The Tour for Literary and Library Lovers


Helsinki - Porvoo - Malmgård in Loviisa   (Vyborg - St.Petersburg - Novgorod - Pskov - Tartu - Tallinn and optional: Stockholm - Uppsala)

  • This is a tour for book and library lovers. And lovers of history and stories. The tour can be designed for professionals of libraries, publishers and universities and education or it can be designed for readers, collectors and bibliophiles. The Library Dog Lassi is volunteering at the Vallila library in Helsinki. He loves to listen stories and he is encouraging children to read to him aloud. He also loves to get new friends and can´t wait to meet the children every week. And the children love Lassi.
  • Our tour will take you to explore the most interesting libraries and rare collections of books in Finland and Estonia - optionally also in Sweden. We shall view the history but also the modern world of books and libraries. This is a tour for book addicts and to those who want to find people of their like. We are viewing old and new architecture of libraries and book collections. We are meeting dead and living authors and visit their homes and bookshelves and writing chambers. We are exploring bookshops and ransacking antiquarians. We shall learn how people in this part of the world have written and how they write today. Why are the Finns with their weird ancient language the most literate people in the world? There are 853 public libraries in Finland and 134 library buses. The population of 5,5 million Finns visited their public libraries more than 50 million times in the year 2017 and 37 million visits were made online to libraries.


Finland is known for literate people who are studying free of charge and are heavy users of the libraries. There are 853 public libraries and 134 library buses in Finland. The 5,5 million Finns visited the library 50 million times during 2017 and visited the online library 37 million times. There are 35 million items, 1,1 million movies and series, 73000 e-books and 67000 periodicals for the clients to use. They loaned 15,6 books per resident during 2017.


Day 1. The culture tour of Helsinki. City tour starts at the neoclassical center of Helsinki The Senate Square. Today will get a good glimpse of the lifestyle of the Finns, the free educational system, main culture organisations and how we use the libraries and online services.

The National Library. Introduction of the valuable collections of the library. One of the most interesting is the A.E. Nordenskiöld Collection that contains maps, geographical literature, travel accounts and book rarities collected by researcher and explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in the end of the 19th century. In 1997, the collection was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World registry. A.E. Nordenskiöld was a scientist and an explorer who was the first to sail across the Northeast Passage by the SS Vega. The library also has the largest collection of the works of Jean Sibelius, the National Composer of Finland. Some of the collections are open for public. The National Library has one of the largest collectiond of Slavonian literature in the world.

The University Library Kaisa was opened in 2012. The library has won several international awards for sustainable design and it´s stunning architecture. It is the largest multidisciplinary university library in Finland. The library is an independent institute of the University of Helsinki and open to all information seekers, not only academics. The library offers a wide collections of printed and electronic materials. There are altogether about 73.5 shelf-kilometres of printed books and journals. There is a special collection of the philosopher Jaakko Hintikka, who was also interested in the game theories, mathematics and the Bloomsbury group.

The Oodi Lilbrary on the new central square of Helsinki, the Citizen Square opposite the Parliament Building

The Oodi Central Library was opened to the public in December 2018 in Helsinki. It has won several international awards, in 2019 it was nominated as the best public library in the world. And it was included on the Time Magazine´s list of The 100 places to visit in the world. But especially the people of Finland and all the international visitors have loved the library. It´s architecture is respecting the needs of the modern reader and his/her needs of information technology. Oodi Library is also a meeting place for everybody and it is open seven days a week from morning till evening. It is constructed of steel but covered with warm wood and huge glass panels that create a great harmonious space for the people to concentrate on reading, or meeting other people either face to face or online. Free of charge. Oodi library was one of the birthday presents for the public when Finland was celebrating 100 years of independence in 1917. The Book Heaven on the 3rd floor is covered with a ceiling that is a piece of art and an acoustic panel that forms like big cloud to create peaceful atmosphere fading the noises. The 3rd floor is a spacious library with a big balcony and a café. The children wanted to have a hill and living trees in the library. And space to play and read. The Childrens´ area in Oodi is busy. There is a secret door that leads into a giant pumpkin...People also wanted to have access to computers, sewing machines, 3D-printers, a studio to play and record music and borrow musical instruments, to edit their videos or photos. Many people wanted to play computer and console games. And they got what they had hoped for and much more. The 2nd floor at Oodi Library is reseved for hands on-activities.The black spiral stairs are connecting three floors and form a magnificent work of art by Otto Karvonen called Omistuskirjoitus. The Acknowledgement.

Kalevala is a collection of ancient stories and poetry, that were recited like a kind of "rap music" from generation to generation. This culture was discovered already in the 18th century. The poetry was a living part of the daily life and it was used for many purposes from story telling to child birth, weddings and funerals among mostly illiterate people in Eastern Finland. The oldest stories in Kalevala and other poem collections are more than 3000 years old.

