The Gulf of Finland coast in Pitkäthiekat Camping, Vilniemi, Hamina Municipality, Kymenlaakso Region, Finland
The southeasternmost region of Finland is called Kymenlaakso, which means Kymi Valley in Finnish. It is not the largest region of Finland, nor the most important one; and it does not correspond to any historical province, as its territory used to be split between Uusimaa, Karelia, and Tavastia. Its population is 180,000 which, honestly, isn’t that much.
Nonetheless, Kymenlaakso in my opinion has a distinct and charming personality. Over the last year I’ve seen a fair bit of Finland; so far I haven’t really seen any towns or places I really disliked, but I must admit some places do really seem a bit bland (Mikkeli and Joensuu come to mind, for example). Kymenlaakso, on the other hand, is really a place you just want to come back to again and again. And best of all, it is very close to the Russian border, so you can come and visit and see quite a bit over just a weekend.
Kymenlaakso consists of three cities (Kotka, Hamina, and Kouvola), and several rural municipalities. Its geography is typical of Southern Finland: jagged rocky coast with numerous skerry guards, and bright pine forests inland. Kymenlaakso lies just outside the great Finnish lakeland, and it has no major lakes and just one major river, but it’s a pretty big one, named Kymi (Kymijoki). Kymi is one of the few rivers penetrating the Salpausselkä Ridge (Finn. Padlock Ridge), a low but solid ridge marking the southernmost border of the Ice Age glacier (in other words, a terminal morraine). Päijänne Lake, the second largest lake system of Finland, drains through Kymi into the Gulf of Finland; however Päijänne itself does not belong to Kymenlaakso.
Kymenlaakso naturally splits into two subregions: Kotka-Hamina is the part of Kymenlaakso along the coast of the Gulf of Finland, and Kouvola is the more inland part. Kotka-Hamina subregion, in particular, promotes itself as “The Coast of Good Winds”, under “Southwest 135°” brand; see their tourist website. And while “The Coast of Good Winds” might not be an especially imaginative slogan, it really suits this place, as I learned in my solo weekend road trip in September 2015, which I’m about to tell you about.
I visited the Salpa Line Museum and the city of Hamina in the first day, then slept in a cabin in Pitkäthiekat Camping near Hamina, and then saw Kotka and its Vellamo Marine Museum in the second day. Still, this series of posts will be a little out of the chronological order; first I intend to tell of the bits which do not belong elsewhere.
Continue reading “Kymenlaakso 2015. I. The Coast of Good Winds”