February 28, 2006

Another list...

Inspired by Lonely Planet's recently published book "Bluelist", I made a little list of my own, featuring remote cities I want to visit some day.

City: Ushuaia
Country: Argentina
Precise Location: Tierra del Fuego, border between Chile and Argentina
Why?: Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and its location between the mountains and glaciers of Tierra del Fuego sounds spectacular. And the name of the city sounds lush and inviting.
Airport code: USH
Cheapest flight I found: 1 740€. Air France to Buenos Aires (plane change in Paris), Aerolineas Argentinas from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Duration of trip approximately 35 hours.

City: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatky
Country: Russia
Precise Location: East Coast of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, at the Pacific Ocean.
Why?: Russia is such a huge country most people don't even realise that it has some of the world's most spectacular volcanoes (after Ecuador, probably ;) My trip to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in autumn 2003 was extreme enough, but P-K is even more isolated (no roads connect it with mainland Russia). Russia spends so much money on keeping up appearances in Moscow and St. Petersburg that a trip to the Russian Far East truly is an eye-opener on how some people in this huge country live.
Airport code: PKC
Cheapest flight I found: 830€. Aeroflot from Moscow non-stop to P-K (flight SVO-PKC approx. 9h)

City: Qaanaaq
Country: Greenland (technically Denmark)
Precise Location: Situated in chilly northwestern Greenland, Qaanaaq is the northernmost naturally inhabited place in the world (I guess naturally inhabited means the people don't live in a research base or whatever)
Why?: Need I say more?
Airport code: NAQ
Cheapest flight I found: First one would have to get to Copenhagen and catch Air Greenland to Greenland from there. A change of planes is involved in Kangerlussuaq (wouldn't mind checking that one out as well) and the trip costs - wait for it - 1000€!!

Inspired? Shocked? Intrigued? Bored? Drop me a line on what you thought of the list!

February 26, 2006

One of the most fun things about Google Earth is zooming into God-forsaken places in the middle of nowhere. Sure, it's usually the cities which are mostly in high-res (Google Earth slang for high-resolution) but sometimes you get really lucky and some place far from any metropolis is very clear.
Take, for instance, Syria. While Damascus is hardly visible, the border areas between Turkey, Syria and Iraq are crystal clear. Here are some pictures I took of the area!

This is a Syrian town called Tall Kujik. It's right at the Iraqi border - in fact, there's a town on the other side called exactly the same. The train visible in the picture must have been standing there since the border between Iraq and Syria was closed ages ago.

This is a stretch of the border. As one can see, a sort of mound has been made to mark the border and all there is around here is desert.

Here we have a village in Iraq right next to the Syrian border. A sort of fortress is visible, as is the border itself.

A lonely and abandoned tank in the middle of the Iraqi desert (pointing at Syria, by the way).

This is at the northeastern corner of Syria, where Iraq, Turkey and Syria meet. The Turkish flag carved on the ground is impressive, as is the slogan (by Atatürk) under it.

I made this post because ever since I was small I've been fascinated by borders between countries. Now that it's so easy to travel inside the EU, it's actually boring because one hardly notices crossing into another country by land. But things are a bit different in the Middle East. I'd like to know when someone last actually stood at the spot of the Turkish flag which is in the picture.

February 25, 2006


Here are some of my favourite pictures taken in the Ecuadorian jungle on the 28th of last December.

My uncle took this picture.

I think this was taken by one of our local guides because we couldn't take our cameras with us into the river.

This looks like an advertisement for the newest season of Survivor!

February 22, 2006

A top three list

My top three sacred vocal works for choir in no particular order:

1. Johann Sebastian Bach: Messe h-Moll (Mass in B minor) BWV 232
Composed: 1747-1749
Duration: approximately 2 hours
Pages in score: 240
Type of choir: SSATB, also SATBSATB
Percentage of purely choral music: About 70%
Favourite recording: The Monteverdi Choir, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner
Favourite passage: The fireworks and jubilation at the end of "Et resurrexit" (".. cujus regni non erit finis....)
Times I have performed it: 3

2. Johannes Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem (A German requiem) opus 45
First performance: 1869
Duration: approximately 1 hour
Pages in score: 95
Type of choir: SATB
Percentage of purely choral music: perhaps about 93% (guess)
Favourite recording: The Monteverdi Choir, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner (nevertheless not perfect)
Favourite passage: The majestic and elating crescendo at "Ich hoffe auf Dich" in the third movement
Times I have performed it: 2

3. Sergei Rahmaninoff: Vsenoshnoye Bdenye (All-night vigil) opus 37
Premiered: 1915
Duration: approximately 1 hour
Pages in score: 112
Type of choir: SSSAAATTTBBB
Percentage of purely choral music: 100% (100& a cappella)
Favourite recording: The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Paul Hillier
Favourite passage: The relentless and spine-chilling chanting of the altos in "The Great Doxology"
Times I have performed it: 0

February 15, 2006

Burst of Creativity

Now that I got my camera back from my mother who took it with her to Narva, I took some photos yesterday at home and today on my way in the morning to reinforce my status as a creative person. Here are some of the results!

This tram, running on line 6, is the only one of its kind here in Helsinki, and stepping into it is like crossing over to Germany or Amsterdam. Horrible from outside but cosily comfortable inside!

