A prper peple's city
Four out of five Finns visit Kuopio at least once in their lives. On the Puijo ridge, less than two kilometres from the city centre, they go to the top of the panoramic tower and view the landscape spreading before them. In summer, it is a mosaic of green forests and blue lakes stretching as far as the eye can see, and beyond. In winter, just as vast an expanse of snow-frosted trees and lakes beneath layers of ice and snow. Landscapes like that bring pleasure to Finnish minds. From the top of the Puijo tower, their homeland looks exactly the way they want to see it.
Nestled in that most Finnish of landscapes is the bustling city of Kuopio, a lively centre of administration, economic life, culture and education. Its easygoing inhabitants speak their Savonian dialect, twisting the never-simple Finnish language into new forms of incomprehensibility, but yet like to refer to themselves as "proper people."
Whatever time of year you visit Kuopio, you will always find something going on there, and nature will be close enough to reach out and touch. Every season has its own charm. You can choose an indoor or an outdoor venue for whatever you want to see or do. You can just watch and look, or you can get into the thick of the action yourself.
Museums and exhibitions are there to present the rich cultural and artistic heritage of eastern Finland to you. In the heart of 90%-Lutheran Finland, the Orthodox church museum is a reminder of the country's links with Byzantium going back more than a thousand years. Or you can choose from a wide range of present-day culture in the fields of theatre, dance or opera.
The annual Kuopio Dance Festival in late June/early July attracts performers and audiences to the city from every corner of the world. A different theme is chosen each year. One of the events being arranged in association with the festival in 1997 is a children's dance congress.
Even the most dyed-in-the-wool of urbanites will find enough to see in Kuopio, its variety of architectural expressions, its lake harbour, colourful market square and other shopping places, and not least its restaurants that offer both international fare and regional delicacies.
For the outdoor enthusiast, Kuopio and its environs offer a great range of amenities. You can take a steamboat trip through the Kallavesi lake archipelago, shoot foaming river rapids, make a day-long canoe trip or spend a couple of hours at one of the 13 sets of oars in one of the old boats that used to ferry people to church.
If venturing out onto the water is not your thing, you can put on your hiking boots and head off into the terrain under the leadership of a guide. Or, if you want more speed, you can don a helmet, hop onto the saddle of a mountain bike and follow your leader across country. In winter, magnificent cross-country ski trails beckon.
Armchair athletes have plenty to watch whatever the time of year. Thanks to plastic slopes, ski jumping is now no longer a winter sport, but a year-round one.
Kuopio has made a special effort to entertain visiting children. Especially in summer, there is a wide range of amenities and activities to amuse them, including theme parks, an animal park and a pirate adventure.
Emphasis on congress travel
In recent years Kuopio has been developing its tourism services beyond traditional recreational travel. The city's Tourism Director Lea Kivelä says: "Kuopio has everything needed to arrange a successful meeting or congress. We have good communications, all the necessary physical facilities and accommodation and, above all, the know-how to arrange gatherings of this kind."
She adds, with obvious satisfaction: "Experts based in our science park represent a variety of fields and have a key role in attracting international congresses to the city. Under an agreement with the University's training and development centre, the city administration provides financial support for the arrangement of international congresses."
"Since a very successful meeting of the Nordic Council here in November 1995, we have had a growing number of congresses. In 1996 we had dozens of national ones and 7 international, with a total of about 25,000 participants in all."
Kuopio in brief:
Map of Kuopio and surroundings
Finland's eighth-biggest city, population 85,000.
As the crow flies: about 400 km from Helsinki, 50 minutes by air, 4½ hours by train or coach.
Founded in 1782 as an administrative and commercial centre.
Seat of Lutheran Bishop.
Seat of Orthodox Archbishop.
Orthodox Church Museum with splendid collection of icons.
Kuopio University, founded 1966.
Faculties: Medicine, Natural and Environmental Sciences, Pharmacy, and Social Sciences. 55 professors, 35 assistant professors, about 200 other teaching staff, 1,000 employees in all, nearly 3,700 students.
Venue for ski-jump competition in World Cup series. Ice Marathon every winter.
Home of genuine kalakukko fish pies.