Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some Final Photos

Not in any particular order....

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 10 (4JUL!!) - Happy Birthday USA!

(photos to follow tomorrow)

Another gorgeous day in Hungary! We had a healthy and filling breakfast at the hotel – the Novatel Centrum – and boarded the bus for a trip to Holloko. Whoops – we’re missing Janette and Rachelle Hug. They had locked their room and come down for breakfast, and when they went back up, they could not get their door open. A maid was in the hall and her key would not open it, either. Rachelle ran downstairs and got the manager, and . . . guess what? His key would not open it either! They made the decision to stay in Budapest and solve the “mysteriously locked door” problem as the rest of us departed for the little Hungarian village that is much the same as it was 200 years ago. We discovered much later that the batteries in the door lock had died; therefore, no door lock opening! Bummer!

We had two new additions to our group yesterday – Todd Kessel, husband of Marcie and father of Jack and Owen arrived from Portland, and David Leslie, husband of Lisa Actor and father of Mari Leslie arrived from England. They had dinner with us last night, and followed the bus today to Holloko . . . well, not exactly, since they turned down the road marked “Holloko” and arrived there 20 or 30 minutes ahead of the busz (that’s Hungarian afor “bus”). When we reached the Holloko road, it was blocked off with a “no entry” sign, so we went on trying to find an alternative route. We did, but first we drove in a complete circle . . . as we passed a country cemetery for the second time, Elise Harrell piped up, “I’ve been here before. I remember this!” And she was right – we had passed the same spot twenty minutes or so earlier.

We finally made our way into the village, and about half of the group walked uphill to the ancient castle while the other half walked downhill to some cute little shops. There were marvelous views from the castle and we heard the story of the beautiful Holloko maiden who was held prisoner there until she was rescued and cared for by a large black raven. There is a huge sculpture of that raven as you turn down the road to the village.

We were back in Budapest by 4:00 and left for St. Anna’s Church at 4:30 so we could warm up at 5:00 p.m. The church was breath-takingly beautiful, as all the churches in which we have sung have been. We warmed up, got acquainted with the acoustics in the building, and then moved into the choir loft where we sang the “Kyrie,” “Sanctus,” “Benedictus,” and “Agnus Dei” of the mass during the service. There were at least 50 people standing through the whole service; the church was packed.

Immediately following the mass, the choir moved from the choir loft to the sanctuary and processed in singing “Alleluia.” We could only sing a 30-minute concert, and we’re not sure why . . . we thought there was another performance following ours, but the church was closed up as soon as we finished. We were very well received and the singers received many compliments during our “meet and greet” period following the concert. Most of the singers have no trouble now introducing themselves to at least three people they don’t know; often they will speak with ten or twelve strangers and thank them for attending the concert.

We boarded the bus and drove into downtown Budapest and had dinner at a restaurant that featured Hungarian folk performers. We had such an exciting evening – they drew us into their performance and made it so much fun. Ray McKean, Todd Kessel, Michael Millane, Madison Barton, Avery Dauphanais and Emily Art were plucked from the
audience and encouraged to dance with the performers. It was so much fun to watch!

We’re back at our hotel now, packing our suitcases in preparation for departure for home tomorrow morning. It’s very sad to know that this wonderful experience has come to an end, and yet we are so excited to fly to the U.S. and meet our families and go home and relax for the rest of the summer.

We have lots of new ideas and plans for our 18th season coming up. How could we not be excited after twelve days of travel and performance and exhilaration as we worked together to achieve excellence in so many areas.

It’s hard to say “good-bye” this one last time. Maybe there will be another addition to the blog as we travel tomorrow. We’ll see.

Sandy Miller

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 9 (3Jul) - Budapest

We were able to sleep a little later this morning, which was wonderful in this Novotel Centrum right in the heart of Budapest. Our city guide, Anita, met us at 9:00 and took us on a three-hour trek through the main city and the history of Budapest. We visited the Parliament Building, which is absolutely incredible – the beauty of the building and the significance of “1896” and “896” was drilled into us. We were blown away by the beauty of the building and the significance of Hungary’s relationship with Slovakia, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.

We took an hour or so for lunch and many of us visited the City Market which had anything and everything you could want to eat. Some of us ate lunch in outdoor restaurants, some of us bought items in the market and created our own lunch – meats, cheeses, hard rolls, fruit and lots of other stuff.

