Saturday, July 29, 2023

City Break - Warsaw

Warsaw, Poland. Tuesday/Sunday 25/30-July-2023

Off in search of culture, a J for our parkrun alphabet and some fresh air after the Italian heatwave! The visit was slighter longer because we didn't fancy the Thursday 6am flight from Bari; 11:20 on a Tuesday is more our style.

We booked in the Jabłonna Palace as it was the actual location for the parkrun and looked lovely. It is a little way out from Warsaw - an hour on the bus / tram or half an hour in an Uber, which was ridiculously cheap at £6.

Palace dining room with frescoes, where we ate breakfast.

Tuesday 25th: After trying and failing to follow the Jabłonna parkrun route, we headed out to eat at local Restauracja Buchnikowa Chata. Enjoyed the food, beer, friendly staff and lovely temperatures. An added bonus was the beautiful skies on the walk back to the hotel.

Salmon tartar, beet salad & beer - delicious.

It looks like the sky is on fire!

Wednesday 27th: A bit of a rainy day so we made our own entertainment. First off the the main station and accompanying shopping centre in search of a guidebook. We ended up with a laminated map which was just as well given the weather. We wandered around the old town getting ourselves oriented.

Nearing the end of our our wanderings we came across a noticeboard which explained about the shop signs in the old market square and showed their locations. A quick about face and back to the square to look at the oldest examples. Some shops have changed but others still offer the same goods or services.

Thursday 28th:  A great morning's cycling with Station Warsaw. We learned about the Warsaw Uprising when the Polish resistance fought back in 1944 and subsequent razing of the city in retribution which resulted in about 85% of the city centre being demolished.

A stop down by the river. The mermaid features all through Warsaw's history.

The Royal Castle.

Maria Skłodowska-Curie - Warsaw's most famous daughter.

In the afternoon we visited the excellent Muzeum Warszawy. Great view over the "old" square (rebuilt after WWII) from the top floor of the museum.

We found a couple of great bars just off the main square with an amazing selection of beers.

Thursday's beer selection.

Friday 28th: Another rainy day was forecast so we decided on indoor activities starting with a visit to the Royal Palace. Opulent and impressive, with audio guides providing essential historic background.  

Rooms intended to impress!

Apparently the king who created the palace was a great lover of art and choose a lot of the pieces himself. Minerva & Apollo frame a door.

Then we moved onto a fun session learning to make pierogi with Pierogi & More. Our attempts at pierogi. Please don't look too closely.

The team with their certificates at the end of the course - with members from Canada, Holland, Australia and us!

Back to the Royal Castle to see their exhibition of masterpieces then time for more essential beer research. It was back to the sister bar to yesterday's with an even more extensive collection of interesting beers. Mary could not decide so had two at the same time!

Beer was followed by an enjoyable Chopin concert with Time for Chopin. Waiting for the pianist we had an atmospheric view of the rain on the conifers outside.

The programme.

Then time for supper!

Saturday 29th: parkrun Jabłonna done and a J for the parkrun alphabet. Only when we arrived at the start point we discovered it was their 300th event which meant lots of runners and walkers plus cake and jolity. Very enjoyable 3 and a bit lapper through the woods. Mary surprised by the huge cheers she got at the finish line but it turned out that, at position 116, she was the person who broke the previous course attendance record. The previous record was 115 people on 26th August 2017 and that's why there was so much cheering! The finally tally was 125.

Posing before the start.

Mary volunteered as parkwalker.

Cheers at the finish line.

The official photographers took some great photos.

The record-breaking team at parkrun Jabłonna.

Afternoon was an informative but sombre walking tour learning more about the history of the Warsaw Jewish community with the Orange Umbrella Free Tour Warsaw. Our walking tour ended at the Umschlagplatz Monument to the Treblinka Jews. 

Between the Schindler factory tour in Krakow and this tour we have learned so much about the shocking and indescribably inhumane treatment of the Jews under Nazi occupation. There are no words. Especially poignant in Warsaw as before the war there about 450,000 Jews there, some areas more than 50% of the population.

When in Poland we have to drink vodka so Mary organised a trip to the Polish Vodka Museum to learn about, and taste, Polish vodkas.

Our guide Marta explained the history and led us through the rooms in the museum each getting gradually more interactive. Then onto the tasting.

We paid for the deluxe tasting which got you four vodkas including vodkas made from wheat, potato, rye and special wheat filtered through charcoal; and we got a certificate.

Mary bought a t-shirt which says, in Polish, 

"Life begins
at 50
ml of vodka".

Sunday 30th: Up, breakfast and an Uber off to the airport for the return to Italy.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

25th International Festival of Music bands “Valle d'Itria”

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Thursday / Sunday 20/23-July-2023.

A long weekend of music courtesy of the Festival Internazionale Bande Musicale with added jazz and opera. I cannot believe that I didn't blog the previous festivals in 2018 and 2022 but so it would seem so here is the first write up. 

