From the 9th of May to the 12th of May, I spend some days in Finland. I first visited El Sistema Finland (called Orkesteri Tempo) and then spend some times visiting the city and going to the small village of Porvoo.
Orkesteri Tempo / El Sistema Finland
Located in the city of Vantaa (few kilometers from Helsinki, in the North-East of Helsinki), Orkesteri Tempo is an El Sistema orchestra based in a middle School. With violins, violas, cellos, double-basses, flutes, clarinets, piano and drums, Orkesteri Tempo is a symphonic orchestra.
Conducted by Juha, the orchestra is composed of around 30 kids. The orchestra is on a voluntary basis, and if a kid wants to enter the orchestra, he can ask to try an instrument and choose the one that most suits to him.
Then he has got a weekly private lesson with a music teacher and can join the orchestra. Music teachers also play in the orchestra.
For some kids that want to play a little bit more, Juha also conducts quarter lessons. Even the principal of the middle school is playing the piano in such a quarter! :-).
It was a pleasure to be part of the rehearsal. Georges and I really enjoyed the music, going from traditional finish music to the most famous classical composers as Beethoven or Mozart. And the video will be published in the coming weeks.
The city of Helsinki
With a little bit more than 600,000 inhabitants, the city of Helsinki is quite a small capital. The architecture is a mixed between Swedish and Russian architecture. When you enter the harbor the first things you see are the Lutheran cathedral (all white) and the Orthodox church (all red).
Other remarkable buildings around the harbor are the headquarters of Stora Enso Oyj (a pulp and paper manufacturer), designed by Alvar Aalto in 1962 (the white building on the following picture) and the Presidentinlinna, the Presidential Palace.
Helsinki is also the city of the composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). A monument in the Sibelius park is dedicated to him.
Helsinki is mainly a city of water. Surrounded by water, you can find a lot a beautiful places to look at the sea. For Georges and I, it was time to take a tea and a cookie.
The island of Suomenlinna
Protecting the harbor of Helsinki, the island of Suomenlinna was a military fortress until 1973. Is was build by the Swedish in the 18th, to protect Sweden (Finland was part of Sweden at this time) against the Russian Empire.
Today, you can go by boat on the island (around 15 minutes crossing) and spend the day there to visit it.
Around 750 inhabitants are still living on the island in really charming houses.
About one hour by bus from Helsinki, you can go to the village of Porvoo. Built on the small river Porvoonjoki in the middle ages, the village was preserved from destruction and has a cathedral and lot of houses from this period.
Georges found his own house :-). This letter box is the exact replica of the house on which it is! It is really common in Finland.
Living in Finland
If you wan to live in Finland, be prepared for saunas! This is an institution in the country, and most of the apartments and houses have their own saunas. It was the first one for Georges :-).
You also need to know that it is mandatory to have a bunker under you building. Finland is independent from Russia since the 6 December 1917 and the relations between Russia and Finland are still complicated. Bunkers are a way to protect the population in case of a Russian attack. On the picture, you can see the cellar of the building where I was spleeping that can be transformed into a bunker for all for the residents of the building.