Let’s talk about Finnish highways. This is written from a Russian perspective and won’t be a new subject for many St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, and Russian Karelia citizens (and of course not for the Finns as well), but still there’s quite a number of some interesting points to examine. This is mostly about highways only; we won’t cover city parking, traffic jams, etc. As usual, all the pictures are mine, shot over 2015-2017.
Over the centuries Finland had historically been known for its poor (or non-existing) roads, just like Russia. I once read some travel notes by an Englishwoman about Finland, dated to the beginning of the 20th century; she was writing that roads basically did not exist, and no one seemed particularly concerned about that; after all, snow covers everything for like half a year anyway.
Loviisa Coastal Fortress, also known as Degerby Fortress, is much less widely known than Svartholm (and Svartholm of course is probably not the best known fortress in general). This is easy to explain though; there’s simply not much of a fortress. All that remains of the coastal fortress are two bastions, a few moats (including one big one in place of an unfinished bastion), and the garrison neighborhood of old wooden detached houses (likely actually dating from after the Loviisa Great Fire of 1855). Not much more existed in the better days of this fortress, although earthen ramparts were probably more recognizable.
Still, it could be fun to visit this part of Loviisa if you’ve got some time. Mind you, that won’t take long. Loviisa town has actually created an easy 2 km long walking route in the area of the former fortress, with insightful information signs (with English translations! Yay!). It’s called Ehrensvärdinpolku (Finn. Ehrensvärd’s Trail), after the principal designer of the fortress back in the 18th century. There’s a map available on the town’s website, although you won’t really need it except to find the start location.
Svartholm (Swed. Black Island) is a ruined 18th century Swedish sea fortress on an isle in the Gulf of Finland, in the mouth of Loviisanlahti Bay, 8-9 km off the coast of the town of Loviisa. The biggest sight of Loviisa, Svartholm is absolutely worth a visit. Unfortunately it seems it is only really possible for less than two months in summer (mid-June to early August), when a scheduled boat from Loviisa operates. With a private boat it should be possible to visit Svartholm any time around the year. (Loviisanlahti freezes over in winter but I’m not sure whether the ice is normally thick enough as far out as Svartholm.)
I’ve briefly covered the history of Loviisa and Svartholm in the previous post, so there won’t be a big history lesson. The fortress was constructed by Field Mashal Augustin Ehrensvärd (same guy who designed Suomenlinna) after the War of Hats of 1741-1743. It was square-shaped, with four bastions in the corners, two ravelins beside the fortress, and an irregularly-shaped wall around the isle. The fortress was used as a sea base, but due to insufficient funding and incomplete construction it wasn’t able to put up real resistance in the Finnish war of 1808-1809, and surrendered to the Russians. After Russia annexed Finland Svartholm was used as a prison. Some of the Decembrists (officers who rebelled against Russian absolute monarchy in 1825) were imprisoned here, although the same can be said of virtually any fortress that belonged to Russia at the time. Svartholm was shelled and destroyed by the British fleet in 1855 as part of the Crimean War (even though it didn’t have any significant military value at the time). Ruins were well-preserved and partially restored in the second half of the 20th century. Nowadays Svartholm is a great picnic destination as well as a historical monument; visiting Loviisa is worth it for Svartholm alone. It is administered by Metsähallitus, Finnish Forest Administration.
Visiting Svartholm (including its small museum) is technically free, but the round trip on a boat from Loviisa currently costs 18 €/person (9 €/child). Boat schedule is available here: https://visitsvartholm.fi/reittiliikenne/ (Finnish only but should be clear enough). As you can see the 2017 season is over. Note that the boat, as of 2017, operated only from Wednesday to Sunday (Keskiviikosta Sunnuntaihin). The website suggests buying tickets online in advance, which could make sense during Finnish vacation season in July. Myself, I travelled to Svartholm the very last day of the season; there were only a few other passengers, and I bought a ticket when boarding without any difficulties. The boat, named Taxen, departs from the end of a long pier (the one with gas station for boats) at Laivasilta Harbor. It’s not big and might be a little difficult to find, but can be also identified by a small blue “Svartholm” sign on its front.