Music is a motivator for many things. For Finland, it was one of the things that helped them fight their way to freedom against the Russians. It was music that helped them stand up as one, with a national identity. It wasn’t just any music, though. It was the music of Jean Sibelius, known to be the greatest Finnish composer of all time. Even today, his music is being played in his country and across the world, especially his seven symphonies.
But a really noteworthy aspect of Sibelius is his domestic life. Sibelius lived the later years of his life in a timber villa about half an hour’s drive away from Helsinki. This house, now known as Ainola, was shared with his wife Aino Sibelius. It is also a major tourist spot, illustrative of the idyllic creative life.
Away from the bustle
Ainola is a charming home, with its steeply gabled roof and its twin chimneys. Inside, it was the typical European family home. The image of four wingback chairs gathered around a table is the very picture of coziness.
The house’s location is ideal — it is far enough from the bustle of the city, and yet it’s close enough to the capital for the composer to receive all the important news. And even if the house is surrounded by a quiet forest glade, there are other families (mostly artistic ones, too) living in the neighborhood so as not to make the Sibelius couple lonely. These are living conditions that even now, in our advanced times, would be very enviable.
Not short in comforts
The Ainola isn’t like Thoreau’s Walden — it isn’t short on amenities. Aino Sibelius herself designed a sauna (very Finnish of her!) completed a year after they started living in the house. There’s an outhouse, a shed, and a barn. In the house itself, there are two bedrooms and a servant room. There’s also a study that was later used as a living room. These are all very typical for well-to-do homes of the era. Today, one can see a separate building (built in the 1970s) serving as a ticket office and administrative office. There’s also now a small café, for those who wish to savor the environs a bit more.
Despite being a relatively well-off structure, it’s different from other home museums in that you won’t hear much excited chatter from the tourists. The biggest draw of the home — especially for the Sibelius couple — is its silence that’s very important when Jean makes his timeless compositions. The composer even eschewed having piped water (a convenience by any definition) installed, so that he would not be disturbed while he works. Electricity, too, was installed only after they’ve been living in the house for several years. This silence is something appreciated almost immediately by the visitors, and all conversations are toned down as they go about the different rooms. This is most apparent as they visit the southern section of the property, where the composer’s grave lies amidst the shade of trees.
A fitting tribute
The museum is open every summer (May 2 to September 30), from 10AM to 5PM. It’s closed every Monday, and the entrance fee is only 10 Euros. There are guided tours available, too. You can take the R Train to the Ainola stop, and walk around 10 to 15 minutes from there to the site itself.
If you want to visit something completely different, head over to Ainola. It offers an interesting insight to the life of a man whose music influenced not just a generation of his countrymen but its whole history. The Ainola is preserved in all the right ways, serving as a fitting tribute.