"The birth place of Finnish National Epic, Kalevala" Top 5 Page for this destination Kajaani by annase

Kajaani Travel Guide: 44 reviews and 151 photos

Facts and figures

Kajaani is located southeast of Oulujärvi (Lake Oulu), in the province of Oulu. It is also the capital and the largest town of the Kainuu province. The population of Kajaani is nearly 40,000 although the population density is one of the lowest in the world (33 people/km²).

Despite a rather remote location, the region (and the town itself) has getting more multicultural since the 1990s. The largest group immigrants in the region are the Russians. Other nationalities include Sudanese, Iranians, Afghans, Estonians, Iraqis and Eritreans. There are also people from the Balkans (former Yugoslavia).

The most significant employers in Kajaani include companies specialised in electronics and IT. There are also a few higher education establishments such as a polytechnic specialising in business studies, technology and nursing. The town houses the largest garrison in Finland (Kainuu Brigade) and a unit that takes care of the border controls, the Finnish Border Guard.

In order to see what the town centre looks like in real time, check out the online camera. You can choose to update the page every 5 seconds by choosing 'Laajakaista' (broadband). There is also an excellent video about Kajaani on You Tube

I visit the town every now and again, since my parents live there (have done the last three decades). I used to get utterly bored in my teens and even late twenties there, but now I can appreciate the clean air, beautiful nature and the peacefulness of the town. It's actually pretty fab when all my friends gather there too (mostly during the Christmas holidays).

Main sights

The main attractions in town include the wooden Evangelic-Lutheran church (representing new Gothic style), the Old Town Hall (designed by an architect Carl Ludvig Engel who is best-known for his neo-Classical buildings around the Senate Square in Helsinki), the wooden Art Nouveau style railway way station (built in 1904?1905 and that has earned itself a title "the most beautiful railway station in Finland") and the ruins of a castle that was built on an isle in the middle of the river that runs through the town, the Kajaani Castle.

The ruins are the last medieval style fortification in the Nordic countries. The built started in 1604, but it took over 60 years to fully complete. Over the years, the castle had multiple purposes such as serving as a prison, a military base, an administrative centre as well as a refuge for the civilians. The castle had a very sad ending: it was blown to pieces by the Russians during an invasion and subsequent military occupation in 1716. Unfortunately, the castle has been just a pile of rocks ever since, but research and restoration work as well as a development project have been proposed to revive the castle as well as the entire river side area. Watch this space!

The town itself was founded in 1651. It is one of the 10 towns founded by a Swedish statesman called Per Brahe. At that time, Finland was ruled by Sweden, and the King decided to send Per Brahe to civilise and develop the backwards country and the folk. During his time in Finland, Per Brahe reformed the administration, introduced a postal system, improved and developed commerce and agriculture.

At the time when Kajaani was founded, the region was an important wood tar producer. The barrels containing tar were shipped to the lake "Oulujärvi" and then along the river "Oulujoki" to the city of Oulu which is located on the Bothnian coast of the Baltic sea. From there, the tar was shipped to continental Europe, where it was used as a sealant and an anti-rot agent for ship hulls.

Kajaani has got intriguing historical past, characterised by literary talents such as Elias Lönnrot, Eino Leino and Johannes Messenius. The town hosts several annual art & performance events in Kajaani, including a jazz festival "Kainuun Jazz Kevät", a dance festival "Kajaani Dance" and a literary festival celebrating the art of poem reading "Kajaanin Runoviikko".

In my opinion, one of the most important historical figures who lived in Kajaani was a chap called Elias Lönnrot. He is best known for composing the Finnish national epic compiled from Finnish folk poetry 'Kalevala' (loosely meaning 'The Land of Kaleva'). There are two editions of this large collection of poems (so called 'Old Kalevala' and 'New Kalevala'). He published the Old Kalevala whilst he was living and working as a district doctor in Kajaani in 1835.

There are a few other noteworthy people who used to be prominent in the town and the most notable of them have their own statues scattered around the town. One of these is a poet, playwright and novelist Eino Leino who was the most important developer of Finnish-language poetry at the turn of the 20th century. His statue is placed in the park on the side of the River Kajaani.

Leino's works combine the archaic and mythic tradition (Similar to the style of Kalevala and that of old Finnish folk songs and poems) and modern poetry (e.g. symbolism and influences from Friedrich Nietzsche) The themes of poems often center around nature, love and despair, but he also wrote poems concerning current political events and ideals. Many of Leino's poems have also been composed into songs, such as 'Nocturne'. In his lifetime he published over 70 books containing poems and stories. One of his most famous works are the two poem collections 'Helkavirsiä'

It's a bit of shame though that these great people are celebrated very modestly in Kajaani, and the town could really flaunt their success much more in my opinion - as well as many of the sights such the castle ruins dating back to 17th century.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Clean air, forests and water.
  • Cons:Small town, far up in the north.
  • Last visit to Kajaani: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (26)

Comments (3)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2008 at 3:15 AM

    Great page Sanna! I would love to see that castle sometime!

  • y2ketan2007's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2008 at 8:52 AM

    Sanna, Kajaani seems like a wonderful place.Thanks for the information.Regards, Ketan.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Sep 5, 2007 at 1:10 PM

    Sanna, lovely page about this obviously very off the beaten path place in Finland. I really like the wooden Art Nouveau railway station.

annase Used To Live Here!


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