This is taken at the bus stop in Hanasaari, which I usually avoid at all costs (see my previous entry "Monday, Monday"). The landscape is bleak but pretty (sorry about the lamppost). And it was freezing!! I feel much colder now than when it was -25 because the air is not only cold, it's also chilling!

This is what it looks like when a string of the harp snaps. Annoyingly, it's possibly the only string I don't have a spare of and imagine trying to play something without being able to play a B natural (or flat, or sharp!). I tried today, and I kept forgetting there was no string, so I automatically played the next string available and so on.

I only have one mirror in my house (apart from the bathroom) and I took it down to make some nice atmospheric fotos using it. Here is the best picture which came out!

February 08, 2006

One of the best pictures I have ever taken

Saimaa lake near Joutseno, 23.6.2003

Public transport

Is it just me or is it actually becoming more fun to use public transport in Helsinki? I might be wrong, but people seem much more relaxed, in a better mood and friendly nowadays in buses, trams and the metro. Of course there's always the obligatory guy who screams at the driver to open the f**king doors (funny, you'd think Finnish people know some things just don't work as quickly when it's -20) or the ever-charming drunk who makes passes at visibly distressed young women (try trams 8 or 3T for such an experience).

However, I have to say that even the drivers seem much friendlier - from greeting passengers to waiting for the alarmed mother with children and shoppings in tow, running as fast as she can to reach the front door of the bus. It also doesn't feel anymore like laughing out loud or saying something in trams causes stares which surely only alien creatures deserve.

It can also be that I'm imagining things, but today I felt like just sitting in the tram without the need to isolate myself from the surrounding environment by plugging into my iPod or browsing through my calendar, another favourite pastime in public transport. And believe me, getting on the right tram in the morning can make or break a day!

On average, I use trams three times a day, the metro every other day, buses inside Helsinki every other day and buses to Espoo/inside Espoo three times a week (Monday). For trivia buffs: the longest single trip for me is the half-hour trip from Kamppi to Laajalahti every Monday.

However, if public transport is improving in friendliness and customer service, it's certainly making up by completely neglecting the state of the buses. Especially buses to and from Espoo are in an appalling state right now, and I'd like to know just how often they are cleaned from the outside! Of course it gives a certain mysteriously pleasant atmosphere to travel in a black box, but when travelling somewhere where I'm not so sure where to get out, I like to be able to look out the window and see where we are!

Rio Pastaza, Ecuador, 28.12.2005

February 07, 2006

Thrills and trills

I don't understand people who ride their bicycle from place to place when it's -20 degrees outside. What planet are they from?
This is one of the thoughts I had today as I walked the well-trodden path from the tram stop home at 20.50. A tiring day, and tomorrow I have to be up and about at 6.30 so I make it to the German school to accompany, among others, chirpy girls playing the recorder (If you don't know what this is about, don't ask). I'll also accompany a particularly talented young singer who is going to perform in the category of musicals (She's probably also reading this so onnea matkaan!).

However, it was also a very nice day. This crisp winter weather is just fine with me, if it only weren't for the fact I can't see anything after going inside because my glasses get so steamed up. I also like to see Helsinki so clean and bright and to feel the snow crunching under my feet.

After my obligatory breakfast (since yesterday when I realised I had been having hardly anything to eat in the mornings) - two pieces of toast with jam and cream cheese, preceded by the even more essential glass of grapefruit juice - at the computer, my day started by having a cup of tea with the newspaper (a rare luxury) in Ruoholahti. I also printed the study programme for choral conductors in Graz and drooled over it for some time while the teabag in my cup made the drink almost solid. After that, I had a piano lesson for the first time in more than two months.
Quick lunch, and I travelled to Kallion Kirkko in a hurry to listen to my friend's B exam at the organ. The road there from Hakaniemi metro station is all uphill and all my huffing and puffing as I entered the church must have made people think something was wrong with the organ.

It was a beautiful exam, by the way - starting with Michelangelo Rossi's Toccata from the 17th century, which seemed like a prelude followed by two chorale settings by Bach and, also, Bach's Toccata and fugue in d minor. Obviously, we're talking about Bach here and the words Chorale Setting deserve the capital letters, as they naturally are much more than your every-day four-part harmony. And that toccata and fugue truly rocked the church! It's very thrilling, especially as a pianist, to watch an organist at work, because suddenly you realise there should be a third hand somewhere but that's actually what the player's feet are playing. And when that fugue theme culminated and was played only with the pedals while the hands accompanied with sequential chords, I was almost jealous. Another highpoint was the loooong trill with the pedals, while the two manuals reached their climax (for the fourth or fifth time).

Kaisa chose the much larger organ on the balcony of the church for the rest of her program, which consisted of Franck and the always obligatory 20th century work which was also surprisingly impressive.
From Kallio, I came home for a while to plan my afternoon and evening at my two jobs - first teaching in CM and then conducting Lauttasaaren Laulajat. Tuesday evenings at 21 are usually deep breath-moments, and the weekend seems much closer already! However, there are some milestones coming ahead in the next few days, but I'll write about those another time.
PS. No picture in this post because the blogger server is not acting normally.