Vyborg

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Before heading down to Moscow we took a quick day trip North to Vyborg, a fairly small town 25 miles from the Finnish border.

Like Tallinn, it felt quite scandi, but unlike Tallinn, also quite Russian.  It’s changed hands a few times in its history (first Sweden, then Russia, then Finland, then Russia, then Finland… you get the idea).

While we were wandering around town checking out the sights we got stuck behind a wedding party, who were dutifully marching to each place of note to have their picture taken.

This is a phenomenon we observed every Friday and Saturday in Russia (when the offices where marriages are registered are open).  You can tell the day of the week by it — from out of nowhere fleets of cars adorned with mounds of flowers and giant plastic wedding rings will appear.  The first couple we saw in Vyborg were doing their photo-shoot pilgrimage on foot, but there were plenty of motorcades about too.  Later we were treated to a selection of banging tunes from another couple’s driver.  He was parked in a square waiting for his charges with the stereo on loudly enough to prompt spontaneous dancing from people several hundred metres away.

Vyborg is a nice size to wander around, and it’s pleasantly run down.  Old fortifications are dotted around, between leaning wooden houses and Soviet concrete.  Splashes of colourful graffiti and sculpture dot the streets, in between permanently parked cars, missing wheels or engines.

Gently crumbling port towns are clearly my thing.  Perhaps I’d feel differently if I lived there, but there’s something alluring about disarrayed cobblestones and rusting cranes.

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The highlight for me was the library.  It was designed by Alvar Aalto in the late 1920s when Vyborg was still in Finland, and I want to move in.

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(More info and better photos here.)

Aside from the architecture, the best thing we did in Vyborg was going to a bar and watching the football.  St Petersburg were playing, and the place was full of fans who made us very welcome.  Every time they scored the staff dished out vodka shots to the whole bar in celebration.  We weren’t sure if they were on the house or if the people thoroughly enjoying themselves on the next table were paying for them, but it made for a great atmosphere.  Especially as the final score was 5-1.

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3 thoughts on “Vyborg

  1. Thanks for your helpful reply – your info is better than any guidebook. You’re out there right now kickin it in Russia. Give us a shout if you do knock up that post – that or a mutual follow would be cool. Safe journeys

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  2. Nice post – Always wondered what it was like in Russia. Sounds like a nice place though it looks cold in your photos. Generally so far on your trip have you felt that it is friendly over there? Is it expensive: hotels/food? Cheers for the post

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    1. Yeah it was a bit chilly! Generally yes, I think sometimes people’s manner can suggest they’re not friendly, but it usually becomes apparent that they are – people often went of their way to help us. I guess it’s just a cultural thing not to go over the top with outward signs of friendliness.

      Not expensive – we were paying £4-5 for a hostel bed, £2-£20 for a meal for two depending on fanciness. Supermarkets are pretty cheap, and transport is very cheap – metro tickets 30p a journey for example. I’ll probably come up with a post on the practicalities of travelling in Russia at some point, keep an eye out if you’re interested!

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