The line-up:

  • the Sindos Concert Band from Grecia 🇬🇷
  • De Útlopers of Sneek from Holland 🇳🇱
  • the First Majorettes of Rijeka from Croatia 🇭🇷
  • the "Cossu Brunetti" Music Band of Nurri from Sardinia 🇮🇹
  • the Pontolliese Music Band with the Majorettes of Ponte dell’Olio from Emilia Romagna 🇮🇹
  • The host, Wind Orchestra "Vitino Zizzi" from Cisternino! 🇮🇹

Thursday opening ceremony in our street. 

Thursday night Aeronautica Militarea, military band of 3rd "Regione Aerea" celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Italian Airforce.

The Aeronautica Militarea were really good.

The "Cossu Brunetti" Music Band of Nurri from Sardinia.

Friday night jazz at Bar FOD, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

Bar FOD have switched their Sunday lunchtime Aperitivo Classico for a regular Friday jazz slot because it was getting too hot for the musicians in the midday sun.

Friday - the hosts, Wind Orchestra "Vitino Zizzi" from Cisternino in Piazza Garibaldi.

First Majorettes of Rijeka from Croatia.

Friday second band in Piazza Garibaldi.

Saturday night we switched festivals to the Festival Della Valle D'Itria as we had tickets for the opera L’Orazio in Martina Franca. This opera festival specialises in resurrecting little known or rarely performed opera. No photos during the performance of course. The venue alternates between this, Teatro Verdi, and the courtyard of the Ducal Palace.

Sunday night back in Cisternino warming up / rehearsing for the grand finale featuring members from various bands.

The Pontolliese Music Band with the Majorettes of Ponte dell’Olio from Emilia Romagna.

The Majorettes of Ponte dell’Olio.

On the last night of the festival the various band parade around the town. We went for a late supper at Tre Lanterne in Cisternino Piazza V Emmanuel II and got a good view from the terrazzo.

The Sindos Concert Band from Greece.

The De Útlopers of Sneek from Holland. 

In 2018 the band from Holland were great fun, they wore yellow wellies clearly having a good time so I followed them on Facebook. The first picture was of the concert and the rest were of them down the beach. It looked like the festival was just an excuse to go for a holiday! 

Finally a nightcap at our usual vantage point cafe and the final entertainment of the night - La Compagnia Elena D. - abseiling acrobats off the Torre Normanno Sveva whilst the combined band played their last pieces.

By then it was midnight so off to bed.

Friday, July 14, 2023

UBQ Underwater Bell Quartet

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Saturday 15-July-2023.

We learned of this concert through the town council website otherwise it might have passed us by and I am so glad we did. They were fantastic. Mesmerising and hypnotic. Long form pieces that reminded me of Third Ear Band.

To quote from their publicity:
"The sounds of the Underwater Bell Quartet embrace Mediterranean music in a substantial way. A kind of soundtrack for the southern seas where the essential grace of a boundless music branches out through pieces that become flowing water, blazing fire, shining light. A musical journey that contains within itself the magnificent sound of distant lands where the slow passage of time is synonymous with enchantment. Opening horizons through musical instruments and sounds from other cultures can mean opening one's mind to the vision of a united and supportive humanity."
[translation by Google]

Yet again we sat in PG Il Villa bar - a comfortable place to sit with a good view and sound of the concerts (plus wine). 

Normally I pop to the stage to take a picture and return to my seat. These guys held me entranced at the front so I left Mary in the bar guarding the drinks.

Giuliano Di Cesare: Tromba/flauto traverso/sax soprano/didjeridoo.

Domenico Monaco: Percussioni / elettronica.

Eicoletta D'Auria: Violoncello.

Eric Forsmark: Percussioni.

They do not appear to have any published music which is a pity, I'd buy it. I did record a tiny clip:

At the end of their set they played a couple of short videos of Eric's project Inspiration 101:

101 • FLAME OF INSPIRATION IS A CELEBRATION of what connects and inspires us all as creative human beings. Our ambitious aim is to facilitate the creation of a 55-minute film with original music. It will be a collective composition, involving 101 musicians from at least 35 countries.

Most of these artists do not know each other.


We were able to have a short chat with Erik and tell him in person how great the ensemble was and how impressed we were with his project. We will follow with interest.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Scaletta - A Night at the Opera

Masseria Torre Maizza, Puglia, Italy. Friday 14-July-2023.

A sneak preview of the operas to be performed at the upcoming Festival Della Valle D’Itria in Martina Franca. Aperitivo and a selection of arias at the 5* Masseria Torre Maizza. You can stay there for only Euro 1,578 per person per night! Nice to have a nose around. 

The hibiscus courtyard.

The programme was a selection from a rarely performed opera "L'Adorable Bel-Boul" by Massenet followed by other pieces from better known composers.

The singers were attendees at the Academy Belcanto receiving coaching to take their singing to the next level. Here they take a photo-op.

We had comfortable sofas not too far from the artistes and sat there with a glass of wine / prosecco and nibbles.

It was close enough to clearly see their performance as well as hear the singing.

We were particularly impressed by the guy in the cream jacket.

Afterwards we had a chat with the artistic director, Sebastian Schwarz, who is a neighbour of our friends Wendy and Margaret. Then off to Alba Chiara near Savelletri for supper.

A couple of days later we popped into the festival box office in Martina France and bought ourselves a season ticket for all four operas so we will be right, proper culture vultures this summer.