There are nine great carpets at the Oodi Library that express the Finnish stories and literature. Here is a carpet by Sakke Yrjölä. Here you see a giant pike that is swimming in the river Tuonela that separates the land of the dead and the living. The story is from Kalevala.

Elias Lönnrot, who originally was a doctor and a botanist took a passion of narrative heritage and took down the rhymes and created a collection that was given a name The Kalevala. This took place in the beginning of the 19th century and Kalevala became a center of the process of Finns discovering their own heritage and creating ideas of an own nation. Also a lot of students took interest in the old stories of goddesses, wizards, heroes and maidens and battles between the North and the Kalevala people. The collected poems and stories are forming one of the great collections of human heritage and it has been inspiring many scientists and writers. English J.R.R.Tolkien who knew Finnish and Kalevala well used a lot of the contents of Kalevala when creating the Lord of the Rings and he even rewrote the Story of Kullervo that is a story included in The Kalevala. The Kullervo Story is originating from the Ingria, where out tour will take us on our way to St Petersburg and Novgorod.

Kalevala is a collection of ancient "rap" that was sung by mostly iliterate people in Eastern Finland in the beginning of the 19th century. The oldest stories are more 3000 years old. In the picture Elias Lönnrot, who was the writer of Kalevala is writing down the singing of Miihkali Perttunen. (The Society of the Finnish Literary Society)

Day 2. Excursion to Porvoo and Malmgård Manor

Porvoo (50 km). Today´s tour takes us to the east of Helsinki. First we shall explore the Old town of Porvoo that has been built around the medieval Porvoo Cathedral. Porvoo is the second oldest town in Finland, established approximately in the year 1380.The red ware houses by the Porvoo river remind of the importance of Porvoo as an important trade center in the past. The street along the river is the same road that used to connect Swedish kingdom through Finland to Vyborg and to Moscow already in 13th century.

Borgå Gymnasium library is the oldest public library in Finland from year 1728. Borgå Gymnasium´s library is opened for special groups only. There are rarities are icunabels, for example Geometric text book by Euclid from 1482 and the first Bible published in Swedish from 1541 and the first Bible in Finnish 1642. The first book ever published in Finnish was the New Testament that was translated by a priest, later a bishop Mikael Agricola, born near Porvoo in Pernaja. He studied in Germany during the reformation era and his teacher was Martin Luther.

We shall enjoy lunch either in Porvoo or in Malmgård.

The Malmgård Manor. Malmgård ( 29 km) is an old manor of the nobel Creutz family since 17th century and many of the men of the family have served the kings of Sweden in important positions. The art collections and the library contain a number of great rarities. The estate has expanded during the years and now Malmgård is a modern organic farm of 400 hectares with own beer production and mill. The estate produces it´s own water and grain for the beer and flour and the energy comes from their own power station from the river running across the land.

Drive back to Helsinki.

Optional visit: In the evening at the Antiquarian Bookshop Hagelstam, meeting with the owner Mr. Cecil Hagelstam with his precious collections of old maps and prints and rarities and the Fennica collection from 16th century to editions of many other scientific and non fiction topics to poetry and fiction. There is a rare collection of old Russian books, also available at online shopHagelstam Antiquarian Book Shop in Helsinki

Day 3. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress - Vallisaari Island - Saunasaari -Island.

A day spent island hopping from history to contemporary art and to relax in the sauna. First let´s sail to Suomenlinna, that lies only 20 minutes by ferry from the Old Market Place in front of of Helsinki. Suomenlinna - Sveaborg fortress lies between the Western and the Eastern Europe on the coast line of Helsinki. There are 400 km from St Petersburg and 400 km from Stockholm to Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna, the by the name Sveaborg, was established during the rule of the Swedish king Fredrik  to protect Stockholm from the threat from Russia. Sveaborg was the biggest construction project in it´s time in Europe in mid 18th century. It still is the most expensive project that Sweden has ever been part of. It was said to be invincible but in 1808 it surrendered to the Russians. Alexander I took over the fortress and it started to protect St Petersburg from the west. This lasted for 110 years. A number of incidents took place, the biggest of them was when the great the British Navy with some French ships in 1855 during the Crimean War bombarded the fortress with the most modern war fleet of 77 ships. We are exploring the fortress and enjoying lunch in Suomenlinna. The taking just a 10 minutes trip on ferry to Vallisaari.

Vallisaari has been untouched for decades because it was an island reserved for the Finnish army as a storage and occasional training. It was opened to the public in 2016 and it became a popular spot for it´s great nature and remnants of it´s history. The island is mentioned already in the maps of the Vikings because there is a lake that has provided water for the travellers. Vallisaari Island has a number of valuable nature and preserved areas.

Saunasaari Island lies 20 minutes by private boat from Vallisaari and that will be the place for recreation. There are two saunas and warm pools and the sea to make you feel happy and relaxed.

Finland is the only country where all the ports are freezing during the winter and that´s why it takes a few weeks in the beginning of summer before the water temperature reaches + 20C (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

Day 5. Helsinki. Optional program. See Helsinki



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