Monday, May 24, 2010

Finland, Finland, Finland

Last week was a wonderful vacation in Helsinki, Finland. My brother-in-law was there to present at a computer conference, so I joined him and we played tourist and enjoyed the perfect weather. After the cold, rainy weeks in Frankfurt, Helsinki was about 68 degrees daily and sunny sunny sunny. The sun didn't set in the evening until almost 11 p.m., and was back up at 4:30 a.m. It was great having to wear sunglasses to dinner at 9 p.m.
Speaking of dinner, I was very happy to have the opportunity to eat reindeer, moose, and special local berries (in addition to escargot, shrimp, and other dishes that benefitted from Helsinki being right on the water).
One of the days, I took a boat 90 minutes across the water to the country of Estonia. In addition to being able to check off another country on my list, I had the greater desire to see one of the world's tallest toilets. Yes, a toilet. I had read about it in my internet research before my visit. Apparently, it is 77 meters tall (thanks to America not embracing the metric system, that to me translates as "REALLY TALL"). It is in a watch tower, and was built that tall so that guards on watch at the top of the tower didn't have to descend all those stairs to relieve themselves. Genius.
My research had stated that the tower was directly next to the town hall. So, there I stood in front of the town hall, which was in the center of a circle of many MANY buildings, some tower-ish and nothing seeming like the perfect candidate. As I stood there puzzling, I befriended a couple from Virginia, who had a detailed map and had been on the official tour, but hadn't heard a word on a famous toilet. The woman turned out to be an opera fan and we agreed that when I sing at the Washington National Opera at some point in the future, she would come backstage and ask whether I had found the toilet.
I went from building to building, and the best prospect turned out to be a church. I received strange looks from the little lady on duty as I looked behind very closed doors and asked if this was where the special toilet lived. Her blank looks and indication where their normal-sized WC resided was repeated as I circled town hall cursing the lack of specificity as to location. Eventually, I realized that the tower was the tower that was actually attached to town hall, which I had sat in front of and circled for the past hour. Yay! Tall toilet!!! However, this is a sad story. Town Hall is CLOSED in the off-season and doesn't open until July except by appointment. So, if I ever find myself once again in Helsinki, I will not travel to Estonia unless I'm there in July or August (or with a confirmed reservation and promised toilet viewing clearance).
I was strangely happy to get back to Frankfurt after my week in Finland. I had spent the week automatically answering everyone and making requests and excusing myself in German. Virtually all of Finland speaks English, and try as I might, my tongue automatically replied in German.
Another amazing thing is that once one is admitted to the EU, passports are no longer checked. Flying from Germany to Finland, boat to and from Estonia, and flight back to Germany, my passport was neither requested nor (regretfully) stamped. Everything is very easy and accommodating. In Estonia, I paid for a pair of mittens with local Estonian money and American dollars, and my change was in Euros.
After Saturday's show, we have 12 days between shows. I am spending the time here in Germany, as the final long break in June I am spending in Sweden and perhaps Latvia as well. I'm being a good little singer who is trying to remember that when I'm on the road for a job it is not really a long vacation but a chance to get a jump on learning music for the future.
This week is dedicated to "Peter Grimes" by Benjamin Britten which I'm performing this fall in Houston. My role is Auntie, who is the head of the whorehouse. I see another costume with my breasts playing a central role in the near future...
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am looking forward to another day of sunshine, Britten, and having dinner and attending a vocal recital with some friends.
Hope everyone finds the "tall toilet" in their life. :)

1 comment:

  1. Yay, Estonia! (toilet. wow.) Yay, Finland! (were they cloudberries? big orange raspberries?) Yay, Peter Grimes (Herring in Santa Fe this August?) Happy-happy-happy birthday!!!