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Varissaari – Fort Elisabeth

Archipelago
Varissaari, Kotka

Varissaari is one of the old fortress islands off Kotka and only 10 minutes by sea from Sapokka. The island has a summer restaurant, restaurant Vaakku, with magnificent views from its windows to the area of the Battle of Svensksund in 1789–1790. Ship parts and cannons raised from the sunken frigate St. Nikolai remind from the time. Varissaari is a popular outdoor island and also has a beach, barbeque area and beach volley pitch.

Regular boat traffic runs from May to August from Sapokka Harbour.

In June 2015 new restaurant Vaakku opened on Varissaari island.

HISTORY

The elongated Fort Elisabeth used to include two semicircular and two angular defence fronts connected by walls. Barracks, a guard house and gunpowder storage were built inside. The fortress was capable of controlling nearly the entire surrounding sea area. The fortress was destroyed during the Crimean War, but in the recent years the walls have undergone repairs.

The fortress is part of the maritime stronghold of Svensksund and was named after Russian empress Elizabeth Petrovna (on the throne in 1741–62). Fort Elisabeth is an irregular fortress, following the shoreline and open on the side of Kotkansaari. Originally, it was built during the first construction period of Svensksund on two small islands in 1790–96.

Together with Fort Slava on Kukouri, it protected the ship routes to Svensksund from west and south.

Military barracks, a guard house, various sheds as well as a heating furnace for cannon balls and gunpowder storage, the ruins of which still exist, were built on the islands. The fortress was closed down in the early 19th century, and the island gradually developed into a recreational area for the residents of Kotka.

The pavilion house of the Kotka yacht club was situated on top of the southernmost platform of the fortress at the turn of the 20th century.

The popularity of the island at different times is well illustrated by the huge number of rock carvings. The oldest year is ’1788’, the year of the start of the Russo-Swedish War. The next year is ’1796’ when the fortress was more or less completed.

The period in the early 20th century is depicted by coats-of-arm and ship motifs in various parts of the island rocks; the coats-of-arms typically illustrate the different interests of the period: coats-of-arms of lions and two-headed eagles. Later rock carvings represent the 1940s and 1960s

During the Second World War, an air defence battery topped the fortress walls, later commemorated by bringing cannons reminiscent of the time to the area. A restaurant was built inside the walls in the northeastern end of the fortress in the 1960s, and it is still in the same place today.

In 1940, a memorial of the Second Battle of Svensksund in 1790, designed by Henrik Bruun, was erected in the eastern end of the island.

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