Stories / Cultural tourism / Finland
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“Karelian Joensuu”. This “chapter of the journey” is dedicated to another town of Finland, Joensuu. This town is located in North Karelia, Eastern Finland. It is not far from the Russian border.
Joensuu is a very unusual town. The first impression is that the town is actually the city. In fact, it is bigger than Mikkeli or Savonlinna, but it is more or less the same as Kuopio. I hope it helps you understand the real size of the town. Nowadays Lappeenranta is growing bigger and soon it might become larger than Joensuu due to a great amount of Russians.
Let us now talk about how to get to Joensuu. Well, there are several ways as usual and I am going to cover the major possible directions only. One of them is from Imatra if you drive on Imatrantie. Another way is from Kajaani if you choose Kajaanintie, which goes through many different towns right to Joensuu. And there is a way from Kuopio, for that you need to take Kuopiontie. Naturally, if you travel by train from Helsinki, you will stop in Kouvola and your train will continue its trip to one of two eastern destinations, the most eastern line goes exactly to Joensuu, though there is another town ahead, but this one is quite big. I should say that it is very comfortable to travel by train.
We are going to continue our way from the town of Varkaus, where we were in our previous journey. So, being in Varkaus you need to find Taipaleentie which then becomes Valtatie (road number 23). Just follow the road signs saying Joensuu. This road then becomes Joensuuntie. You might need all these names for GPS navigator, if you use one. While this trip you might want to take some breaks and enjoy the nature around you. There are always special spots for drivers where they can have something to eat or simply relax. This road is not an exception. You are going to be amazed by the country’s nature. The road slowly changes its name twice to Vallantie and then to Varkaudentie. And this road goes directly to the intersection with Kuopiontie, where you have to turn right to get to Joensuu (and turn left if you go to Kuopio, however there is a straight road from Varkaus leading to Kuopio).
Once you are getting closer to Joensuu, you have a big lake on your right with a special territory for people, and a beach. It is a very nice place in summer. People are coming there from Joensuu, small towns nearby and just visitors stop by to swim to take a break after a long trip. And as everywhere in Finland, you have lots of ABC gasoline stations with restaurants and cafés.
When you get to Joensuu, you might wonder where the city center is. Well, it is quite hard to say that because it is that part which is the real city center, i.e. the “space” between two parts or two ends of Siltakatu. But it is not limited by these streets only; the city center is wider than that. You can go all four directions and still be in the very heart of Joensuu. However, there is also a railroad station which might be considered as another part of the city center as well. It is just across the river.
There are a couple of things I would like to mention. First of all, when I arrived to Joensuu by car I could not find a single free parking place, I mean where you can use the timer and park your car for free for 30, 60 or 90 minutes depending on a place. At some parking places it is possible to leave your car for 2 hours using the timer (the so-called clock-disc). So, I was driving through the city center and everywhere I had to pay if I wanted to park the car. Even when I got to K-citymarket it cost me about 1 euro (as per June 2013) for 2 hours. It was not nice at all. Comparing to Mikkeli, Lappeenranta or Pieksämäki, where you can park your car on the supermarket’s territory for free and where there are lots of other parking places (with the use of the timer), in Joensuu I could not find one. Maybe, there are some spots far from the city center but it is another story. Secondly, there are just a few road signs in the city center (or no signs at all). Perhaps, there were some signs somewhere, but not in a good visibility. Basically, when you drive you have no idea where you are going to. Hopefully, the situation is going to change. This is what you might need before you are planning your trip to Joensuu. It is not that serious but it is good to know that to be able to plan you route and enjoy the place despite some issues.
As for the positive side of it, Joensuu is really beautiful and interesting. Once you are there, you might consider accommodation as the priority for the day. There are many hotels in the town. One of them is, of course, Sokos Hotel Vaakuna. It is situated in the very heart of Joensuu on Torikatu (at the intersection with Siltakatu). Well, it is easily seen from far, however when you get closer you might skip the entrance easily. There is a parking drive next to the entrance, which is there “out of the blue”. Besides, the parking drive seems to belong to another building, which is confusing. The reason is that on the building there are too many signs, for instance, S-market, S-pankki, Sokos the department store and something else. And that building is white and the entrance is in the corner of it, kind of hidden. Near it in the next building there is a parking drive to Sokos the department store, S-market, and Sokos Hotel, quite confusing. And that building has a different color, which somehow separates it from the regular one. There is a big sign on it, but under it there is a café and restaurant Rosso, which is definitely not the entrance to the hotel. If you are on the intersection of Siltakatu and Rantakatu, you will see Sokos department store, S-market and many other shops in that building. The other end if it goes to Sokos Hotel Vaakuna.
Another option for accommodation is Cumulus Hotel. It is also located in the very heart of Joensuu and has quite catchy design. It is situated on Krikkokatu (on the intersection with Siltakatu). Remember that part of Siltakatu from Kirkkokatu to Torikatu is a one-way traffic.
Right there you can see the central square, Joensuun tori, where major fairs, some events, and other things take place. Just across Torikatu there is a park and Joensuun kaupungintalo, a local city hall. It is a very nice building with a very remarkable design. It is one of the symbols of Joensuu.
If you get to the intersection of Suvantokatu and Rantakatu, visit a good restaurant inside of the backyard of those buildings. There is a nice atmosphere with lovely music and unusual design. It is a good place for friends to get together or just spend a romantic evening in different surroundings.
On the opposite side of Rantakatu there is a nice boat-bar Lapin-Kulta, which is very picturesque, if it is possible to say so about a boat or a bar. Fresh “atmosphere” is going to complement a nice feeling of a good trip.
|Lapin-Kulta boat bar|
There are some other nice restaurants to visit on the shore of the river. To get there you need to walk or drive to the intersection of Malmikatu and Rantakatu. There you will have a parking spot for a car. There is a gray wooden building, which is a restaurant right by the river. You can enjoy your meal being under the cover if it rains, also breathing fresh air and enjoying the view.
From that place turn left, and walk till you see some boats where you can also have lunch or something. This is a nice opportunity to have your meal on a boat or near it, depending on your preferences. One of them is Restaurant Romeo. You can enjoy a marvelous view to the river and to the town at the same time. The place is good for families, friends and simply passersby to have something to eat. Try to spend some time there; in any case it brings you only good emotions and great memories.
All in all, Joensuu is a beautiful town, it has something its own, unique, as any town or city should have. This is not all about Joensuu, definitely there is more to discover, but for now it is supposed to show you at least something about the place and its beauty. So, find time to discover this North Karelian wonder and get ready for a big “journey”!
|Joensuu Art Museum (Joensuun Taidemuseo)|
Kirill “Traveler” Malyutin
About Travel Smart series:
“Travel Smart” is a section, narrating about different countries and good travel tips, advised by the author, Kirill Malyutin. The series contains recommendations, including selected places to visit, character accommodation, and reasonable shopping. Simply get inspiration!All stories of the series →
О серии «Travel Smart»:
«Travel Smart» – раздел, в котором автор Кирилл Малютин рассказывает о разных странах и дает необходимые в путешествии советы. Серия включает в себя рекомендации по посещенным автором местам, характерным средствам размещения, а также разумному шопингу. Вдохновитесь приключением!Все выпуски серии →
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