Western Cultural Route
of the River Kymijoki

The Villages of Ruotsinpyhtää, Pyhtää and Ruotsinkylä (items 21-30 on map)

After leaving Loviisa, the Cultural Road of Western Kymijoki follows the old main road. The road called Pietarintie (Main road 170) starts at the end of the main street of Loviisa between the Ungern bastion and the northern end of the Bay of Loviisa.

Going east, you will soon arrive in the village of Tesjoki where Disa's Fish manufactures most of its products for its shops in south-eastern Finland.

The Bridges of Ahvenkoski (item 21)

Upon arrival in Ahvenkoski you will see the bridges of Ahvenkoski, the most magnificent feats of engineering along Highway 7. They cross the Kymijoki River at the point where it flows into the Baltic Sea. The bridges were built in 1967 and 2014, and the power station in 1933.

There are also two 470-metre-long highway tunnels running through Markkinamäki hill which is protected by the National Board of Antiquities.

In previous centuries the bridges of Ahvenkoski were a little further away from the sea. The first reference to the wooden bridges across Ahvenkoski dates back to 1555. The protected museum bridge of Savukoski, opened in 1928, is a "steel and concrete cantilever bridge built with joint", the first of its kind in the world.

If you want to see this old bridge, follow the signs from Pietarintie on the eastern side of the rapids of Ahvenkoski

The Historic Rapids of Ahvenkoski and the Medieval Marketplace of Markkinamäki

As a port and a marketplace Ahvenkoski was an important place on the road from Turku to Viipuri, also known as the King's Road, which has been used since the 13th century. Wars and reprisals between Sweden and Novgorod, later Russia, caused hardship to the inhabitants on the Baltic coast for centuries.

In 1743–1809 Ahvenkoski was a border river between Sweden and Russia. Border fortifications and guarding posts were built on both sides of the rapids, as well as customs and post offices.

For centuries, the rapids of Ahvenkoski were known for large schools of salmon. In the 14th century the catholic bishops of Turku and the bishop's manor in Ahvenkoski controlled salmon fishing exclusively.

Following the Lutheran reformation in the 16th century, Gustav Vasa, the King of Sweden, nationalised the assets of the church. He also founded several important salmon fisheries and for example the town of Helsinki.

The fish fair in Ahvenkoski and Markkinamäki evolved into the biggest autumn event on the southern coast of Finland. The prices of raw and salted fish were set there for many generations, and fishermen came literally to blows over the best spots to sell their fish.

In 1743 Markkinamäki stood suddenly almost on the newly drawn national border and border skirmishes at the rapids Ahvenkoski became commonplace. When Stockholm gave the puny settlement of Helsinki a permission to hold an annual fish market, the Ahvenkoski fish market fell into decline.

This was the beginning of the oldest ongoing event in the future capital of Finland – the Helsinki herring fair.

Foreign Trade in the Harbour of Ahvenkoski in the 1740s

In 1743, a ruined forge about 3 kilometres away from Ahvenkoski was bought by Jakob Forsell, a tradesman from Hamina and a famous guerrilla fighter during the Russian occupation in the 1710s. Together with his business partner Forsell rebuilt and revived the forge and gave it a new name, Strömfors.

At the same time the harbour of Ahvenkoski gained new significance importing pig iron and, later on, exporting timber and the iron products of Strömfors.

Before the founding of Loviisa in 1745 Ahvenkoski was accorded the staple right for a couple of years as a substitute for Hamina which had been conquered by Russia.

Forsell established good connections in Stockholm and was appointed as the first mayor of the new town and later on he became a wealthy industrialist with several sawmills, trading companies and farms in his possession.

The Wrede family sold him the Peippola Manor in Elimäki together with the cattle manors of Moisio and Mustila. Forsell was knighted in 1767 as Jacob af Forselles. He is buried in the church of Elimäki.

Traditional fish shop Fisherman’s Food (item 22)

Markkinamäentie 52, 07960 Ahvenkoski

The fish shop Fisherman’s Food in the old sea port of Markkinamäki near the highway bridge and the tunnels maintains the centuries-old tradition of fish trading. There is a modern fish shop in an old salt magazine with a terrace where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a salmon sandwich.

Church of Saint Henry (item 23)

Harjuntie 11, 49270 Pyhtää. Tel. +358 5 343 1921

Church of Saint Henry was built in the junction of the Pyhtää estuary of River Kymijoki and the Old Turku-Viipuri road in ca. 1460, when medieval Finland was still Catholic. 550 years later the church is still standing in its original appearance. The walls are richly decorated and the door and window openings are adorned with rows of vertically laid bricks. According to medieval tradition the western gable is decorated more abundantly than the eastern gable, and there are also old ceiling paintings and burial coat-of-arms.

The pulpit dates back to 1653. The Apostles on the front face of the organ gallery were painted by Anders Gustaf Thietz in 1806-07. In the choir of the church there is a 13th century wooden statue of Saint Henry. Saint Henry is sitting in his formal robes with his killer, farmer Lalli, under his feet.

Eija’s Garden (item 25)

Elimäentie 74, 07960 Ahvenkoski. Tel. +358 40 505 0824

Eija's Garden, located on a dam lake just above the rapids of Ahvenkoski, is a 1.5 hectare experience garden created by gardener Eija Keckman. There are several themed sections with groves, shrubs, flowers, and evergreens. At the same time the garden is a work of art with sizable stones, ponies grazing, a carp pond, exotic chickens and doves.

There is a little cottage from the 1880s with a beautiful yard, and a garden shop and a cafeteria. In summer 2015 Eija's Garden hosts an interesting sculpture exhibition of outsider art.

