its environs, closely intertwined with the history of Russia.
The construction of the city's main pride, the Olavinlinna fortress (otherwise - the fortress of St. Olaf), began in 1475 to protect the strategically important territory of the Savo region from the attacks of the Novgorodians. Danish knight Erik Axelsson Tott is considered its founder. In the massive walls of the fortress, the clanging of swords and the roar of cannons could be heard, and in peacetime people were engaged in housework. Olavinlinna has always been an important stronghold in the border areas between the Russian and Swedish Empires. The famous Russian commander Suvorov was also involved in the project of its restructuring during the entry of the fortress into the Russian Empire.
The Punkaharju ridge located in the urban district of Savonlinna, which currently has the status of a national reserve and is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the world, has attracted those who want to admire its virgin natural beauty for a long time. However, it owes much to the Russian emperors for its preservation in its original form and popularity as a resting place: back in 1803, Alexander I, who visited these places with a military inspection and admired their beauty, banned the felling of trees, agriculture, arson and the extraction of peat by an imperial decree, laying the foundation for the preservation of the unique landscape. And 40 years later, Emperor Nicholas I declared the territory a reserve under the protection of the Crown.
The hotel where they met in 2017 also has a long history. presidents of Russia and Finland Vladimir Putin and Sauli Niinisto. He is rightfully considered the first in the country. The fact is that the Valtionhotelli or State Hotel ("State Hotel") began to accommodate travelers back in the 1840s, when, by the decision of the Grand Duchy of Finland, an observation post with a tower for the overseer was built on the ridge, from where he had to monitor the possibility the occurrence of forest fires. And since the splendor of the places attracted guests who were not averse to admiring the scenery directly from this tower, several rooms were also equipped in the building for their reception. However, over time, there were so many people wishing to visit here that the defender of the forest had to move to a neighboring building, specially built for him, and the former was turned into a hotel.
And here again, the participation of Russian emperors was not without: the question of turning the fire observation post into a hotel was finally decided by the decree of Alexander II. It said that in connection with the increased flow of tourists, the house should be expanded, turning it into a hotel. The imperial decree was immediately executed: 10 guest rooms were organized in the two-story building, and 3 balconies were erected around the tower, from which those who wished had the opportunity to admire the pine forest. The Finns, who are extremely careful about nature and historical heritage, have managed to preserve both the hotel, which has such a long history, and the nearby wooden red house of the forester.
From the hydropathic establishment of Russian noblemen - to the international tourism center
The origins of Finland's popular medical tourism in the modern world were also laid in Savonlinna more 100 years ago.
One of the places of pilgrimage for guests from all over the world is the Takaharju sanatorium, opened in 1903 to treat the most massive disease of that time - tuberculosis. Now called "Kruunupuisto", it was famous both for its high results in the cure of tuberculosis, long before the invention of antibiotics, and for its rich cultural life. After all, the patients of the sanatorium were mainly wealthy young people 20-30 years old ... Later, during the Second World War, the sanatorium was used as a military hospital: at that time, the officers-patients were personally visited by Marshal Gustav Mannerheim. Now "Kruunupuisto" is one of the largest multidisciplinary rehabilitation center in the country, accepting patients from all over the world. Just like a century ago, rehabilitation here is still popular among high-ranking patients from Russia ...
Long before the October Revolution, in June 1896, St. Olaf's hydropathic establishment (later the Spahotel Casino) appeared in Savonlinna, which since the early 1900s has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for the elite of the Russian Empire. And then - and Europe. Life at the resort was in full swing: people came here to be treated and to have fun. It is no coincidence that the resort was popularly called the "Island of the Happy": it was always full of people, smiling and happy with life, who walked a lot in the air, communicated closely and had fun. The spa became widely known abroad: in the summer of 1912, for example, the number of tourists from Russia, France, Sweden or Germany on the Savonlinna promenade exceeded the number of the local population for the first time.
Savonlinna Opera Festival - the main musical event in Northern Europe
The annual Savonlinna Opera Festival since 1912 is the culmination of cultural life throughout Finland. It is noteworthy that the program of the very first festival was written in Finnish and Russian. Finnish presidents visit the city almost every year, paying due attention to the evening at the opera. The Finnish Opera Festival, which takes place right in the medieval fortress of Olavilinna, ranks among the best European music forums. The romantic castle, set in an island lake landscape, is an ideal stage for opera.
Among the guests of Savonlinna and the Opera Festival were the royal family of Sweden, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and statesmen of other states, including the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin