Sometimes a bland, uninteresting meal is less about the meal, and all about the location. Since a lot of my recent posts about my trip to Finland have focused more on the food elements than on the travel, I thought this would be a good post to flip that a little, and share more about the location than the food. Frankly… when you read “lunch in a castle” – I bet you’re much more interested in the castle, than in what I noshed on for a mid-day meal!
Olavinlinna castle was founded in 1475 by Erik Axelsson Tott, and the location was chosen to lay claim to lands occupied by Russia. It was the first Swedish castle that featured thick towers which could withstand cannon fire, and is one of the few medieval buildings in Finland still in use. It’s also the most northern medieval stone fortress still standing. Today, Olavinlinna castle has three tall towers (Our tour guide warned us about almost 200 steps to get to the top, but she forgot to mention that the steps are all uneven rock, polished by centuries of footsteps, and that the height of each varies quite a bit, but all are very deep.) however originally there were four towers – one wasn’t quite as impervious to cannon fire after all! The castle withstood several sieges by the Russians during the first and second Russian-Swedish wars, and the castle was occupied by both Swedish and Russian forces at different times within it’s history. The town of Savonlinna grew due to trade supporting the castle, and the town was chartered in 1639.
Olavinlinna is also known as Olofsborg in Swedish, which translates to St. Olaf’s Castle, in honour of Olaf II of Norway. A network of lakes surround the castle, as it sits on an island. While the waters appear calm, there’s actually a fairly quick-moving current approaching the castle which means that the water never freezes over in the winter – an ideal element for defense, as invaders would have much more difficulty approaching the castle on foot.
The castle is a major tourist attraction all by itself, with tours in multiple languages available included in the price of admission. While it’s possible to wander through the castle by yourself, I’d suggest waiting for a tour, because the knowledgeable tour guides have so much to share. Be warned though, all of those steps make it a challenge even for the physically fit. Plan on an easy evening (and perhaps a sauna or massage!) after your visit. The castle also has several exhibitions within it’s walls, including an Orthodox Museum which displays religious artifacts from both Finland and Russia as well as a second museum, the Castle Museum, which is filled with photographs and articles, along with a few artifacts relating to the castle and life for the people living in or near the fortress. I found the museums very small, and not nearly as interesting as the rest of the castle.
The castle is also home to an annual Opera Festival. One of my favourite bands, Apocalyptica has performed at the festival, and while I was visiting the castle, they were setting up for that year’s festival, which meant that not all of the castle was available for viewing.
Of course, the castle also has a gift shop… and a small cafeteria – which leads me to my very boring lunch…
The cafeteria is close to the gift shop, but still requires many stairs to get to (with even more to get to the rest room). With only a few small windows, the cafeteria seems dark and imposing, but with candles burning on each table and a few overhead lights it’s a calm place to sit and have a snack before continuing your visit.
The cafeteria offers pre-made sandwiches and snack food, but also has a small buffet, which seemed to be very popular with the people who came in as we were leaving; the crew working on setting up for the Opera Festival!
Our lemon-lime drinks didn’t seem to want to be consumed…
Funny, cute, refreshing, but kind of boring to blog about… sorry!
Like a lot of the bread in Finland, I found the bun very dense (and actually outright tough to eat!) but pleasant tasting once I got past the texture. Really.. it’s quite boring, so instead I give you the photo below!
I’ll finish up this post with the above photo from near our hotel – the Primehotel Oy in Savonlinna. One night I headed out with my camera, and took some photos as the sun began to set. It was near midsummer and the sun was setting very late which gave me ample time to shoot, and still get back to my room before dark.
If you’d like to see some of my previous posts about my trip to Finland, please click the Finland Tag to see them all pulled together for you. Of course, my trip didn’t end in Savonlinna, so I’ll also have plenty of more posts to share in upcoming days. Consider clicking the “Follow” button to the right to subscribe via email, or follow Happy Sushi Belly on Twitter. You can also follow us on Facebook, where you can join other foodies, or just follow along as posts are automatically sent to Facebook as well. Thanks WordPress!
Want to see more photos from Savonlinna and the Olavinlinna castle? Check out Sartenada’s photo blog!