Vyborg: between two worlds

The town whose name came from the Old Norse language can be translated as the “holy fortress” lies in the boundary zone between two different worlds – Russia and Finland. Originally Vyborg was founded by the Swedes in the Middle Ages, then in 1710 it passed into the possession of the Russian Empire and from 1917 to 1940 belonged to the Finns. After the war, Vyborg finally annexed to the territory of the USSR. Now it is a Russian town with a population of around 80,000 people – quite big by Russian standards. This historic town at once combines the features of several epochs, cultures and nationalities.  Just 135km away from the city centre you can visit a place where Swedish vintage meets imperial classicism and Finish romanticism peacefully coexists with Soviet functionalism and minimalism.

To reach this multicultural town you should take a train from the Finland train station. The price of a ticket is 260 Roubles (around 5 Euro) no matter whether you take the express train or the ordinary one. Usually it takes from 1 hour 40 minutes to 4 hours to reach Vyborg. Express trains run daily, twice a day on weekdays and four times a day on weekends. The schedule is available here: http://www.tutu.ru or http://rasp.yandex.ru/city/2. The websites are in Russian but the interface is easy enough. Planning the trip you should take into account that to see and enjoy the whole town of Vyborg you need at least one full day or even two. We advise you to take an early train. There are a few options for spending a night in the town. There are a lot of hostels and guest houses in Vyborg. If you are going by yourself the cheapest option is to book a place in Vyborghostel (http://vyborghostel.ru) or Pihta hostel (http://www.pihtahostel.com). A bed in 6- or 12-bed dormitory room will cost around 12 Euro. Wi-Fi is included. If you are going in a company the most convenient option is to book the whole flat through Airbnb.com. A two bedroom flat will cost around 12,5 Euro per person. We can also highly recommend you to try Couchsurfing in Vyborg. Surprisingly, there are a lot of local citizens with a good knowledge of English that are eager to host a foreigner. They will practice their English and you most probably will get useful tips about travelling in Vyborg from them.

Vyborg

After finalizing all the organizational stuff we can start our journey. The train will arrive at Vyborg central train station, which is closely located to almost all the sightseeing places of the town. We can advise you to start from the Batareynaya mountain – the woodland is 15 minutes walking from the central station built up in 19th century with defensive fortifications in a case of war with its Northern neighbours.

On its territory you can take a nice walk and find a mysterious abandoned amusement park and if you go down the hill right to Gagarin street you will see the central stadium “Avangard”, erected in 1936 and designed by a Finnish architect Uno Werner Ullberg. The stadium has two soccer fields and the indoor hockey rink where you can rent ice skates.

Gagarin street smoothly turns to one of the oldest streets in the town – Krepostnaya street which leads to the most popular and famous sightseeing place – old Vyborg Castle. On your way to it, strolling through the old cobbled pavements, you will see a lot more interesting objects such as Hermitage department of Vyborg. Infamous architect Ullberg built this concrete light-grey building – a bright example of fundamental Scandinavian architecture. If your soul desires to see something aesthetically beautiful go ahead and visit this “small Hermitage” especially since it is free of charge for students with valid student ID. From the place where we are now you can also see the tower of the Town Hall – the only tower preserved from the Swedish buildings of the fifteenth century. Walking down the Krepostnaya street you will pass by the Clock Tower built in 1494. One of the most amazing facts about this, is that the clock on tower still actually shows the real time.

In about 300 metres you will reach the Town Hall Square. If the weather is good it is a perfect place to chill. In a cozy small cafe “Krendel” right of the square you can enjoy a special Vyborg cinnamon pretzel and take a coffee to go with a discount. Town Hall Square itself looks like a place from a fairy-tale book. Gingerbread houses surround the monument of Torgils Knutsson – the founder of Vyborg.

The famous Vyborg Castle is only a few steps away from the square. It is stately peeking from behind the trees. You will be charged for entering the territory of the castle but the price is funny –  just 20 cents. There is a large museum and exhibition center, although tourists are more attracted by the Olaf tower. If you manage to climb the narrow stairs to the observation deck, you can see the whole panorama of Vyborg and its surroundings from a bird’s flight. Just 239 steps and nominal charge of 80 cents and your photocamera is full of cool photos.

Next must-see place in Vyborg is the national historical architectural and natural museum – Monrepos park. The area is approximately 180 hectares, so we suggest you to postpone your visit for the second day if you are going to stay the night in Vyborg. It takes three to five hours to fully enjoy all the surroundings of this picturesque landscape. The price of the entrance is 1,20 Euro. Unlike the other manor parks Monrepos has a strong Scandinavian flavor and amazing mix of cultures: Italian and English landscape gardening styles coupled with German and Finnish motives. Natural rocks and landscape compositions coexist here with traditional Chinese decorative traditions, neo-Gothic buildings and structures in the ancient spirit. They say the park itself was a reflection of the personality of its main author and the owner – Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolay. The name of the park is French and can be translated as “my repose” which is a perfect fit as it can be ideal places to relax your mind. You can return to the city taking bus number 6 which has a stop at the corners of Park street and Petrovskaya street. The price is around 40 cents and it is better to go out on the marketplace where locals sale souvenirs whatever the weather is and you can see in the middle an ancient building of the Round Tower built in the middle of the XVI century. It takes around 10 minutes to walk from there to the train station through Lenin and Leningradskiy prospects.

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