Separated by the Baltic Sea, Turku in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia are both in the spotlight this year in their roles as European Capitals of Culture. They are united in spirit, then, by themes of art and culture, but they're also linked physically by the TallinkSilja ships, as part of a cruise organised by Viada, which aims to give culture lovers the chance to sample some of the wide-ranging cultural programme the two cities are offering.
The trip lasts a week and also includes visits to the cities of Helsinki and Stockholm, as well as top notch hotel accommodation, train travel and ship cabin with sea-views. There are also a few extras such as a 48-hour Helsinki card that covers public transport and museum entry fees in the Finnish capital. Prices start from 745 € - around £650.
In Turku, the oldest city in Finland and the country's capital until 1812, many of the Capital of Culture events are free. The celebrations focus on showing how culture directly infuences physical and mental health and are presented under five themes: Transformations, which blends culture and sport; Takeoffs with events ranging from exciting contemporary art exhibitions to a musical battle; Explore the islands, which offers visitors a chance to discover Finland's unique environment and the importance of water; Very personal, creative visions of the Finnish people given voice and form through community projects, exhibitions and workshops; and, finally, Memories and truths, which explores the history of Turku through the medium of art.
For its part, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, the most recent country to adopt the euro, has also lined up a host of interesting activities with something happening every day throughout the year. Dramatic offerings range from traditional performances of the National Theatre Opera to the more alternative productions of the Von Krahl Theatre. Other highlights include the First Fire Sculpture World Championship, the Winter Swimming Festival, the 12th Annual Festival of Baroque Music, a number of environmental awareness activities, music, folk customs, songs and traditional Estonian festivals, Jazzkaar 2011, theatre and film festivals, the 2nd Punk Music Festival, Rabarock, Knit Graffiti festooning the capital's Taamsaare Park...