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The Croatian Coast
Concert Tour in Prague
Throughout this journal remarks
by Mel are in regular type, Tom's thoughts are
July 2 & 3 – Seattle to Prague
Shirley Nelson arrived promptly at 2:30 to
take us to the Towne Center transit center to catch our 2:50 bus to
SeaTac. Check in at the Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) ticket counter went
smoothly and quickly and we went through security without undue delay.
We had plenty of time before our flight boarded. The flight
to Copenhagen passed as easily as flying can pass. Copenhagen airport
has grown immensely since we were there in 1976. The connection to our
Czech Air flight to Prague was not very intuitive. We had to find the
transfer centre, take a number (which was not very obvious), get our
boarding passes and sit and wait. We looked for something to eat and
found that prices were unbelievable. We had a light lunch and returned
to the transfer center to wait some more. Our gate was not posted until
about 45 minutes before our scheduled departure, which was still
showing as being on time. We were leaving from an A gate that is in the
oldest part of the terminal. We got to the gate to find that our plane
had not even arrived. It finally did and we finally boarded and left 20
minutes late. That flight was also uneventful (as flights should be)
and we were in Prague at last. We were met by the transportation
service we had pre-booked and taken to our hotel. We checked in and
were soon sawing logs. By this time it was around 10:00 PM in Prague on
the third and we had been up a long time and traveling for almost 22
hours. And they say that getting there is half the fun. Yeah, right!
This is the third European
tour for Choral Union. We'll be travelling
to Prague, Berchtesgaden (Germany), Bled (Slovenia), and Zagreb and
Dubrovnik (Croatia). We have about 45 singers and 23 family members.
Richard has assembled a wonderful repertoire, a mix of sacred,
spirituals, folk songs and Eric Whittaker's "Leonardo Dreams of His
Flying Machine." Our pre-tour concert went very well so we hope the
tour performances are also well-received.
describes above the trip to Prague - typical of air travel now. Tom and
I were in Prague 10 years ago (only 10? It seems a lifetime). That was
a mere 9 years after the fall of the Soviet system. Prague was trying
to recover after 40 years of Soviet occupation and still showed many of
the problems from the Soviet era. The most remarkable to us was that
the streets still didn't have street signs (names) - I suppose because
the leaders didn't want to risk giving potential invaders any clue of
where they were. Alhough there are still immense problems in the
today, I feel an optimism and purpose that I didn't sense in 1999.
There is a lot of construction, many elegant shops and a huge number of
tourists. I can understand why tourists come to Prague - it is a
breathtaking city - there are many old buildings left over from the
Hapsburg era, including performance halls, churches, the city hall,
and, of course, the amazing castle on the top of the hill.
July 4 – Prague
first full day of our tour we walked a couple of blocks to where our
were parked and were then driven up to Prague Castle. There are guards at the gate
to the castle, but they
are not as statue-like as those in the U.K. These fellows fidgeted a
Prague Castle gate
Two local guides
were with us and took us on a walking tour around the castle and St.
Vitas Cathedral. We found the inside of the cathedral to be very
St. Vitas Cathedral
were able to see the president's flag flying and get a view down onto
We then walked down the hill,
across the Charles Bridge, and
into the old town. There was a crowd standing around the town hall
waiting for the clock to strike the hour.
The clock tower
We were then on our own to
find lunch and look around a bit before returning to the hotel and then
walking to rehearsal.
went reasonably well, capped by singing "God Bless America" because
today is Independence Day and Richard's remembrances of Darrel Eide,
who was with us on the last tour, but died suddenly about a year ago.
Many of us still miss Darrel even today.
After rehearsal we
returned to the hotel to freshen up a bit, then were taken by coach to
the castle, where we had dinner in what had once been the stable, but
is now a very nice restaurant. We had a smoked trout starter, venison
with a berry sauce and a flan for dessert.
It was a nice start to the
trip. We walked back to the hotel down a long hill with many
little restaurants along the route. Prague is so lively at night -- the
streets have thousands of people wandering in and out of shops and
resturants, window shopping and taking in the sights.
July 5 – Prague
This was a free day until the
evening. Tom and I slept in much
later than we normally do - we didn't get to the hotel restaurant for
breakfast until 10:00 am. After breakfast, we walked into the center
with Jim and Debbie Dion, bought day passes on the public
transport and took the funicular up to the castle hill where there are
gardens at the top. It was a beautiful day - clear and sunny, with a
light breeze. We had hoped to take in the Communist Museum, but ran out
of time, because we had to get back to the hotel and dress for the
performance. The coaches took us over to the venue - the
wonderful Suk Hall in the Rudolfinum, which is home to the
famous Czech Philharmonic. The night's program included singing by the
Charles University Singers as well as Choral Union. Before the
performance the man who was our contact took us into the performance
hall for the Czech Philharmonic - what a beautiful place - very elegant.
performance was well-received and we had a larger audience than we had
been led to expect. Many residents of Prague have country cottages and
in the summer, they leave the city on Friday for the countryside, so
there was a lot of speculation that we wouldn't have more than a few
people in the audience, Instead, the hall was nearly full and the
audience was very appreciative. Afterward, both choirs went to a
restaurant where we were supposed to mingle, but the Czechs sat in one
room and the Americans in another and there was very little mingling.