architecture, Finland, history, traveling

The Old Town of Porvoo (part 1).

Yep. This is me.

As I promised you guys yesterday, here’s some pictures I was able to capture for you of one of the six medieval towns in Finland. This time introducing – Porvoo.


The town of Porvoo is located at the bank of Porvoonjoki (‘river Porvoo’). Since the town has a predominantly Swedish background, the Finnish name is naturally a translation of Borg√• (borg meaning a castle and √• meaning river). And originally the Swedes gave the town its name after a medieval fortress built nearby the same river.


The area itself has been vacated since the Stone Age (which is pretty cool in the Finnish context) though the majority of the old wooden buildings are from the 18th and 19th century.


And what usually tends to happen for anything made out of wood, is that at some point in time (due to an accident or an act of warfare, for example) it’s pretty much essentially going to be caught on fire.

Porvoo is no different from that and in 1760 approximately two thirds of the buildings were burnt to ashes. But what really made a difference was that the people kept the old medieval town plan by simply rebuilding on top of the old foundations.


Also, the Old Town was almost demolished with an initiative for a new modern urban planning in the 19th century. Luckily, thanks to a very important dude named Count Louis Sparre and the popular public opinion of resistance, the whole scheme was cancelled.


Nowadays Porvoo is even internationally acknowledged as an important tourist location with a great cultural historical value. The Old Town was also selected as one of the National landscapes of Finland by Ministry of the Environment back in 1992.

I must confess that I’m not much of a nationalistic patriot but Porvoo is a really cool place for even you young punks out there to visit and see. Just saying. They do sell beer there (as the following story proves).


This is actually a partially renovated version of the medieval Porvoo Cathedral that, unfortunately due to a drunken person playing around with matches, lost its roof in an arson in 2006.

I was only a kid back then but I can clearly recall it being a major piece of news, being a nationwide cause of a moral panic amongst Finns. (Even the ones that hadn’t even been to Porvoo themselves.) Clearly the historic town has a central symbolic value as a some sort of living outdoors national museum – famous for its representation of old architecture that was greatly demolished in other parts of Finland in the 20th century.


Although population wise Porvoo is currently only the 21st largest town in Finland, it used to be the second biggest ‘city’ in the 18th century. (Of course the area known as Finland was part of the Swedish Kingdom at that time, but you get the idea. Basically we were peasants – not that there would be anything wrong with living off the land.)


I don’t know about you but the close proximity to the capital area (only a bit over a hour by bus) and unique historical atmosphere makes Porvoo a highly attractive place to consider possibly even moving into some day!


Yep. Would totally hate living in a street that looks like this. Think about walking down in the winter time with decorative lightning hung around everywhere, snow falling slowly from the sky, someone cooking a warm dinner to one’s family…


A close-up from the other side:


The leafless trees form a much needed shadow even for an old wooden house. I mean, the temperatures are probably going to rise due to climate warming anyway…


With these lovely hydrangeas I wish you a lovely, wonderful, sunny and warm Monday! I hope you enjoyed my first Porvoo post since there are two more coming up in the following days – so stay tuned, you rainbow souls out there…