The Retirees in Helsinki – Searching for Sibelius

As we enjoyed the weak sunshine on the ferry returning to the mainland (not the sloop shown in the picture below) we decided to go to the Stockman building. We had noticed a roof top something on the Stockman so our next port of call was the roof top of that department store. The roof top bar was exposed cold and windy – the girls tried to enjoy a G&T but an accident with the delivery lost part of the G&T and left us looking for a warmer spot. In front of the Stockman is the monument to the workers of Finalnd. It was getting colder and nearing our dinner time so we returned to the apartment to warm up.

The following morning Kerry and Rod were leaving us to visit an exchange student they had hosted many years ago. To use some of the remaining time together, we decided to find the church called the Rock. Walking through the village past the local museum we spotted an opening in the rock face in front of us – here was the church. Recently constructed and without any charm I saw it as a gimmick and soon lost interest. Rod and Kerry departed at the Rock church whilst we set out to find the Sibelius memorial.
Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957), was a Finnish composer and violinist. He is widely recognized as his country’s greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.
Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s, but after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music for The Tempest (1926) and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he stopped producing major works in his last thirty years, a stunning and perplexing decline commonly referred to as “The Silence of Järvenpää”, the location of his home. His home was named Ainola after his wife.
Our trip started by tram and then a walk through a park. On the way we passed an unusual church. Its colour first caught my eye then the unusual rounded end and the bell tower with its reliefs/murals on its ceiling. There was a service being performed and parents were dropping off and collecting children from the attached creche.

Beyond the church was the park and across the park is the memorial. The memorial acknowledges his connection with the Finnish countryside and his musical composition.

We then returned to the city and visited the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral. Helsinki Cathedral is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki, located in the neighbourhood of Kruununhaka in the centre of Helsinki, Finland. The church was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was also known as St Nicholas’ Church until the independence of Finland in 1917. It is a major landmark of the city. Austere and lacking the glitz of a catholic cathedral the building does not resonate with the riches of the roman church.


Having seen the Sibelius memorial I decided I wanted to visit Ainola so the following day we went to the bus station to catch a bus out into the country. Whilst waiting for the bus we walked through the station and out of the station onto another square where we encountered and odd structure that turned out to be a church and found that we were within walking distance of the Central Railway Station – in fact we could see the damn thing.

We returned to the bus station and awaited the arrival of our bus. It arrived shortly before the appointed time. we boarded and paid our fare took our seats and waited for departure time when the bus left precidely on time. Having caught our bus we found ourselves some what lost. Without a route map we were not certain where to get off the bus and missed our stop meaning a 15 min walk back to our stop. Fortunately, the only other passenger waiting at this bus stop spoke excellent English and gave us some further directions – which we followed and proved to be wrong. So here we are in the wilderness of Finland and not a clue where that was. One thing though, our bus ticket seemed valid wherever we travelled. We got onto back roads looking for a lakeside walk and end up at a resort at Onnela.

The resort was just starting to re-open for the spring (they were clearing the snow from the ground) but the restaurnat was open for lunch. After a simple lunch we got some further directions and made our way back to the highway to await and flag down another bus.
Finally, we arrived at Ainola although you would never know it from any street signs. We walked along the dirt track towards a suspicious group of vehicles suggesting a carpark. Arriving at a kiosk/café/toilet we were relieved to learn we had arrived – this was Ainola home of Jean Sibelius. And there was an English guided tour due to start. So we had struck it lucky.

The tour only covered the lower floor of the house as the upper floor was considered unable to handle constant trafic of visitors. The tour of the house was great. Here in this country cottage Finland greatest composer lived and worked or should I say his wife lived and worked – he spent a lot of time in Germany and the US and did not handle money well. Further he saw music in colour – the green fire place was “F” major. We went out to the grave site where he and his wife lay and the laundry and bath house, the potato store and the place where the sauna once stood. For most of his life the house did not have running water or electricity. They had two helpers – a cook and a house maid both who stayed with them for years. I cannot see anyone replicating this lifestyle today. Well you may be wondering how we got home – train. Yes we caught the bus again to the end of the line where we caught the train into Helsinki and the underground home.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.