The town of Vyborg lies on the Karelian Isthmus near the head of the Vyborg Bay, 130 km (81 miles) to the northwest of St. Petersburg and 38 km (24 miles) south of Russia’s border with Finland, where the Saimaa Canal enters the Gulf of Finland. The town has changed hands several times in history, most recently in 1944 when the Soviet Union captured it from Finland during World War II, and a testament of its strategic location and importance is the Vyborg Castle, which was founded during the so-called “Third Swedish Crusade” in 1293 by marsk Torkel Knutsson. Vyborg remained in Swedish hands until its capture in 1710 after the Siege of Vyborg by Tsar Peter the Great in the Great Northern War. One of the largest naval battles in history, the Battle of Vyborg Bay, was fought off the shore of the Vyborg Bay on July 4, 1790.
You can see the Vyborg on the left of the above picture (and it must be noted that at the time of my writing – September 2017) the castle is still undergoing – much needed – restoration. On the right of the picture you can also see something rather unique that you can find in Vyborg: the Korolenko Hotel on the Water.
The Korolenko is an old (and honestly pretty beat-up!) 1954 Baykal-class of Russian river passenger ship (actually built in East Germany) that is now permanently moored in Vyborg and has been transformed into the northernmost floating hotel I know about. You can see a picture of the vessel here on Wikipedia. The hotel is actually quite popular among backpackers and budget travellers, as the rooms go for under 15 Euros/USD per night. Just don’t expect a floating palace. You can see what I mean in these pictures on TripAdvisor.
What the Korolenko lacks in luxury (I actually did not sleep in this hotel, so I can neither confirm nor deny), it makes up for in charm and uniqueness. The fact that in place of a hotel manager you get a real ship captain already sounds almost “adventurous”.
When I first saw the Korolenko on my first trip to Vyborg, I was intrigued by this lonely ship in the harbour, completely trapped by the ice. As I was walking toward it, the brisk January air started to fill with a delicious smell of hot food and, upon closer inspection, I found out it came from a window on the ship’s main deck.
As I approached a smiling lady saw me and came to the window. I showed her my camera, the universal gesture to ask permission to take a portrait and she quickly nodded. She then proceeded to take off her apron and hurriedly stashed it on the window sill. She herself leant on the window sill and gave me this wonderful “Monna Lisa closed lips smile“. I really liked her friendliness (not everyone in Russia is happy about having his or her picture taken, especially if they feel they are not looking their best that day) and the framing. I also really enjoy the fact that she is wearing a winter jacket over a warm jumper (all nicely color coordinated!) while the window is covered by a mosquito net, which stopped being useful quite a few months earlier…
Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking guide (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!