Marketing Mikkeli & South Savo

  Great Stories Make Great MarketingHelp us

Each of us experiences a different daily life. Stories and symbols help us make sense of the world. Here are shared true stories -- important for place marketing; many are about this South Savo region. These stories (whether good, bad or ugly), can help us learn, improve and better enjoy life, and the wonderful world around us.

(these are just a few stories - there are more to come...)

train to Mikkeli   Mikkeli Station

Too Many Mikkeli?
I first traveled to Mikkeli by train in late 2007. The views from the train were wonderful - we passed wild lakes partly shrouded in fog, followed soon by rays of sunshine onto open vistas and scattered forest cottages. Before the train slowed for what I thought was my stop, however, there was sudden confusion: the next stop was announced on a video screen as Mikkeli - S:t Michel. Oh No! Were there multiple Mikkeli stations? No route map was posted, the name of the second station ahead was nowhere to be found, and I'd been told to get off at Mikkeli. I started to sweat: with few trains each hour, getting off at the wrong station would badly screw-up my appointments. I nervously asked someone nearby, and learned that "...maybe... this is the only station..." Explanation dawned: "St. Michel" was an alternate name or Anglicization of Mikkeli. Oops!... I had heard Mikkeli 100 times, but never S:t Michel. Confusion and serious branding problems thus greeted my first moments in Mikkeli.
      - Professor Bruce Henry Lambert

S:t Michel

Closer to Nature
We have seen summer cottages, why donít we build a summer restaurant somewhere in the middle of forest, where people will be sitting next to nature. Iíve seen this concept applied in Moscow, where inside a large building there is planted an enormous tree, and people sit somewhere on or around that tree having a meal or just for a cup of coffee.
      - Phil Alekhin

Personally Close to Nature
I live in Mikkeli's Moas 7, also called ę the end of the world Ľ because it is the most isolated of the studentsí residences. This means it is the deepest in Mikkeliís forest. When I feel like having a walk or when I feel blue, I like going into the white of the forest. I more or less follow the same path through the forest and along the lake since I began doing so in early September. There are especially two trees that I particularly like to visit. I sometimes talk to them. Whatís told in Mikkeliís forest stays in Mikkeliís forest. When the moon is full and the sky clear, even if Iím only 15 minutes away from home, I feel really at peace watching the trees and the sky reflected either by the cold water of the lake or by the bright snow that recover the ice. At some point, the lake ends up in a small river. I am fascinated by the water struggling to break from the ice to flow into the path of the river. This is a beautiful fight between the ice, the water, the stones and the trees. The whole Nature is summarized in this magic scenery. Since Iíve been there during summer through winter, I have witnessed all the changes that occur to the forest month after month and I donít think I will ever grow tired of it. Iím really looking forward for spring time to see all of it come to life again.

The lesson of this story is that Mikkeli should forget about marketing its ugly soviet-type grey building and its somewhat depressing and boring history to focus on what makes it special and valuable: its close relationship with nature and stunning landscapes. Preferably after Iím gone since Iíd selfishly rather keep my peaceful piece of nature for myself.
      - Nathanaël Vittrant

A Letter Home from Mikkeli
Dear Mom,
I got my Kharma-card last week. Kharma is a kind of club for students to discuss ambitious topics in...I would say a...casual atmosphere. Sometimes people get so excited about their intellectual discussions that they start to dance! To be more creative and have better ideas for solving the worldís problems you can get a special drink ... a mixture of a kind of sweet juice (it is called Red Bull) and Russian potato water (it is called vodka). It is really good ... I had some of my best ideas when I was drinking it.
But you can imagine - these evenings are really exhausting... sometimes it's hard to get up in the morning!
I know what you think... my son is working too hard: university and these evenings - thatís too much! But donít worry about me... I can deal with it... they call it here "the Mikkeli experience"!


p.s.: Please send money... these evenings are expensive!
      - Nils Hölterhoff

Taking Time to Stop & Smell the Roses...
A few summers ago we came to Mikkeli with my sister just for a initially meant to be quick visit to check my room and make sure everything was okay. However it was a great summer day and on our way back to my parents place we decided to visit small places we never had been before to (between Mikkeli and Heinola). It proved out to be quite an interesting anthropolitical study going to places like Ristiina and Mäntyharju. We probably spent 8 hours just driving and stopping at places we found interesting. In a way these little towns were very vital, but also seemed to be forgotten and isolated in a sense. People seemed to be doubtful towards strange faces, which was a bit odd since at least Mäntyharju attracts a lot of summer tourists. We found some small antique stores, flea markets, cafees and visited an art exhibition. It was just a great trip and it opened up the region totally differently.
      - Ida Frantsi

