Back in June this year when I was having my vacation, I happened to pass by a small town called Sortavala, a few hours riding north by train from St. Petersburg and already close to the border of Russia with Finland. I was on my way to another town further north and Sortavala was a one night stop I had to make.
It was shortly after noon when I reached my small hotel. It was just a traditional two stories building, built certainly during USSR period and typical for a town the size of Sortavala. After meeting the administrator of the place and leaving my bags in the room I went out for a walk. I wanted to wander a bit and see what there was of interesting in those streets. Remembering now the sights I had every time I looked far into those ways, I would say the main body of the town can very likely be explored on foot.
One of the main ways was adjacent to my hotel and in my first tour I chose to see what was down along that street. And, the thing I found and which by the way is the most remarkable "attraction" I saw in Sortavala was the Finnish cemetery, a huge green area with tall trees, of different sorts and contoured by a two feet tall wall made of cubic stones.
As most cemeteries tend to be, the place was filled by an astonishing silence, ignored only by the waving of leaves and twigs, added to the distant roaring of cars and trucks driving by.
Sortavala in its history had different dominators, different populations and had times both of glory and crisis. It's just compulsory to imagine though that, whatever the period was like, the nature around and the atmosphere of peace surely gave the inhabitants a bit of a comfort, a pleasant living. Maybe they didn't know it back then, but I myself envy them for the wealth they had.
As I strode slowly across the area, paying notable attention to each name engraved on the stones, I mused about the life story hidden behind each of them. How unique must it have been, that they lived their lives as full of dreams, faith and thrive as yours and mine, and they did it embraced by this fabulous environment.
Nowadays, yet with more people than ever before in history, Sortavala doesn't seem to any of its inhabitants a place where one can live in glory. It's little more than a village, where tourists come to enjoy some time in a greener place and take those pictures which they will show to friends and maybe mention one curiosity or two about. Meanwhile, underneath the ground, lies an infinity of accounts that we'll never listen to.