High-rises and cappuccinos

Lappeenranta

LappeenrantaI’ve had a couple of days to explore my old home town. I lived here for two decades, so it’s not soon forgotten. A lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same – I still know all the shortcuts walking around the town, even if I get a little bit confused in a car. They’ve built houses where there used to be a street, built streets where there used to be buildings, changed some streets to pedestrian only, turned some one-way streets to two-way etc… you get the idea.

The town is also becoming more tourist oriented. And by tourists, I mean Russians. Seriously. If some sign is in two languages, it’s Finnish and Russian. If there’s four languages, it’s Finnish, English, German and Russian. In Savonlinna, the sign makers get off with less trouble – they stick to Finnish. Mind you, I saw one hand-written sign in Punkaharju, advertising fresh coffee in German and Swedish. Otherwise, my car is just about the only Swedish thing I’ve seen here.

If I said that people in Savonlinna look very familiar, then here in Lappeenranta they sound very familiar. I realised that everyone talks like me – my dialect. I may have some minor linguistics elements from the Savo dialect, but first and foremost I’m a South Karelian.

The familiarity got me thinking about my relationship to these two towns. Even if I’m more likely to think Savonlinna as my home town in Finland, I am also undeniably at home here in South Karelia. I think the difference is that Savonlinna is in my heart and Lappeenranta in my head.

While I’m in the city, I’m trying to make the most of it. I’ve had a cappuccino in a café every day, it could be just about the only thing I’ve missed while living a small village. Otherwise the buildings (a high-rise building is 4-5 floors here) and people make me feel slightly claustrophobic. I guess I could live in a big town again, but only if I really have to. Give me forests and bogs anytime.

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