As a child, I spent many summers in Hamina, the city located at the shore of the Eastern Gulf of Finland and 40 kilometres from the Russian border.
I recall the smell of clean air at the sandy beach of ‘Pitkäthiekat’, a popular camping resort these days, and I recall the smell of an old cannon at the ramparts of the fortress surrounding the city and the sound of the marching drum at the Hamina Tattoo, a military music festival.
My recollections dating back decades seems to still be valid today, but let’s explore the sights of the Hamina in 2015.
As with many Finnish cities, most of the sights to see are based on the old architecture. Hamina, which was founded in 1653, burnt in 1712 and rebuilt in 1720, offers a wide variety of wooden houses, churches and museums within a walking distance from each other.
1. Hamina Bastion combines old with the modern. As a part of the old fortress built in the 19th century, the bastion was formed in 1998 after extensive renovation work. A total of 58 casemates were modernised with the technology of the present and the bastion field was covered by the largest summer canopy in Europe. In summer, the bastion serves as the ground for large-scale events ranging from the Hamina Tattoo to various concerts, attracting big-name bands like the Scorpions who are to perform at the bastion at the end of July.
2. One can hear the rustle of the history’s wins, while walking in the old centre. At the town museum, negotiations between Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, and King Gustav III of Sweden were held in 1783. Today, the museum houses an exhibition of the colourful history of the city in addition to temporary exhibits. (Kadettikoulunkatu 2b)
3. St Mary’s church and church museum have had its share of destruction and repair. The church was renovated to its present look after the fire of Hamina in 1821. At the altar hangs a big picture of the resurrected Christ. Ecclesiastical items from the 18th century and forward are on display in the museum room in the southern wing of the church. (Pikkuympyräkatu 36)
4. The Tanelinkulma House (1889) is a Swiss-styled wooden town residence, originally of a Russian family, Aladin. The building houses the coffee house and bakery Huovila, which offers a variety of creative pastries from faces to pumpkins and flowers. (Fredrikinkatu 1)
5. The Garrison Club (1863) takes one right back to the Mother Russia with its red brick architecture with a history as the Officers’ Club. Today, it houses a restaurant serving smoked pork tenderloin to sherry herring. (Kadettikoulunkatu 3)
6. Ruutikellari Gallery (1785), an old communications centre and gas protection facility during the wars, is a present-day art gallery and meeting facility. A Japanese-style park adorns the yard.
7. The Town Hall (1798), with its tower of neoclassical style from the 1840s has housed a bank, shops, the police department and the main guard of the fortress. The middle floor is for festive use and serves as the town council’s meeting facility.