Strömfors Ironworks in Ruotsinpyhtää (item 26)  

Tourist office in Lower Forge Museum building from May until the end of August. Tel. +358 440 555 366  

When you follow the red-hatted scarecrows and the signs from Highway 7 to the old Strömfors Ironworks, the first thing you will see is the guest house, a white clay building from the 1790s, and the main building of the mansion, which was built a century later.
Next, you will see to the red brick buildings of the forge and the idyllic dam pond of the River Kymijoki.

The Strömfors village is a remarkably harmonious milieu: there's the ironworks established in 1698, the river scenery and houses dating from the 18th and 19th century. The af Forselles family owned the ironworks until 1876. Ten years later, commercial counsellor Antti Ahlström bought the ironworks and 8,000 hectares of land attached to it. He concentrated on developing the sawmill of Strömfors.

A narrow gauge railway was built in 1905 as a means of transport between the ironworks of Strömfors and the harbour of Ahvenkoski. Today the old steam locomotive is on display in the Forge Museum of Strömfors.

Before the Russian revolution in 1917 the train also carried passengers who came by boat from St Petersburg to see the rapids of Ahvenkoski. Visitors taking the water cure in Loviisa spa continued to make trips to Ahvenkoski until the autumn of 1935. The spa was destroyed by a fire in January 1936.
The railway was dismantled in the 1950s when Strömfors sawmills went out of operation.

The Forge Museum

The museum consists of two parts: the Upper Forge and the Lower Forge. The Lower Forge presents the history of the ironworks, office furniture, as well as a small locomotive that was used for several decades to transport heavy timber loads from the Strömfors sawmill to the port of Ahvenkoski.

In the Upper Forge you can see a massive tilt hammer powered by the rapid running in a canal underneath the forge. There are hammering demonstrations on special occasions and every Saturday in July from 12 noon to 2 p.m. Groups can book additional demonstrations.
The Forge Museum attracts about 10,000 visitors every year. Free entrance.

Crafts Shops, Art Exhibitions, Concerts, a Road Church and a Beach

In the old houses of the forge you will find several colourful crafts shops, art galleries, ceramics shop, blacksmith's workshop, hardware store specialising in traditional building methods, furniture conservator's workshop, two fully licensed restaurants and tourist information office.

The ironworks area – Tallinmäki outdoor stage, Ruukinmylly summer theatre and the church – is a venue for many entertaining summer events: music, theatre and circus. The small wooden church is the shelter for the only altarpiece painted by Helene Schjerfbeck.

The summer season begins on May with the traditional Forge Day and a Circus Festival. The summer shops of the forge open their doors and you can see the tilt hammer in operation.
The next events are the Rootsinpyhtää Bluegrass & Rendezvous Festival, usually the second weekend on June with several concerts, and Ruukki Picnic, an American car show with rockabilly music on July 9th.

On Saturday afternoon, the 23th of July, there will be arranged a one-day music festival called Roots‘nBoots with great Finnish and foreign bands, e.g. the one and only Stacie Collins.

Summer Theatre, Two Restaurants and a Variety of Accommodation Options

The Summer Theatre has 240 covered seats and for VIPs there's even a tub filled with 36˚C water. In 2016 the Summer Theatre presents the kids' comedy Puss in Boots with performances from July 6th to 17th.

There are also two fully licensed restaurants in Strömfors village: Cafeteria Pajakahvila In the Lower Forge serving refreshments, beer and a selection of snacks and ice creams which you can enjoy on the sunny terrace; and a new Bed & Bistro restaurant in the main building of the village.

The Villages of Kuninkaankylä and Ruotsinkylä

Address: Höjmossantie 4, 07980 Kuninkaankylä  tel. +358 44 450 5009.

If you have a motorbike, you’ll most certainly enjoy a lot when driving the next ten kilometres inland from the Strömfors ironworks along the winding road which leads you to Kuninkaankylä (King’s Village) and the Viirilä local museum (item 27) 
The museum presents an 18th century farmhouse, a smoke sauna, a granary and farm equipment, and it’s open in July on Tue-Sun at 11-16 o’clock. Groups may book in advance at other times, too. Free entrance.

Gulf Gasoline Station & Bar (item 28)

Address: Ruotsinkyläntie 5-9, 07990 Ruotsinkylä (in English Village of Sweden) Tel. +358 500 848 879, www.samilassila.com

In Ruotsinkylä's busiest countryside crossroads you will find a genuine 1960s Gulf service station and bar where you can get a coffee, coke or beer and a sandwich – and if you know how to speak Finnish, hear or read the latest news of the village area. The bar is also the post office of the local people, and Mr. Sami Lassila, the owner of the bar, is a well-known expert in old American cars.   www.samilassila.com

If you like – you can drop a coin to the jukebox to play the newest hit records or some original hits of Finnish tango artists.

Old Co-op Village Shop of Ruotsinkylä  (item 29)

Kymen Seudun Osuuskauppa KSO  Address: Elimäentie 1583, 07990 Ruotsinkylä. 

This co-op shop originally opened in 1932 and it is still serving customers in the same premises. It’s amazing how a shop of this size can offer such a large amount of various products!

You will see how local customers also check the outdoor public noticeboard for example for coming events and missing and founded cats in the neighbourhood.

Jokela Local Museum / Farm and Tractor Museum (30)

Address: Turkkilantie 39, 07990 Ruotsinkylä. Tel +358 400 152 828   www.jokelanmuseo.info

The main attraction in Ruotsinkylä is the Jokela local museum exhibiting agricultural machinery and tractors. There are over 2,000 items and documents and more than a hundred big machines: horse-drawn machines, rare old tractors, threshers, sowing machines, diggers and graders.

The annual Old Time Days event brings thousands of visitors to the museum on the last weekend of August to marvel at old machines and vehicles.