Last Thursday I went by boat to Vyborg. I have been in Vyborg once before by bus, this took more or less 40 minutes without counting the time at the border. I was excited how it would be to travel by boat to Vyborg organized by Saimaa Travel. The cruise took pretty long, 5 hours one way so in total I was on the boat for 10 hours. In the beginning I was afraid that it would be boring, however this was not the case. There was live music on board and the view from the boat was amazing, the Finnish and Russian nature can’t be boring. For me one of the coolest things was the 6 locks, it is unbelievably great to see how the water can disappear in just a couple of minutes on the way to Russia. The water level difference between the Saimaa Canal and the top of the tower of the Old Castle in Vyborg is 76 meters. Unfortunately the weather was not that good so the sun deck was not really inviting us to sit outside but to go for a fresh air or to make some pictures it was quite okay! On our way to Russia we had a great lunch, the restaurant on the boat is really good and the food is very tasty.
After 5 hours we arrived in Vyborg the passport control didn’t take that long. A very positive thing about going by boat to Russia is that you don’t need a visa (only a passport) and you can stay in Russia for 72 hours. Many visitors stay longer than 3 hours in Vyborg and take the boat back the next day. The Saimaa Canal was built from 1845 to 1856 and opened for traffic in 1856. The canal was built between the cities of Lappeenranta and Vyborg. Vyborg is a small town in Russia close to the Finnish border. Vyborg was a part of Finland until 1944, the town was the second biggest city after Helsinki and very international with a lot of nationalities and cultures. In the Second World War Finland lost Vyborg to the Soviet Union. When we arrived in Vyborg it was time for some sightseeing. Unfortunately it was raining all day and we only have seen the old Castle after which we went to a beauty salon. I had heard before that the Russian beauty salons a really good so I was curious to see how it was. The beauty salon we went, Tout a Fait, is very modern and the people are very helpful. We got tea or coffee and the owner of the salon showed us some nice products. Unfortunately they were fully booked for a manicure so I ended up with an eyebrow makeover. ;)
The staff on board of the m/s Carelia is so nice. The hostess spoke amazingly good English, German and French. Sometimes she came to check if everything was all right. This gives a very good feeling as a guest and makes you feel really welcome. It’s great to talk with someone who can give you some more information about the trip, canals etc! On the way back to Lappeenranta we had the lucky change to take a look at the captain’s wheelhouse, it’s nice to see how it’s ‘backstage’ and also the view is different. After the trip everybody was pretty tired because it’s an exhausting day with all impressions. Thanks Saimaa Travel for having me and being so nice and kind.
In summer 2013 m/s Carelia cruise season starts on May 17th and the last cruise will be on September 7th. The departure harbour for cruises to Russia is Lappeenranta.