People of Finland like to drink alcohol, especially beer. And they should because Northern Europe is cold, and they need their fix of alcohol to stay warm at least for some time.
Alcohol is expensive in Europe, but cheaper in Russia.
Taipalsaari is a small city in Finland that has many lakes and swamps. People have a lot of time there and they build houses by the lake or relax in their boats on the lake.
The region has a temperature ranging between -11 degrees C to 11 degrees C. But still the beer does not help us warm up my friend says.
Parking the vehicle outside the store, he and his friend walk into the store. They cannot speak Russian, but they can understand some.
They are in the store at the outskirts of Luzhayka, a Russian border town to stock up on some alcohol. Luzhayka is in the Leningrad Oblast that shares its borders with Finland and Estonia.
The men who are in their late twenties and early thirties have enough money to buy beer in Finland but traveling to Russia and getting back with beer is cheaper than going to the store to buy beer for them.
They are not particularly worried about attracting attention of the authorities. They have friends who they can negotiate with in that part of the Finnish-Russian border.
However, they are strictly warned that they cannot spend much time in Russia.
Besides, Russia does not have a free movement policy with Finland, but to hell with it if they can buy cheap beer.
The friends make a 70 odd kilometer trip from Taipalsaari in Finland to Luzhayka in Russia that takes less than two hours.
The itinerary for the day?
- Drive to the Russian border check post.
- Tell the border patrolman that they are going to the store for beer and will not escape into Russia.
- Promise the border patrolman some beer.
- Drive to the store to buy beer at their favourite Russian store
The patrolman usually accepts the offer. “Why?”, I ask It is probably because the border policeman cannot make enough money to buy his own he tell me.
They use the time given to make a short trip further to a store outside Luzhayka, stock up their vehicle with beer, and come back the same way. They pay the border policeman with beer.
After taking the beer, the policemen open the gate for the two men to drive back to Taipalsaari. A day well spent and a nice cross-border drive.
Finland and Russia too have border disputes like almost all the countries in the world. They would be driving into towns that have changed hands numerous times.
From Finland to Russia, to Sweden, and then to Russia.
Finland is hesitant to ask for the land back, diplomatic problems he says.
But the border patrol is friendly towards the Finnish people but within reason.
Narrated to me by Kaln (name changed) a Finnish person I met in Colombo. He lives in Finland, in a city dominated by lakes and swamps.
He won a boat in an auction and came to know about it while we were chatting about Finland.
Featured image source: Rantatupa