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Kouvola, Finland

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Kouvola, the most useless city in Finland.
- Pahkasika, Finnish humour magazine

Kouvola is located in the southeast of Finland, 140km from Helsinki and currently has a population of 32,000.

Kouvola, smallest metropolis in the world.
- Local folklore

Railway and Not Too Much Else

To Understand Kouvola you have to realise that the railway is the reason for its birth, growth and existence. Kouvola was just a small station, built in 1875 along the Helsinki - St Petersburg line, until it was chosen as a starting point for tracks north to Savo province, and south to Kotka harbour. This quickly made it the busiest railway crossing in Finland. Along with the railwaymen came the services they needed and good connections to these services boosted further growth.

Kouvola has been called one of the ugliest cities in Finland. This is because during World War II Russians heavily bombed the city to disturb railway connections. Kouvola, like most of the cities in Finland at that time, consisted mainly of wooden buildings; these have a tendency to burn to the ground once lit. After the war, everything was rebuilt in a hurry, and these 'temporary' buildings were replaced in 1960s and 1970s with horrors created by architects.

After World War II, some government offices were located in Kouvola. Kouvola was also made the capital of Kymi province. These decisions made the city the administrative centre of the area.

How to Get There?

There are simply no options; you should use the train. Timetables can be found on the VR Website.

What to See?

There's a joke about an old lady chancing trains in Kouvola and asking the ticket collector if she has time to see the sights. The collector replies: 'Yes, you'll have plenty of time to see all of them, two minutes.'

One kilometre west of the station1 is the only preserved area of old Kouvola. It gives you an idea of what Kouvola looked like before co-operation between Russians and architects. Old renovated houses host small handicraft shops, museums (radio, pharmacy, railwayman's home) and cafés.

The Old Market Hall is otherwise quite lame, but restaurant Pyöreä Torppa2 is worth a visit. This is the place to see the natives in their natural surroundings. If you have seen movies by the Kaurismäki brothers, you can recognise the general bar type once so widely spread all over Finland. Beer is relatively cheap (for a Finn anyway) and the atmosphere warm. If you are feeling hungry, have a salmon sandwich (the dark bread is worth trying), it goes well with beer and beats fast food any day. At one time in Finland you had to eat something in order to get alcohol in a restaurant - salmon sandwiches originate from that period, when during the busiest market days Mutteri sold over 2000 of these sandwiches.

Tykkimäki amusement park is not the largest in the world, or even in Finland but if you like reptiles, the terrarium it hosts might be of some interest to you. Otherwise, it's mostly designed for families with young children.

The Repovesi area in Valkeala (30 kilometres north), is a good choice for short (one to three-day) hikes in the Finnish forest, with scenery consisting mainly of small lakes and steep granite hills. The National Park was established in the area in the beginning of 2003; you can find more information from the National Forest Service.

1In Kouvola all directions and places are normally given in relation to the station or the railway tracks.2Meaning 'Round House', also known as Mutteri Nut (not the eatable).

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