The Hendersons       2008 Choir Tour - Bled


2008 Choral Union European Concert Tour and Our Subsequent Vacation

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The Croatian Coast




Martina Franca




The Concert Tour in Bled

Tuesday, July 8 – Berchtesgaden to Bled, Slovenia

Another gray day - I can understand why the area is so green - it rains a lot! And not whimpy little showers, but downpours.

We had breakfast in the hotel again - rolls, cheese and cold cuts are getting old already. Then we boarded the bus for a reasonably short drive to Salzburg. We were met in town by our guides, Phillip and Anna. We got off the bus and were taken on a walking tour of the city. Interestingly, although 75% of the people in Salzburg make their living from tourism, very few people are familiar with "The Sound of Music" - it has never been dubbed or subtitled into German. I think, too, there is still a reluctance on the part of older people to  talk about the Nazi takeover of Austria. Phillip told us that most of the SS officers came from Austria - interesting - says something about the character of the Austrians.

Salzburg is a pretty town, but all the tourism makes it too crowded and too saccharine for my taste.  Plus, we've been here four or five times and there is a limit to how many times you can visit Mozart's birthplace.

Mirabell Gardens  Old Salzburg  Salzburg window  Salt cellar

Tom and I had lunch in a pizzeria and then went into the open-air market, where we bought some very expensive cherries and strawberries. I am appalled at the prices in Germany and Austria - I sure hope that wages have kept up with prices or these people are in a terrible squeeze. Our guide, Eva, said that very few people emigrate, so they must like the place.

We were to meet by the Mozart statue at 12:45 for a walk back to the bus (buses aren't allowed in the city center). The rain started in earnest and we walked along, wet and miserable. We finally got to the bus parking area, where we were to await the buses and Joan Harstad noticed that Angie Alexander was missing We thought we'd just wait for her, but after an hour it became obvious that Angie was lost. Mark Welde (Capain, US Army) organized a search team and they fanned out across the old part of the city. In the meantime, Angie, who had gotten separated from us, went back to the Mozart statue to wait, When no one came to find her, she went into an internet cafe and placed a phone call to her daughter in the US, who called Sean of Mosaic Tours in New Jersey, who called Jennifer in Salzburg. Eventually, Angie was located and everyone returned to the buses - our departure was delayed by 2 1/2 hours. Good thing we didn't have a concert that night.

The road from Salzburg to Bled  was very good, with some beautiful countryside. However, when we got to Bled, the signs of the country's communist past were very evident. There are many of the horrible communist era apartment buildings - one guesses that there was one architect and he had no imagination, for they are all block shape, very austere and very uninviting. Along the way, too, we saw a lot of factories spewing smoke. There was no way to tell if the smoke was 'scrubbed' or not - it might have been billowing sulphur for all we knew.

We arrived in Bled a couple of hours late and unloaded our luggage, then walked to a nearby hotel restaurant where a very famous cream cake is made. As a welcome to Bled we were treated to cake and coffee. It certainly is good - not overly sweet, but probably packed with calories, From the restaurant you could see the castle looming over the town, the lake and the island in the lake, complete with church. The scenery is quite amazing.

Tom and I opted for dinner in the same restaurant. Tom had a pork schnitzel and I had grilled vegetables. I have been craving fruits and vegetables - the Austro-German idea of vegetables is potatoes.

Wednesday, July 9 - Bled

Bled is a very beautiful city, with a pristine lake fed by hot springs, the picturesque island in the  lake , complete with a church and the castle overlooking it all. Unfortunately, some of the post-WWII buildings are pretty dreadful - the same boxy communist era architect was busy in Bled as he was in other parts of Slovenia.

After breakfast in the hotel (still no fresh fruit) we walked to the castle, which has a commanding view of the town and the lake. On the way to the castle, we met a couple of English women who were coming out of St. Martin's, the church which will be our venue for the concert. They were dears and so quintessentially English, they should have been in an Agatha Christie film. We invited them to the concert because they were obviously music lovers. Along the way we passed the Festival Hall and a poster for our concert.

Festival Hall  Poster

Dave Bales joined us for the goat trek up the hill to the castle - the path was rocks, wood and paving stones and very steep (we had missed the road). Good exercise! Once to the top of the hill where the castle stands, we had more climbing to do. By the end of this tour we are going to have calves like steel! The view was incredible. Below the castle, we could see the lake and the island in the lake with its little church. Small ferries take people to the island, or you can rent a row boat - or swim - to the island.

Lake Bled  Bled cityscape

The walk down the castle hill was easier than the walk up - we took the main road. We found a pizzeria where we had lunch - the prices are so much better here than in Germany. We had a very nice pizza and bottled water for about 5 Euro ($8).

Having expended our energy, we returned to the hotel for a little nap - the heat, while ot unbearable, is quite a change from the rain in Germany.

Late in the afternoon we all trooped up to the performance venue, St. Martin's - a beautiful church on a hill, very visible from the rest of the town. We've enjoyed the walking, but there have been a lot of hills on this trip - and walking on cobblestones can be challenging.

We set up the space for the performance, went through various pieces, getting used to the venue, the had to move the step stools, which we are using as risers, into another room - the church had to be vacated for Mass.

Back down the hill, a quick meal in the hotel, change for the performance, back up the hill - sing. The concert wasn't very well attended, which was a disappointment, because we sang very well. There was one man in the audience who did not smile or applaud at all during the entire performance - he was the most cross looking man I've ever seen. Others noticed him - they thought he might have been dragged by the collar by his wife. On the other hand, there was a woman in the audience who was just beaming  throuhout the entire performance - she was really enjoying herself, which makes it so much more fun to sing.

The Englishwomen we had met earlier in the day were in the audience - they looked like they were having an enjoyable time. We tried to catch up with them at the end of the performance, but they were hustled out before we could speak to them.

After the performance we were invited to a reception in the Bled
 Festival Hall. All of the audience was invited, but very few showed up. Our hosts provided us with some fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and wine. It was very nice and we had a chance to speak to a woman who is hoping her daughter is accepted to a Bible college in Multnomah (Oregon). What changes these people have seen in the past 20 years. It often boggles my mind.

We were tired so bed felt very good. Up tomorrow for a drive into the fifth and final country of this tour.

 View of the castle  Our venue
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