The Sons of the Forests by Karoliina Paatos in Lappeenranta, Finland

When I think of Finland, I think of trees. Forests are everywhere. My hometown Lappeenranta is in eastern Finland, next to the Russian border. For decades the countryside has been emptying because all the work opportunities are in the bigger cities. For the last few years families interested in horses and a more rural lifestyle have started moving back into these emptying villages. I took this picture of the two brothers in Lappeenranta. Their family lives in an old school building that is not needed as a school anymore. Both their parents ride. They are growing up amid big trees and the beautiful bog Konnunsuo. One lady who lives nearby told me it is hard to find a decent ranch anymore because the countryside is getting crowded again.

Name:Karoliina Paatos



I try to go horseback riding wherever I travel. I’ve done it even in New York City. For the last four years I’ve been roaming the back countries of the United States. I have an ongoing personal project of the cowboy culture over there. I’m working on a photo book on the subject. I love to see other people’s photo books. I try not to collect too many of them as my flat isn’t too big.

Tell us about Lappeenranta:

In my hometown Lappeenranta nature is everywhere. You can roam the forests freely and even collect the berries. There’s the big Lake Saimaa and plenty of smaller lakes scattered all around. It’s at its best on a sunny summer’s day when the night never comes.

A perfect day in Lappeenranta?

I would start a sunny summer day with brewed tea and a local Karelian pie or a meat pie at the marketplace in the city center. It’s easy to chat with strangers here as they are quite talkative. Then I would continue to the old part of the town. Lappeenranta’s newer parts look like a typical Finnish small town and aren’t that beautiful. In Linnoitus, (the old fortress) you can see local artists’ works, visit museums or go to a lovely cafeteria. Then I would definitely go see my grandmother and probably eat there. Home cooked meals are the best.

A nice brisk walk in nature or a few hours of horseback riding in one of the many stables nearby would be a good way to have a little exercise. The perfect way to end the evening would be a lakeside sauna. I love sauna, but it is a totally different thing in the summertime when you can go and swim in the lake afterwards. I love the smell of the birch bath whisk. You can buy them at the local market. I could do this for hours, and in the summertime that would be easy as the days are very long. If I meet my friends in the evening, we would probably go to one of the port’s restaurant boats.

What is the best thing about Lappeenranta?

Nature is everywhere, the air is fresh and clean, you have free access to forests and many places to swim. Karelian pie, meat pie and lingonberry pie. Yes, we like our pies in eastern Finland!

What is the worst?

The huge car market centers, the darkness in the wintertime, and the poor public transportation system.

What would be surprising about Lappeenranta to an outsider?

The greenness of the city, the amount of Russian visitors (we are next to the border), the darkness in wintertime, and how few people you see outside of business hours.

If Lappeenranta was a person who would it be?

An aunt a little prone to manic behavior in the summertime and depression during the cold months.

Who are three of your favorite artists?

Taryn Simon, Todd Solondz, First Aid Kit


Name:Karoliina Paatos


Favorite place to eat:

The meat pie kiosks at the marketplace.

Favorite place to drink:

Cafe Majurska.

Favorite shop:

Tyyki in Linnoitus.

Local tip:

You can buy the famous local lamb dish, Lemin särä, at the take away stand in the market hall.

Must do:

Go to the marketplace and taste the local pies, go to a lakeside sauna and go boating on Lake Saimaa.