The Crown Princess Couple talking with Nikolo Kerimov, a design student, during their visit to the Sibelius Hall in Lahti. Photo: Matti Matikainen/Stella Pictures
On Monday 1 November, The Crown Princess Couple began their first joint official visit to Finland.
In the morning, The Crown Princess Couple met the President of the Republic Tarja Halonen and Dr Pentti Arajärvi at the official residence of the President, Mäntyniemi.
The Crown Princess Couple then travelled to Lahti, where they visited the Tiirismaan Lukio Upper Secondary School, the Sibelius Hall and Energon, a research centre for renewable energy. At Tiirismaan Lukio Upper Secondary School, they met pupils from Lotila, Harju and Anttilanmäki schools, as well as pupils from Tiirismaan Lukio Upper Secondary School and the Swedish School. The Crown Princess Couple attended a home economics lesson with young people studying Swedish as a first foreign language, where they made smoothies under the guidance of Michael Björklund, course director for the "Cook in Swedish — smoothie" course used by the SvenskaNu ("SwedishNow") project. The Crown Princess Couple then visited the Sibelius Hall, where they were shown an exhibition by Lahti Institute of Design and young designers. The young designers talked about their works and Professor Eero Miettinen discussed international influences within modern Finnish design. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra gave a performance of Jean Sibelius' Valse Triste from the Karelia Suite. In the afternoon The Crown Princess Couple visited Energon, a research centre for renewable energy in Lahti. The Crown Princess Couple were given a tour of Energon by Eero Pekkola, Managing Director of Oilon Oy. They were also given a presentation about the research centre for renewable energy and the research carried out by Oilon Oy.
In the evening, President Halonen hosted a dinner at the Presidential Palace on Kauppatori in Helsinki. In her speech at the dinner, The Crown Princess said that the bicentenary in 2009 of the separation of Finland from Sweden had been a reminder of the strong link between the two countries, and a reminder of their shared history. She continued by saying that visiting Finland is always special, and is something that she looks forward to: "For me, being in Finland is like being almost at home. 'Almost', because Finland is of course an independent and proud nation of its own that chooses its own destiny, and that has made immense sacrifices to gain and defend its independence. 'Home', because there is so much that unites our countries which have so much in common. 'Home', because I always encounter such warmth and such a welcome here in Finland."