Origins and entry into Russia
Trip Start Jul 24, 2006
17Trip End Sep 08, 2006
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Needless to say, the city has changed much since the Sjöman family lived there, and certainly has the imprint of communist times. The central square still boasts a very large statue of Lenin, and the air of communism remains - ugly architecture and urban planning, decaying buildings, grumpy locals.
Our first view of the city was the train station, which is quite grand - clearly built in the communist era with stars and the hammer and sickle adorning many surfaces
The most striking example of neglect during communist times is the Viipuri public library, design by Alval Aalto and built during the 1930s. The library was globally hailed as a turning point in public architecture when it was built in terms of clean-lined, light-filled open spaces. The library was considered to be one of Aalto's most important buildings.
The attached pictures show the decay the library suffers. It is slowly undergoing restoration, thanks to funds from the Finnish and Russian governments and from the Friends of Viipuri Library, the international committee of which reads like a who's who of architecture. However, we wonder if the library can be saved at all, so bad is the decay.
Though seeing the state of the Viipuri library was, to be quite honest, a depressing experience, the short stop-over in Vyborg was illuminating from the perspective of how Russians outside Moscow and St
After a few hours in Vyborg we boarded a local train to St. Petersburg. This train ride with the locals passed by without incident with the exception of the train's actually going through several forest fires. While in Helsinki, we had smelled the smoke from the fires and had one day where the smoke blanketed the city in a smog-like haze. It was quite something else to actually be in a train driving through the fires. The fires were on either side of the tracks; luckily the larger ones were several meters away, and there were only small fires beside the tracks.