Hamina Tattoo

Have you ever wondered why would military regiment need an orchestra? Well, you might say, they used to have them for marching or to intimidate their oponent with the wild beat of drums in the past centuries. We all remember the red coats fighting the blue coats (If you don't, get a clue and watch "The Last of the Mohicans":)) However, the question still stands, why would our modern military need a musical group? What is the purpose of tax payers money going to some shmuck playing violin instead of him/her defending our country. If anybody has an explanation, I'd like to hear it, feel free to leave us a comment.

Anywho, today's post will take us to our good ol' brothers up north, the mighty Finns. It is there, in a quite small and tranquile city of Hamina, almost by the Russian border and about 200 km from St. Petersburg, where each year get together military wind orchestras and perform for entire week in and around the city with the main concert taking place in the local Bastion. This even carries a good sounding name Hamina Tattoo. I have to say, I have never seen anything like it. This years Hamina Tattoo had orchestras from Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Lithuania, Hungary and of course mother Russia. The orchestras put on daily concerts in the city park or by the harbor called TervaSaari (which in translation means "Tar Island" hehe). These concerts are usually about 1-2 hours long, so just right.

There were a few highlights at this year's Hamina Tattoo that I thought were quite cool. First would have to be the Swedish Mounted Band of the Royal Guards which performed on horses. Can you imagine playing a trumpet while trying to control a horse, dressed in thick military dress in 25 degree heat? No thank you, but they were impressive. Second, would have to be he final concert at the Bastion where all the bands go one after another and perform musical numbers with marching, dancing and whatever they want to throw into the mix. It was very very impressive what these guys can do. Last, I'd have to mention the Russian orchestra. This year it was the Central Band of Leningrad Military District which was accompanied by the 165th Honorary Rifle Company. The soldiers would move with utmoust precission as one would expect of the Russian colossus. I also do not think it was just a nice thought to bring the rifle company, mother Russia like to show that she still can be the boss :). Well, that is it for the Hamina Tattoo experience. If you are in that area next year, I suggest you spend a day in Hamina and listen to the tunes. It was very nice.

One day in Zurich

The city with the best standard of living in the world, Zurich in Switzerland. This picturesque city is situated on the north side of the Zurich lake which with its glacier water creates an unforgetable visit. The airport is quite close and for 12 CHF one is able to buy a 24 hour ticket for trains and trams in the city. The trip to the city takes about 15 minutes in a fancy two story train which goes to the main train station. From there, one can basically walk everywhere.

I would suggest the route along the river Limmat, right by the Bahnhof Quai. The river is so crystal clear, makes you stop in awe. Quite a difference from some rivers like the Liffey in Dublin. I guess the main difference is that Limmat is probably being fed by a glacier. Limmat is crossed by many smaller or bigger bridges and along the route you will be able to observe the City Hall, St. Peter's church and other beautifully architected buildings. Once you pass the outdoor swimming hall, the lake is in your sight. There daily cruises leave to explore the sights along the large Zurich lake. If you turn right and go along the bank of the lake, you will end up in a small park where you can catch a glimps at a water fountain and the babysitters walking along with many small children decorated with orange fluorescent outfits.

From the lake take one of the smaller roads to the right and you will find out how tranquile can Zurich be. Literally, not that much traffic once of the main road and the houses are quite nice. Make your way pass the Enge train station until you arrive to Bederstrasse where a big business park is located. Many companies have their buildings amongst the biggest ones you will find Google's European engineering center. Now it is just a matter of crossing the railroad tracks and walking along the Sihl river towards the botanical gardens and the local swimming hall. In the small canal you can notice the kayak polo area, quite interesting sport to watch.

If you are into some posh love, why don't you browse down to the Sihl Mall where a shopping spree can begin. And the Japanese sushi restaurant on the mall square can be quite nice ending touch to your busy Zurich afternoon. Right before you decide to head back to the airport, why not visit the National Swiss Museum which is situated right behind the main train station. If you do not feel like going back home yet, why not catch a quick train for another day in Bern or Geneva and let me know how it was :).

Closing note at the end. Did you know that Switzerland allowed women to vote only in 1979. So, before you are all excited about moving to Switzerland with your family, make sure you study upon how the system works there as I believe the title "best standard of living" might not take into account sex equality and other vital spices in our todays society.