In the snowy landscape, the mansion and its sculpture garden gave an almost Narnia-like vibe.

Oh, reader, how I yearn to tell you the full history of this magical place, for it is one of glitz and glamor, terrible darkness and some very important house guests. Alas, as you read on, you will notice that this hidden (kind of) gem is without a single graffiti or broken beer bottle and thus worth keeping a little hush-hush about. I trust you’ll understand.

What I can tell you is that the day I visited the place was just magnificent. Alley Cat and a couple of other friends, one old and one new, had happily agreed to come along for this exciting mission and share the costs of renting a car. By 11am on a Sunday morning in mid-February, we were driving through endless snow-covered fields with the brightest sun Finland had seen for months shining down on us.

At the end of a long narrow driveway elegantly lined with birch trees, we saw our destination. Though the mansion itself – there were also a couple of smaller buildings scattered around the area – was missing its exterior wall panels, it was still quite enchanting. Simply seeing it from the outside and roaming the garden was a delight.

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From the pictures I’d previously seen, I knew to expect a sculpture garden. I was not disappointed: in addition to some fantastic engravings we found a few statues, including ones depicting a young girl and a lion. In the snowy landscape, covered in moss and lichen, they gave an almost Narnia-like vibe.

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Aslan, is that you?

As we entered the main building, we quickly saw that the wall panels were not the only thing missing: with floors also gone, you had to walk on planks to get from room to room. About a meter below our feet, the ground was revealed along with some of the original piping of the building.

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The story has it that the owners were already in the process of renovating the mansion when they discovered that the structure was not very solid at all. Work stopped immediately and the building was left to simply stand there waiting for a bulldozer that may or may not come one day.

Missing parts aside, we saw many things that seemed a little too precious to have been simply left behind like that: elaborate chandeliers, fireplaces and mahogany artwork.

Kartano 04Notice the double-headed eagle, traditional symbol of the Russian Empire, at the top of the chandelier

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The original brickwork and metal piping, along with little strips of torn vintage wallpaper every here and there, offered a stunning contrast to the luxury items of the past.

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The second floor held access to an enormous balcony with a pretty sweet view over the frozen lake. Though the mansion’s premises were empty save for a pair of fellow explorers that came in shortly before we left, the surroundings were everything but. Down below, tiny skiers and ice skaters had come out to play in the glorious sun. The wind carried their voices to us and for a short while I was transported to a time gone by.

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Kartano 40Imagine sitting here on a warm late spring’s day in 1895, sipping tea, reading suffragist utopian fiction

Who knows, maybe in a few years the mansion will have been replaced by a modern congress center whose visitors will get to enjoy these very same views. Until then, though, I hope this old beauty will keep on keeping on and not wither under the elements – or vandals, for that matter. And for god’s sake, will somebody at least save those chandeliers?

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