Mikkeli: Surprising & Educational
I came to the city of Mikkeli for the first time in my life on the same day that I was moving here. I was going to live here and study for a couple of years, and I didn't know basically anything about this city. Coming from the Helsinki area, all I had heard about Mikkeli was that Mikkeli is a small city with a beautiful church and sometimes a bit anti-social or even close to rude people. On my first day in Mikkeli I needed to ride my bike but it had to be fixed a little bit before using it. I didn't know at first where to go to fix it but then I saw a bike shop close to my school. I went there with my bike and the shop keeper was the friendliest person you could image. He helped me right away, and even did it for no charge at all.

That was quite surprising to me because usually people in the Helsinki area aren't as nice and friendly to strangers. After living almost all of my life close to Helsinki, I had had some prejudices towards the people of South-Savo and somewhat generally people from outside of the Helsinki area. During my first few weeks in Mikkeli my vision of the Mikkeli people changed quite drastically, and I learned a little lesson about groundless prejudices that we all sometimes have.
      - Kaisa Lepistö

Cold & Warm Reception
When I was a kid, my family used to go once a year for a one-week holiday to some warm country, just to get away from the coldness of Finland. One time we went to Majorca, I was a young kid back then, but I remember there was this ice-cream stall near our hotel, where a guy was selling ice cream every day. Nothing special about that, but the ice-cream vendor seemed to be specialized in Finnish customers, because he could talk and understand some Finnish, and he could spot Finnish people from far away. What would be more surprising than a Spanish ice-cream vendor greeting you in Finnish in the middle of Majorca? Well nowadays I might not be so surprised, but at that time it was something special to me. Every time we went to buy ice cream he greeted us in Finnish and even gave us a discount. However, on our last day we said goodbye to our ice-cream vendor and flew back to Finland. A few years later we went back to Majorca, however staying in a different place. One day we decided to go and see if the ice-cream vendor would still be at his original place, and there he was. Iím not sure if he remembered us, probably not, but at least he recognized that we were from Finland, and once again we could enjoy his ice creams, with a discount of course. Local charm doesnít always have to be something big or marvelous, in my case it was one man and his ice-cream stall.
      - Antti Mattila

How Da Claudio won Bad Homburg's Heart: With Care
When a new building was built in front of our apartment located on the main street in Bad Homburg, Germany, our whole family was slightly skeptical about what business was going to be there. It soon developed into a restaurant named Da Claudio. After a week of its opening my parents and I went to have lunch there, and as it turned out the first thing we felt was the welcoming atmosphere of the restaurant and its owner, Claudio. The design of the place was nice, however, there were some amateur paintings hanging from the walls. For some reason the class of the paintings never seemed to rise although they had new painting hanging there almost every month. The food was good, not the best, but it was definitely good, as was the service. After a while we started going there more often with my mother because it was across the street and fairly cheap for a nice lunch. We started thinking about why it was that we always went there and soon came to realize that there were so many more reasons to go there than not to go there. Claudio and many of the other staff had actually become daily parts of our lives as they often stood outside and whenever one would go out with the dog they would shout one's name and wave happily. Almost all of the staff knew our names and what we had done within the past week and month, this is just a part of why we feel that we owe it to them to go their restaurant and to have an input on their Italian restaurant. It would be foolish to think that we are the only ones with this same feeling towards them, as Claudio runs a business and this is how he attracts his customers: by knowing them. It isn't hard to do, but truly it is the best business concept. Despite the mediocre and sometimes high prices, the fairly simple but cozy interior, it is the chef that comes and asks us how the food is, and the Italian kisses on the cheek which greet us, and the fact that they still ask my parents how I am and when I am finally going to come visit them again that counts. As for the poor but cute paintings, they were by his fiancť and how could one ever find a man silly for hanging up his loved ones paintings, which in his eyes are beautiful.
      - Nina Harjulin

Boring! ?
In Korea I led a class of Yonsei University summer school students on a field trip to the modern planned city of Songdo. We were nicely guided by assorted experts, and could learn a great deal about this newly-built community, "the largest private-sector construction project in world history." Much was impressive. But my students had different impressions. One complained "imagine you are twelve years old Ė this place is boring and sterile."

