We have all heard about national parks, but do you know what a national urban park is? A national urban park, a kind of an urban national park, was established in Kotka in September 2014. The national urban park status is granted by the Ministry of the Environment.
If you are coming to Kotka from the direction of Helsinki, you will enter the urban park when you cross the Langinkoski branch of the river Kymijoki right after Prisma. In the urban park area, you can find land and urban areas, seafront, river channels and archipelago. The total area being 2,400 hectares, it is practically impossible to see it all in a day or two. Therefore, read the following to get the best tips on what not to miss in the urban park!
1. SEE A CITY ON AN ISLAND
The centre of the city of Kotka is an exception among Finnish cities. The whole city centre is located on an island called – surprise, surprise – Kotkansaari, or the Island of Kotka in English. The road taking you on this island also goes through several islands, although you may not notice it. You can take over the Kotkansaari in a day even by foot. Take some time to admire the local architecture and several beautiful parks; people come to see the Sapokka Water Garden and Katariina Seaside Park even from further away. Don’t forget to savour a ‘posso’, a local version of a doughnut, on the market square of Kotka!
2. FIND THE SLABS OF STONE WITH INFORMATION ON THE URBAN PARK
A total of 19 slabs of stone with information on the different sites in the urban park carved on them have been placed in different parts of the park. Try to find as many of them as you can!
3. FALL IN LOVE WITH THE FOREST TOWN DISTRICT DESIGNED BY ALVAR AALTO
The district of Karhula is the place where the industrialisation of the Kotka region began. At the end of the 1930s, a paper mill was built in the area of Sunila in Karhula, and around it a residential area was erected for the employees and plant managers, designed by Alvar Aalto. Visiting the forest town of Sunila designed by Aalto is like jumping back in time into the atmosphere and architecture of the 1930–1940s. You can easily reach the area by car or by bicycle.
4. DIVE INTO THE HISTORY OF FORTRESSES
The biggest naval battle of the Nordic Countries, the Battle of Svensksund (Finnish: Ruotsinsalmi), took place around here, off Kotka in 1790. You can find parts of the fortification system of Svensksund in such places as the Katariina Seaside Park, and the islands of Kukouri and Varissaari. In summer, you can reach Varissaari by boat leaving from Sapokka Marina Guest Harbour, or in winter you can walk to the island on ice. In summer, restaurant services are provided by Restaurant Vaakku and in winter by Vaakku’s Winter Café.
5. ENCOUNTER THE KYMIJOKI RIVER THE WAY YOU LIKE BEST
The partly unharnessed river running through the urban park is called Kymijoki. On Kymijoki, you can paddle or fish, or ride your bicycle or jog by the river. If you want something wilder, why don’t you try floating or rafting in the rapids on a rubber raft. Such experiences are provided by, for example, Erämys – Keisarin Kosket Oy.
Text: Anita Heikkinen