After lunch, our bus dropped us back at the hotel for a quick pick-up of swimsuits and towels and we headed to the “baths.” There are 18 pools at these baths, both hot and cold. The kids moved from pool to pool and had a great time exploring and playing. It was a perfect day for swimming! Back to the hotel for showers and then to dinner – one of the best – and then back to the hotel and to bed. In rooms and quiet at 10:00, lights out at 10:15. Whew . . . off to Holloko tomorrow and then our final tour concert . . I’m not sure whether we are happy or sad or maybe, both!!

Goodnight for now!
Sandy Miller

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 8 (2Jul) - On to Budapest!

An early morning! Everyone responded to an early wakeup call – 6:30 am!!! We managed to eat breakfast, bring our luggage down, load the luggage and be on the road by 8:30 . . . almost a miracle! Lots of driving today – a fairly good highway through Poland to the Slovakian border, then not so good a road as we drove from the north border of Slovakia to the South. Peter Ede, our guide, shared a lot of history of this area with us as we traveled – Peter is incredibly knowledgeable about this area of the world and eager to share important information with us.

We stopped for a pinklepowser break in the morning, then drove on to a ski area where there are several restaurants and stopped for lunch. Some of us ate pizza, others had a big, really BIG lunches (just ask Ray)! Others had French fries and cokes because, they said . . . they couldn’t understand the menu. Personally, I think they were just ready for good old American(?) French fries and good old American Coke!

Back on the bus and we crossed the border into Hungary. The scenery today between Krakow and Budapest was like driving through Oregon. Lots of evergreen trees covering the hills with mountains resembling the coast range in the distance. It kind of made us homesick.

We arrived in Budapest and did a quick drive across the Danube River into Buda, but then returned to Pest where we are staying in the Novatel Centrale. This is a lovely, very classy hotel. Some of our rooms have balconies where we can look down on the street. All of the rooms are cool and comfortable and we’re happy to be here.

Dinner tonight was in the lovely dining room of the hotel and we were served Chicken Cordon Bleu with French fries, steamed vegetables, soup as a starter, and tiramisu for dessert. All in all, the best dinner we’ve had, I think!

We called Hallie Clark’s dad, Greg, and sang “Happy Birthday” to him. It was kind of interesting to watch the other hotel patrons as we sang. I think they were impressed.

The weather today was excellent, of course we were in the bus most of the day. We’re enjoying the sunshine and the warmth and hoping that it’s this way when we get home!

Everyone is doing well. I keep asking if anyone is homesick and no one seems to be suffering too much . . . actually, no one seems to be suffering at all. Our adult chaperones are priceless – they are enjoying the singers and the concerts and have truly been indispensable in so many areas. Wow – we’re having the time of our lives!!

More tomorrow!
Sandy Miller

(What do you say Oregonians - shall we tell them about the weather here in Oregon yesterday and today? -Jamie)

Additional Photos

I received these photos this morning from the tour group and will add them in here since those of you who are following the group may not go back and look at old posts. I'll move them to the correct location (date) later.

Girls in Garnet Dresses

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin Train Station

Moms and Grandmom

Day 7 (1JUL) - Krakow

We welcomed July with a wonderful breakfast at the Wyspianski Hotel this morning! All of us noticed, however, that out breakfast was missing eggs – we have gotten very used to having a choice of fried eggs, scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, eggs of every shape, size and variety. At the Wyspianski, they served us three choices of hot meat, lots of choices of cold meat, cheeses, cereal, fruit, breads, jam, apple or orange juice, milk and coffee or tea. Needless to say, no one is going hungry at breakfast.

We met Eva, our city guide, in the lobby of the hotel and took off on a three-hour walking tour. Yes, that is correct . . . three hours! Our hotel is very centrally located and it is so easy to walk to the Krakow town square – maybe three minutes walk. Our guide, however, took the three-hour way around and we were inundated with facts about Krakow. We visited the castle situated beside the Vistula River. We saw the dragon who lived there at one time and drank the river dry (ask your singer to tell you that story).