Overplanning smothers fun, yet a healthy community should provide for people of all ages. We didn't see all facilities, and perhaps that critic might eventually have been satisfied. But it's also true that the planning process probably ignored curious & feisty kids.
      - Bruce Henry Lambert

Extra Friendly Attractiveness
Much of the charm of a place is based on how people treat you when you're visiting. That's one of the reasons why I found Japan such an attractive destination when I visited there a few years ago. The people were among the friendliest I've ever met and I especially appreciate their effort since in many cases they didn't speak much English at all. For example, the first day in Kyoto we were looking for our hotel and went to ask for directions from a local grocery store. One customer heard our conversation with the store clerk and offered to go get his car and drive us. So 10 minutes later, he arrived back to the store with his car and we got to our hotel happily!

Another example is from when we arrived to a small village by train late at night and asked for the tourist info from a local man. Not only did he explain us where it was but he took us all the way there all the time dragging one of our heavy suitcases! Then he booked a hotel room for us since the workers didn't speak much English and walked us to our hotel where he left us.

These kind of experiences made Japan a place I definitely want to visit again!
      - Lotta Kivekäs

Experiencing Nature & History
I want to tell you about a special place in my hometown Savonlinna, Finland. A couple of years ago, a young entrepreneur established the restaurant Hilpeä Munkki (A Merry Monk) on the shores of Saimaa, very close to the townís main attraction Castle Olavinlinna.

So whatís special in this restaurant? It provides customers with an experience of a medieval sight and delicious local-made food and beverages. The restaurant doesnít have a roof and it is dressed up as a medieval village, where the kitchen forms a building among others. Customers spend their time on a large wooden terrace that is only some metres away from the shore of Lake Saimaa. Small medieval-style cottages provide shelter for those not willing to eat out. The place is exceptional: one can have probably the best view to Castle Olavinlinna from there. Eating in the restaurant is a real medieval experience: not only food, but also pints, silverware and benches to mention few are reflecting the time when Olavinlinna was built in the 15th century. In addition to stepping back to the history, customers may feel they are part of the nature in the terrace restaurant. For obvious reasons, the restaurant is only open in the summer.

What could Mikkeli learn from this story? Local history is important: thus in addition to marketing Mikkeli as the headquarters town, other ideas can be found from the history. Furthermore, eating on terraces is popular, but few places offer the possibility in Mikkeli. In addition, terraces should be placed on beautiful places with nature right next to the customers. There are many possible places for such terraces, like the Kirkkopuisto park and the port area, which could be immensely popular. Mikkeli has a beautiful environment, not only because of Lake Saimaa, but it doesnít seem to take full advantage of it.
      - Juho Mikkonen

Sun & Ice
It was New Year's Eve right here in Mikkeli. Outside it was around -10 degrees and I was celebrating with a few friends of mine and we were joined by three persons who had spent most of their lives in Singapore. After a couple of beers and such we started discussing our time in high school and I can clearly remember how envious and even angry I was as they described tropical fieldtrips. Listening to these stories about how one of them sunburnt herself while spending time on a deck of a boat while the others were diving and observing the reef etc. made me want to shout out loud and ask that person to change the subject. Instead I opened my mouth and told about my trips to skiing centers and such -- how amazed I was when the others started to act like they were envying me for these stupid and cold trips. Later on I realized that they actually were jealous.

Personally I have always been more fascinated by the nature and climate a bit south from Finland and I have never hidden my feelings. But the conversation made me realize a phenomenon exactly the same in most parts of the world: the thoughts are present in the minds of most people, but the object is different. We always tend to long for places totally, or at least different enough from our homeland.

The lesson I learned from this event was that even though I personally donít find the nature of my homeland that exotic, a lot of people outside of Finland do, and therefore we have to take advantage of this as much as possible when trying to market destinations in Finland to tourists. Iím not doing any favors to companies and destinations in my homeland when I keep complaining about how cold and dark and boring and ugly it is in Finland, instead I should feel more proud of these unique features that our country has, because a lot of people find them really fascinating.
      - Jaakko Tikkanen

