Western Europe, 2000

The year 2000 was a jubilee year for our choir, because already 15 years had passed from the establishment of the Veteli Boys' Choir. This milestone was celebrated with a big anniversary party and concert in May. The year climaxed with a concert tour to Western Europe, which had already been planned for a few years.

The planning of the trip and the fund-raising had been a demanding job, because a really big group would be on tour this time. The younger boys had to be absent from school for almost two weeks, the parents and the older members of the choir had to do the same thing from their workplaces.

Near Copenhagen we had enough time for a football match. But all that hard work paid off, since on the 7th of September the group of altogether 83 people, consisting of 51 boys and men, our conductor Simo, accompanist Minna Pakkala, a small string orchestra and its conductor Raila Järvelä as well as parents, was ready to start the tour. So, two buses filled with enthusiastic travelers headed from Veteli and to Turku, where we arrived later that evening and got aboard on a ship to Sweden. The next morning, our journey continued from Stockholm harbor and the goal was to drive all the way to Copenhagen, so it was a long day a head. On our way, we stopped on the lakeside of Vättern to have lunch and to visit a candy factory, where the famous Swedish Polkagrisar candies are made. So, with our pockets and bags full of red-white-banded sweets we were ready to drive on. It was late afternoon when we arrived to Helsilborg and sailed with a car ferry to Denmark. After that, there was only a short drive to the hostel, which was located a little south from Copenhagen. In the evening, before going to bed we had enough time for a football match. Luckily, the green close to the hostel was so enormous, because so were the teams as almost all the boys from the youngest to the oldest participated in the game. The match was played in a "very serious" style and can you believe it, the other team won! After a small evening gathering and a tasty supper, it was time to hit the showers and go to bed.

The acoustics was absolutely amazing in St. Michael Cathedral. Early next morning, our journey continued again with a short sea voyage to Germany and further with the buses to Hamburg. We unpacked our bags to the premises of Finnish seamen's church. After a quick shower, we put our concert suites on and walked to the St Michael Cathedral, which was close by. There we had our first concert on this tour and it went really well. The audience was very pleased with our performance and we got a lot of positive feedback from them. So, afterwards everyone was in a good mood, especially the younger, because for most of them were first-timers in a church so huge and beautiful.

Hannover and EXPO2000 World Exhibition. Eventhough the concert had lasted pretty late in the evening, the early wake-up the next morning didn't seem to bother anyone. It was probably due to the fact that the main event of the day was the visit to the World Expo 2000 in Hanover. We arrived to Hanover in good time, but acquiring of our guest tickets proved to be a tough job, because the right office was nowhere to be found. But after of hour or two of searching, we found the right ticket office. So, the buses drove to the exhibition grounds, near the Finnish pavilion. The executive in charge of the pavilion was there to warmly welcome us and he led us in through the backdoor. The Finnish pavilion was one of the most popular ones in the whole exhibition, so there was an unbelievably long line outside. According to the staff, the average waiting time was about 45 everyday. The exhibition was called "See the Future - experience Nature". Accordingly, it displayed modern Finnish technology, untouched nature and as a third part of the "puzzle" human in the middle of those two.

The people lining up to the Finnish pavilion loved our performance. After going through the exhibition, it was time for us to perform. We had agreed to sing a concert consisting of Finnish folk music songs. There was a good place right in front of the pavilion, so the people standing in line and walking by were our audience. A lot of people stopped to listen us and especially the energetic performance of the violin girls as well as the Finlandia Hymn sung by the choir got really resounding applause. The "weather girls" seemed to be pleased too, since the sun shone so brightly. After the concert we had a few hours time to see the exhibitions of other countries as well. That time was too short for a thorough exploration, but we got a good peak of how extensive and enormous the Expo really was. Later in the afternoon, it was time leave Hanover behind. There was a long drive a head of us, because for the night we had to get to Apeldoorn, in Holland.

In Brussels we met Mr Kyösti Virrankoski, one of the Finnish members of the EU Parliament. Early next morning, it was time get on the buses again and the course was set Brussels, in Belgium. On the way, there were long traffic jams to slow us down. But the worst problems were waiting us in Brussels. The local taxi drivers were on strike and they had blocked most of the main streets, so it took us almost two hours to get from freeway to EU Parliament. Fortunately, the buses had state of the art air conditioning, otherwise it would have been a torture in such a sweltering weather. Our host in Brussels was Kyösti Virrankoski, one of the Finnish members of the EU Parliament. He offered us a clam dinner, which was a real special treat. Even all the smallest boys were curious or brave enough to at least taste the food and few of them even finished their plates, while others focused on the french fries. After the dinner, we took a short tour in the parliament house, before starting our preparations for the evening's concert.

