Culture Cities Of The North

ISTANBUL HAS HANDED OVER HER EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE TITLE TO FINLAND’S TURKU AND ESTONIA’S TALLINN. HERE ARE 8 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THESE TWO NORTHERN CITIES.

1) Turku, 155 kilometers west of Helsinki, is one of Finland’s oldest cities. The former capital of Finland, Turku is also home to the country’s oldest and most respected institutions of higher education.

2) Situated inside a natural harbor surrounded by thousands of tiny islands large and small, Turku is shrouded in twilight in winter due to its proximity to the North Pole. Illumined by the White Nights in summer, the city’s coastal waters are dotted with tiny, deserted islands of only 10-15 households.

3) The 14th century Turku Cathedral is one of the oldest places of worship in Finland. Historic Vanha Suurtori Square lies opposite the cathedral spire.
 
4) Turku Castle, which dates back to 1280, was restored by the Swedish King in the 17th century. Its dungeons harbor many a fascinating bit of information about the city’s past. And while you’re there, don’t forget to take a look at the History Museum.

5) Tallinn, where the first traces of settlement go back to the 10th century, is the capital of Estonia, which declared its independence in 1991. The city, which lies on the coast of the Baltic Sea opposite Finland, undertook a rapid restoration starting in the 1990’s and has now been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

6) Estonian and Finnish are widely spoken in Tallinn as they are throughout Estonia, the northernmost of the Baltic countries. And the ‘White Nights’ crown the temperate climate of this city, which lies so far north that the sun hardly sets at all in summer.

7) A Tallinn icon, St. Nicholas Church is a perfect example of 13th Gothic architecture. The church’s white bell tower is exactly 105 meters tall.

8) Kadriorg Palace in a park on the coast of Narva Maantee two kilometers east of Old Tallinn was built between 1718 and 1736. The vast garden of this palace with a pool, built by the Italian architect Niccolo Michetti for the Russian Tsar Peter the Great,  can be toured summer and winter.

FESTIVAL TIME
Turku Music Festival
(www.turkumusicfestival.fi) is August 5-18, and Ruisrock (www.ruisrock.fi) July 8-10.

THE THEATER AND MUSIC MUSEUM
The museum, which tells the story of the dozens of musicians and theater artists trained in Tallinn, also has an exhibition of musical instruments form the 18th and 19th centuries.  For information: www.tmm.ee