"Local Charm"
I was walking around the center of Mikkeli on a foggy January afternoon when I decided I wanted to cook some Tex-Mex food. In most parts of Finland (and, from my experience, in Europe in general) Tex-Mex products are usually sold conveniently on display racks where one can find tacos, burritos, nachos, different salsas, guacamole and cheddar in the same place. However, I did not find this rack in the store in question so I decided to ask a salesperson who was walking around the store sorting stuff on shelves. I asked her where the tacos were located and to my great surprise she looked like she had no idea what I was talking about. I thought to myself, "maybe she knows them by some other name", and asked her where their other Tex-Mex products were. Still the same dumbfounded look. I tried to describe them to her as pancakes from Mexico made from flour, typically served with fried chicken or minced meat and vegetables, but she looked helpless. I sensed that she was really trying to help me but just didn't know what I was talking about. I had no other choice than to tell her that I'd go ask someone else and leave her there standing looking stupefied. Not long after this I found the Tex-Mex rack and got what I wanted! I guess you can't take anything for granted in Mikkeli.
      - Kasper Lindén

A lovely Mikkeli evening

Arriving to Finland, my friend Niall and I was bewildered to say the least. We knew our final destination was Mikkeli, but exactly how to get there was another story. The first train was the easiest because all we had to do was jump on, but when we were supposed to switch trains was not as clear cut, as the first time you see or hear the Finnish language, it is not a language you can guess the meaning of the words. No problem though, as we asked people where to go and what to do, we soon realised that maybe the Finnish people had maybe mastered the English language long before us. Not only this but the majority were not just eager to help but were genuinely interested in where we were from, where we were going and why. Along the way we got lost and were quickly guided in the right direction with a smile. Realising that we neared our destination Mikkeli without any contact†with the people we were supposed to meet, a young Finn gladly and trustingly lent his phone to two scruffy lookin Irish guys, in the hope that it would help us. If it were at home I'm not sure it would be so easy. Finally we reached the Metropolis that is Mikkeli, leaving our new but short-lived friend, we were greeted by two more. Two volunteers from our college who at their own expense offered to collect us and bring us to our new home, not before they familiarized us with Finnish ways. So off we went for a few beers and a bit of friendly banter. A good end to what could have been a stressful day. This happy-ending is not just true of my first day in Finland and Mikkeli, but continues to this day.

We may have taken planes, trains and automobiles to get here, but without the Finnish charm we'd have been left stranded!!!
      - Damien Ryan

How to Score
The year 2000 was magical for the people of Oulu, as the cityís ice hockey team Kärpät reclaimed its place in sm-liiga after years spent in the lower divisions. The city went mad. When Kärpät is playing the whole city unites to cheer and support the team, and when they win the city is celebrating as one. Hockey is important for Finnish people, but in Oulu, itís a religion.

Today, Kärpät has won 4 championships, and dominates the ice hockey scene. After every championship, the city throws a party for the fans and the team at Ouluís market square. The atmosphere at those events is amazing, every inch of the square is filled and there are people even on the roofs of the nearby buildings. Bands are playing and the crowd is singing the team songs until the high event of the evening: the team arrives and thanks the fans. Kärpät has been referred to as a dynasty, and is called the hockey team of the whole northern Finland. Kärpät unites the city of Oulu and gives its people one more thing to be proud of.
      - Heidi Hänninen

First Impressions Can be Critical
It was my first trip to Europe. My friends and I were supposed to take a night train that evening from Amsterdam to Prague. We planed to bring out all luggage from hotel and to use a coin locker to put them in at Amsterdam station. Actually it was successful except for me. That day Amsterdam station was too crowded, so there was no available locker to put mine in! My friends and I waited for someone picking out his/her luggage, but no one did. Anyway, I could not bring my luggage during touring because I was not confident to deal with my heavy bag, almost 20kg, and I was disappointed with all things at that moment, so I let my friends go without me for sightseeing. As I sat alone and ate something sweet (needed to forget my depressing feeling) and waited for my friends in the station, I thought that Amsterdam did not want to welcome me, and I still believe like that.
      - Yun Jeong Hwang

Damn A'dam!
Amsterdam is one great place to visit, but after living near the centre of the city for some 5 months I realised that Amsterdam is not where I wish to stay any longer. The problems started when I was leaving I was given no information apart from an address to the school and simple directions "5 minute walk from Diemen Zuid train station." I found the train station quite easily, but the "5 minute walk" turned into a 30-minute scramble around an unfamiliar area while dragging 25kilos of baggage. Then I finally found the school; "inholland" colors of purple, orange and pink labeled the entrance, at this point I was slightly frustrated and just wanted the keys to my apartment. However, I was not in the clear yet, after some payment complications I finally received the keys to my apartment. The keys were handed to me along with some ever-helpful directions: "go to another train station and grab a bus then get out at the shopping centre." At this point I had given up all hope for an easy journey, so I smiled and said thanks. After another hour of hiking and confusing bus rides I found myself at the destination: 148 Oud diemerlaan. This student housing was a seven story ex-old peopleís home, with smelly corridors and dirty rooms...

