Savonlinna and the Finish Lakeland


Monday 14 to Tuesday 15 August

On a small rocky island in Lake Saimaa is St Olaf’s castle or Olavinlinna. It is named after Olaf II Haraldsson, later known as St. Olaf, who was King of Norway from 1015 to 1028. The building of the castle was started in 1475 in the Late Middle Ages, as the most Eastern defence against Russia on the rocky island of Kyrönsalmi in the Savo region, where the waters run so swiftly that they don’t freeze. This area changed hands many times between Russia and Sweden. Each time alterations were made to improve the defence requirements of the castle.

The castle also housed craftspeople who were responsible to construction, smithing and precious metals.

The castle originally had five towers, but only three remain. One, which held gunpowder, caught fire. Another was built on sand and collapsed.

The only way to see the inside of the castle is on a guided tour. Our guide was great and walked us through the main rooms and the remaining three towers.

As I researched this castle, I came across a couple of legends, so wonderful they need to be shared, so go to the bottom of the pics to read about:

It is perhaps one of the most photographic castles we have seen – we kept returning at different times of the day and in the evening light, and we were always overwhelmed by its beauty. We even took a boat tour to see the castle from different angles.

The next day we explored further into the lake district. Our first stop was the Kerimäki Church, (built in 1847) which is claimed to be the largest wooden church. It was built large enough to accommodate all who came to town for market day – 3,000 to sit and 2,000 to stand. The church, like many in Finland is Lutheran and in keeping with that faith there are very few religious icons.

The local community built it in three years. Structurally it is beautiful, nearly a square cruciform. Broad beams support the roof. It has a grey and white colour scheme inside. It is not used in winter as it would be impossible to adequately heat in the cold climate. The only exception is Christmas when it is lit up with candles, which must be a magnificent sight.

Just down the road on Puruvesi Lake we found a picnic area complete with change rooms and a ‘free camping’ sign. There was a swimming pool built into the lake, a testament to the Fins’ love for the outdoors.

Further on, at Mustalahti, which was the end of the road, we found a small marina. More photo opportunities.

We continues our adventure and stopped at Enonvesi Lake, another beautiful setting. We are in full summer now and the wild flowers next to the lake and lily pads in the lake were lovely.

It was also a good opportunity to capture our red and black Renault Captur.

The Lady of Olavinlinna Castle

The most well-known of all legends is the tale of a young maiden, who was immured alive into the castle wall as a punishment for treason. Later a beautiful rowan tree started to grow at the location of her execution. The rowan tree had white flowers which symbolized the girl’s innocence and red berries, red as the girl’s blood. The story of the rowan tree and maiden became so popular that it inspired a ballad in the 1950’s. The rowan tree doesn’t exist anymore, but legend is still passed on from one generation to another.


Statue Musta pässi (Black Ram)

Back in the day, Olavinlinna castle reared its own black rams to be enjoyed during the feasts of Saint Olaf. One ram is said to have played a part in the castle’s military history.

The Russians had surrounded the castle in spring of 1656. At the same time, the wind picked up and thunder and lightning struck, which caused the tar placed on the ramparts to catch fire, with huge flames reaching into the sky. According to the story, a ram had climbed up onto the northern battery in search of something to eat. Frightened by the thunder, it reared up on its back hooves, waving its front hooves around.

On the opposite shore, the Russian camp was aghast at the sight. Against a mustard-yellow sky, a creature with huge horns and hooves danced upon the black walls. Flames appeared to come out of its mouth and it was surrounded by thunder and lightning. The Russians ran away, terrified. Too many of them crammed onto their boats causing them to capsize and the men, who could not swim, drowned. The ram had saved the castle! The memory of it still lives on in the saying “to live like the castle ram”.

The statue was carved by sculptor Anton Ravander-Rauas 1964 and is situated on Tallisaari island next to the Castle.