Back outdoors, we strolled to the city center and discovered that the Krakow town square is the largest in Europe – approximately ten acres. We toured the cathedral and climbed to the top of the bell tower and saw bells and clappers bigger than any we had ever seen before. The climb up to the tower was very interesting . . . many of us were wondering if Michael Millane was going to be able to squeeze through some of the tiny passageways. He made it, but we’re not sure how.??? The cathedral was breathtaking, as so many of the churches we have seen are. So beautiful and with such excellent acoustics. We were outside a little before noon and watched the trumpeter play the “hourly” melody which ends very abruptly as he moves from one window to the next to the next to the next. Again, your singer can explain that story to you – it involves a bow and arrow sometime long, long ago.

We broke into small groups for lunch and free time. Most of us shopped a little and purchased gifts for friends back home. Amber is prevalent in this part of the world, and I’ve seen a few amber earrings (Hallie) necklaces (Tracy) rings (the Hug girls) and even a bracelet . . . Wow . . . so beautiful.
Our first rain of the trip came while we were shopping. Most of us had not carried our umbrellas, of course, but it didn’t last too long. While it did last, however, it really poured!

We met at 2:45 at the Bell Tower and walked to the Dominican Church for a rehearsal. We met Father Thomas, a Dominican priest who had invited us to sing and, of course, he asked if we could participate in the mass. (We had not planned to because we were singing a concert there afterwards.)
We also discovered that the 7:00 mass we had planned to attend was actually at 7:30, and our 7:30 concert would be moved back accordingly. Therefore dinner, scheduled for 8:30, was not going to work. Peter and Eva to the rescue! They walked to the restaurant and talked them into serving us at 6:00 before we sang. A really good move! So, our schedule became….

3:00 Rehearsal
4:00 Free time
5:30 Meet in the lobby of the hotel and walk to the restaurant
6:00 Dinner (guess what? Schnitzel again!)
7:30 Mass
8:15 Concert

I can’t remember the last time one of our singers fell apart during a concert. But tonight, Avery Dauphanais almost brought us to our knees laughing. We begin “O Desayo” with Jack Kessel, Drew Millane, Hallie Clark and Mackenzie Sandor playing percussion instruments along with Ray on the piano. For some reason, Jack didn’t play on beat “1” so the others didn’t play on beat “2”. We were all expecting to hear them, and when we didn’t, Avery got the giggles which became more intense and almost uncontrollable. Several of us started laughing with her, and I think maybe the song was more exciting because, at last, everyone was smiling! I don’t think this was our best concert, but I think the audience thought it was wonderful!

We walked from the Dominican Church back to our hotel and most of us made sure our suitcases were packed, brushed our teeth, crawled into bed and were soon very sound asleep! Z Z Z Z Z Z Z z z z z z z z z

Sandy Miller

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 6 (29Jun) - Auschwitz & Berkinau

Good-bye, Warsaw! The bus was packed and loaded and we headed south at 9:00 am. It was a pretty sleepy crowd until close to noon; most of us were curled up and catching up on some much-needed sleep! We stopped for lunch at a well-known and well-loved Polish fast-food restaurant – McDonald’s! Most of the workers spoke enough English to understand us when we ordered. We wondered if that was the case in the U.S.

Then it was on to the most emotional part of the trip for many of us – the killing camps of Auschwitz and Berkinau. Our singers were incredibly respectful as we entered that sacred ground. We stopped at Birkinau first, and walked through the barracks designed to hold 45 horses and ended up housing 700-1000 prisoners. I watched as individuals – both adults and children – wandered across the ground and along the railway tracks where so many thousands of people were unloaded and divided into those who lived and those who went straight to the gas chambers. We traveled down the road a mile or so to Auschwitz where again, everyone was silent as we walked through the barracks, viewed the displays of shoes, hair brushes, luggage and personal belongings of those who were killed in this place not that long ago. We experienced tears, frustration, questioning, and anger as we walked from room to room and viewed and experienced what had happened to tens of thousands of people in this part of the world.

Back on the bus it took us quite a while to get back to normalcy . . . it was difficult to talk. It was impossible to laugh. Our thoughts were dark and centered on the cruelty and viciousness we had witnessed. But gradually conversations were started, experiences and feelings were shared, and before we knew it we were entering Krakow.

Dinner was at a wonderful, very beautiful restaurant called “Amadeus.” We finished at about 10:00 and part of the group walked into the old town square. Most of us, however, walked back to the hotel and are ready for sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day and we’re hoping for another incredible concert tomorrow night.

I’m ready for sleep!
Sandy Miller