Jewel in a lakeland crown Mikkeli is the capital of the new superprovince of East Finland and lies in the heart of Europe's most extensive lake district. Quite apart from the natural beauty of its surroundings in both winter and summer, it also has an exceptionally lively cultural scene for a town of only 33,000 souls. The many small and medium enterprises there and in the surrounding area are dynamic and export a wide range of sophisticated products and know-how to many parts of the world.
A new area of concentration is the development of links to the opening Russian market, and above all the nearby St. Petersburg region. Hundreds of kilometres of what is the EU's only frontier with Russia are likewise the eastern boundary of the province of East Finland. Border crossing points are being constantly developed to accommodate the growing volumes of passengers and goods passing back and forth. Mikkeli has begun functioning as a centre for Russian operations and has declared its aim to be that of collecting and distributing know-how in relation to Finland's huge neighbour, which is rapidly growing in importance as a trade partner. An indication of the strength of the town's cultural ties with the East is that those living legends of ballet and music Maya Plisetskaya and Valery Gergiyev have been regular visitors for many years
For tourists and holidaymakers, Mikkeli and environs offer an exceptionally broad range of opportunities for memorable trips in unique natural surroundings. There are well-equipped lakeside holiday cabins for rent and holiday resorts that combine all the comforts of a luxury hotel with the privacy and tranquillity of nature. The winter landscape with its gleaming blanket of snow is enticing and exotic. Cross-country or Nordic skiing is very popular, and anyone can learn its rudiments in minutes. After that, they can choose their own course through the terrain or follow any of the many well- maintained trails, which are clearly signposted and illuminated in the evenings.
All of the services and historical sights in the town are within easy walking distance. Thanks to the regular grid pattern in which the streets in the centre are laid out, visitors have no difficulty finding their way around. The Naisvuori ("Woman Hill") panoramic tower is an excellent landmark, and also an ideal vantage point from which to admire the magnificent pattern of forests and lakes stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.
Some of the most dramatic stages in Finnish history are closely associated with Mikkeli. The many objects that recall this have been lovingly preserved and give the entire urban scene its distinct character. During the Second World War, the Finnish Army was led from Mikkeli, where Field-Marshal Mannerheim set up his GHQ.
The oldest building in this part of Finland is the stone sacristy of Savilahti Church. Dating from 1320, it is now a church museum
The town was founded by Czar Nicholas I in 1838, but there had been a settled population in the area since the beginning of the present millennium. Iron Age remains have been found at Tuukkala and Visulahti in the Savilahti district. Mikkeli was the main centre of eastern Finland as long ago as the Middle Ages. It derives its name from its patron St. Mikael, who lived in the 16th century. Like a charming bridge to the past, a little stone church built in 1320 stands on the edge of the central square. The work that the hands of bygone generations wrought makes us pause to reflect on the culture from which our lives and environment today have grown.