There is a strange tendency among Finnish celebrities to sniff at Lahti - especially if that's where they come from originally (and a surprising number do). Not that the local municipal officials haven't done their share to give cause for amusement, the worst being of course the renaming of the town orchestra The Business City Orchestra in the 1980s. I can still remember the shock I had when I saw the poster for the first time, unprepared. The name is said to have originated from a musician's joke. Just shows you can never be too careful about your jokes... But Lahti was made fun of even before that.

But actually Lahti is the secret ideal of many Finnish towns and cities, even Helsinki is just a big Lahti, and Turku has tried really hard - they have called it Turku Disesase, but they've got it wrong, it is Lahti Infection, the pulling down old houses to make way for more profitable buildings. It just hasn't been so noticeable in Lahti which didn't have so many old buildings to start with. Anyhow, the result is that most population centres look the same, although few places in Finland can boast with a longer history of habitation than Lahti with its 9300 years.

But Lahti is not as bad as some would have us believe. The location among the ridges, woods and lakes is pleasant, there are still some interesting buildings and structures, nice parks, and even some newer places aren't too bad. There is an excellent library, many new cafés, a decentish theatre (Concrete Structure of the Year in 1982)...

One of the strange things in Lahti is the Lanu Cult - for want of a better name. I suppose it is better to name places for a live sculptor than a president. It is all right to name a park for the maker of the sculptures there, but naming a central square for him is a bit too much, even if also there is a sculpture by him, as in many other places in Lahti.

One of my favourite places in Lahti is the harbour which got its present shape in the 1990s when the wood processing industry left the area. It's a pleasant place with some old wooden buildings on the Kariniemi slope (with the Lanu Park above), restaurant and passenger boats, cafés and the concert hall - named with a typical lack of taste Sibelius Hall, because of the town orchestra's success in playing Sibelius under Osmo Vänskä. Otherwise Lahti has no connection to Sibelius unless his passing the Lahti Railway Station on the way to St. Petersburg and back counts.

Now the orchestra is called Lahti Symphony.