The European Capitals of Culture in 2011 have a Baltic flavour including as they do Estonia's main city Tallinn and Turku in Finland. The two will host a series of cultural events throughout the year. As well as bringing investment and tourism, the aim of the year is to raise the profile of the cities involved.
Tallinn - meeting point of east, west, north and central Europe
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, which joined the euro on 1 January, making it easier for the many visitors to spend their currency in the shops and restaurants. The city of 411, 000 is believed to take its name from the word for "Danish house/castle".
A host of cultural activities will be happening in Tallinn every day, including a Bobby McFerrin jazz concert, the Monte Carlo Ballet, painting and photo exhibitions, the first world championship in fire sculpture and youth fashion week.
Estonian liberal MEP Siiri Oviir who hails from the city noted that "Tallinn is Historical medieval Hanseatic city, a multicultural city where Western and Eastern culture meet". She went on to say that "I hope that more people want to visit Tallinn/Estonia and of course European cultural capital project gives new impulse".
Turku - a combination of old and new
Spread around the mouth of the River Aura, the official Christmas city of Finland is well-known for its historical architecture, famous boat restaurants and vibrant academic environment. Turku and its 177,000 inhabitants will celebrate its year as capital of culture with a three-day weekend full of activities that will "bring fire and love above River Aura".
Among key events during the year is a performance by Rajaton a cappella group, "Bridge of Sounds" concerts, Finnish-Japanese modern dance evening. There will also be Logomo exhibitions and various opera and jazz performances.
Speaking about Turku, Finnish MEP Ville Itälä (EPP) noted that "Turku is an historical city surrounded with beautiful nature. With its long history and important location, Turku once was the capital of Finland and an important crossing between east and west. Today's Turku offers an interesting selection of museums and cultural events."
The European capital of culture was launched in 1985 by Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri and so far more than 40 cities have taken on the mantle.