Even though, the preceding story might sound like I did not enjoy my time in Amsterdam. I have to say once this hell of a first day was over, I had one of the best times in my life!

I guess this story has taught me to be a little bit more patient, and also maybe to prepare myself a little better when going abroad. If only I had googled and mapped my journey it would not have been as crazy.
      - coolMASA (Matias Hyyrynen)

Who Greets Us?
After spending a few weeks out of town in my first year, I returned to Mikkeli one winter afternoon. The weather had been marvellous across the country, as it was in Mikkeli: sunshine, crispy cold air, and lots of snow. With my bags in tow and the strap of my laptop bag over my shoulder, I started heading home.

The first person to say hello to me on the street wasn't one of my classmates; instead, it was a locally famous homeless man, who for some odd reason happened to recognize me.

While the story is funny to tell to people, and it in some ways sums up how bizarre life here can be, perhaps a sign at the train station, welcoming to the town residents as well as visitors, would after all have made a better first impression?
      - Tuuli Määttä

Inflated Internet Marketing -- Beware
Have you heard there is a "Chinese Hawaii" in the very south end of China? Well, fascinated by this "world's heaven" combined with reasonable prices, I decided to have a holiday at this Chinese southern island, called Hainan.

In order to better enjoy this "paradise world", I reserved a four star hotel on the internet. It looked fancy and there was even a pick-up service from the airport, free of charge. After about three hours flight from Shanghai, I arrived to my destination. As I was just wondering where my driver was, the hotel car's driver showed up and took me to his vehicle. Well, immediately I understood why there is pick up service and why it is free. The car was very old, noisy, rusty and even bad smelling. I was even wondering if this car can make its way to the hotel and if this "taxi driver" will even take me there. But, I got in the car anyway, just hoping I'd enjoy a nice time at the four star hotel.

After about 40 minutes' drive through the darkness, I came to the city center, where my hotel was located. Here came the second surprise, the hotel was even smellier than the car. There was mold in the wardrobe, tiles were falling off from the toilet wall and the bed was extremely hard. This whole experience was a lot different from what it looked like on the internet and in the stories I had read. So as a conclusion, the Internet can be quite a deceiving tool. If you use this for marketing, make sure you deliver what you promise - especially if you want a returning customer.
      - Petri Lassi

Who Helps Us?
On a recent trip to Milan all I wanted to do was to do what all men want do: Check out the Italian talent and watch a football match in the famous San Siro stadium. To my disappointment we didnít manage to get to see the legendary AC Milan in action but I hit the city that night with a pocket full of cash and high hopes that the famous Irish charm might work for a change. Firstly we hit a bar and got the night started with a few pints and shots. Prices were outrageously expensive but I wasnít going to let this get me down. Then after hours of searching for nightclubs and failing to find one open I soon sobered up and was pissed in a different sense. Fair enough this was Sunday, but this is one of the largest cities in Europe. We sat impatiently on a curb waiting for a taxi to pass and go home but it never arrived. Then to top off a bad night this homeless guy started to sketch "masterpieces" beside us. Slowly the conversation started and he told us that no taxi would pass and our only option was to get the night tram from the main station. He offered to show us because it was close to his "bed." We didnít have many options so we followed this homeless guy. For about 45 minutes we followed this guy and there was no sign of the station. We realised that all he wanted to do was talk and had no intention of showing us where this night tram was if it even existed. Then suddenly there was the station and a tram pulled in within minutes. We got to the hostel and took a much needed sleep. So even though the trip wasnít a success I will return some day because the local charm of a homeless guy made me realise that it was the right city but wrong day.
      - Niall Herlihy

Different Strokes for Different Folks
When first visiting Barcelona, my wife & I excitedly planned to see the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, especially his sacred masterpiece, La Sagrada FamŪlia. We took an open-top city tour bus to go to his unique church. But only part way, almost everyone excitedly got off the bus. We were confused and asked a departing passenger "Where are we?" -- "Camp Nou!" Ė it was FC Barcelona stadium, Europe's largest football (soccer) stadium. We felt confronted by the reality of how varied people view a city and its assets quite differently.

In choosing development projects, one project won't make everyone happy Ė better to develop a package of very different attractions.
      - Bruce Henry Lambert

a forest dawn