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Whether you are on your way to Helsinki or you want to get as close as you can to Finland without actually leaving Russia, the old Finnish town of Vyborg (population 81,000) is a fascinating and rewarding destination. Perched on the Finnish border, this ancient place has a melancholic, rather forgotten feel to it (the atmosphere of most Russian provincial towns in fact); but its quietly crumbling old architecture, winding cobblestone streets and magnificent fortress retain the magical atmosphere of a medieval town. Movie buffs may be interested to know that the critically acclaimed film The Return (Vozvrashcheniye) was filmed partly on location here in 2003, with the opening scene taking in the fortress as the young protagonists run through the town.

VYBORG Q

SIGHTS & INFORMATION

Anna Fortress

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Clock Tower

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Museum of Local Studies

Round Tower Kpyrjiaa oainHa

Transfiguration Cathedral ( i iii i i i 11Ll'hil;i>t*lfiif [l[i coóop.. C3

A2 Vyborg Castle

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(see 9) Round Tower Restaurant

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SŒEPING Q

Bat Hotel

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Hotel Druzhba i i ii i iiiiiiiii ,1 |v.'lii ii C2

Kaijie KaMejioT B3

(see 9) Round Tower Restaurant

I- lvi urn Ihiiiiiiii PecTopaH B3

Hotel Druzhba i i ii i iiiiiiiii ,1 |v.'lii ii C2

Vyborg (W-berk) is built around the medieval, moated Vyborg Casde, built by the Swedes in 1293 when they first captured Karelia from Novgorod. Since then borders have jumped back and forth around Vyborg, giving the town its curiously mixed heritage and explaining the Finnish influence visible in everything from architecture to attitude.

Peter the Great took Vyborg for Russia in 1710. He had just recendy established St Petersburg as his capital and he wanted to secure the region around it. A century later it fell within autonomous Finland and after the revolution it remained part of independent Finland (the Finns call it Viipuri). It changed hands several times during WWII, but finally ended up as Soviet territory, at which point all of the Finns fled west (or were deported, depending on whose side of the story you hear).

Today Vyborg looks like a Finnish town; and indeed, coach-loads of Finns arrive every weekend - many apparendy coming just for the cheap alcohol. But the permanent residents are Russian fishers, timber-haulers and military men, as well as the service sector catering to the growing tourist industry.

The ancient and picturesque Vyborg Castle (@ 81378-21515; admission R30; S 10am-7pm Tue-Sun), built on a rock in Vyborg Bay, is the city's oldest building, though most of it now consists of the 16th-century alterations. Inside, you can climb the tall tower (adult/child R70/50) and visit the small museum of local studies (adult/child R70/50), as well as a few other small exhibitions.

Across the bridge is the Anna Fortress (An-ninskaya Krepost), built in the 18th century

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