West Finland Alliance had arranged a cocktail party, where various cultural events of that area were presented. Representatives responsible for cultural activities from other European countries and parliament members had been invited to listen to Finnish folk music performed by our choir and the violinists. Taina Kokkonen and Petri Hervanto, the tango royals of 1999, also performed during the evening. Again, we got really positive feedback from the audience, made many important new connections and even some plans for future concert tours.

The visit to Paris was short but we still saw all the major sights. This is how the men posed in front of the Eiffel Tower. After Brussels, there were going to be no "official" concerts, so next morning it was time to shift gear to holiday and to head for Paris. We arrived there later that day and we began the scouting of the city with a sightseeing bus tour. Two Finnish guides showed us the most famous sights and told us as much about the city as they could in a little over three hours. We didn't see all, that 's for sure, but we saw the Eiffel Tower, Champ's Elysee, Notre Dame, Arc-de-Triomphe, etc. Later in the evening, a group was gathered from the older boys and we took a riverboat cruise on the Seine River. In the evening light the city looked just incredible.

Choir members in Versailles. Next morning our "Tour de Paris" continued with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We took the easy way up i.e. the elevator and didn't climb along the outside edge of the tower as Iiro Seppänen had done a few weeks earlier. And we didn't jump down either! The weather was very clear, so you could see a really long distance from the top and take some really nice photos. After that, couple of hours had been reserved for shopping, before continuing to the Versailles Palace. The home of Louis XIV, the Sun King is enormously big and you could have spent a full day just walking around in those beautiful grounds. Unfortunately, we had only a couple of hours time to stroll around and take some photos, because we had a long drive through Luxemburg to Trier in Germany a head of us.

A fabulous group picture in Koplentz. In the background the intersection of the Mosel and Rein rivers. In Trier, we basically just spent the night, since early next morning we continued to Koblenz. That day the distance to be traveled was not so long, so we drove though the valley of Mosel quite slowly and just rested our eyes on the beautiful landscape. The area is a famous wine region, so naturally many of us took the opportunity and bought some fine wine, when we made our lunch break in Bernkastel. As we continued our journey, we started our own wine festival in the bus. Tasting those good wines and a lot of singing ;-) Our arrival to Koplenz was a bit behind the schedule due to the week end traffic jams. We spent the night in a really old castle, which had been restored to a nice hostel. It had been built on a big hill, so you could see beautifully the whole town as well as the intersection of the Mosel and Rein rivers. In the morning, it was time to pack our bags once again. We were going to spend the next night in Hamburg, so the day's bus drive was really long one and our asses were getting a bit tired of the sitting. We drove through Köln, where we went to see the famous cathedral, which was definitely worth visiting! It was already quite late in the evening, when we arrived to Hamburg, but not too late for getting a taste of the local night-life.

Saturday was a dejavue, but in the opposite direction, because we were going to return home the same route as we had driven on the way from Veteli to Hamburg. First, we made a stop in a huge shopping center near Lübeck, so that we could spend our last Deutsch Marks. After the short boat cruise to Denmark, there was a short drive to Copenhagen. The evening was spent in the famous Copenhagen's Tivoli, which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Even the older choir members made use of the opportunity and tested their heads and stomachs in the wildest possible rides.

Next morning was quite a typical one, we packed our bags and got on the buses. We drove to Sweden through the new and incredibly long Oresund Bridge, which connects the two cities Copenhagen and Malmo. The journey continued all the way to Stockholm, where we got aboard on ship to Turku. Although we were all quite tired from all that traveling, the last night of the trip was celebrated in profound fashion! Parties continued almost to early morning in the ship's disco. So, there were quite a many tired faces next morning in the bus, as we drove back home to Veteli.
Despite the a bit too tight schedule, which caused the bus drives to be quite long and tiresome, the trip was an incredible experience. All the concerts were successes and as a result we made some valuable new connections. The concerts were also sensibly placed, because they were all in first half of the trip, so that we were able take it a little bit easier during the other half. Perhaps the most positive experiences, which rose above all the other fine moments, were the visit to the World Expo and the two days spent in Paris.

Other material

Photos from the trip

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