September 29th 2015 Marina Kastela, Croatia
Julie celebrated her 65th birthday (ssh, don’t tell anyone!) on September 8th, a bottle of Mumm sailing gently towards to the lovely bay of Sesula where we once again picked up a mooring and ate at Sismis Restaurant, this time Lamb Peka was on the menu and quite delicious.
September 10th our hire car was delivered to the marina, an early start for the 745 Km drive up the Croatian A1 in a fierce Bora, through Trieste to Sesto Sexten, high in the Italian Tyrol. Hotel Holzer, a family run hotel had spectacular views of the imposing Dolomites.
We drove through the Alps to the Austrian town of Feldkirch to meet Julie’s cousin, James Munro, performing in a Chamber Orchestra concert playing late 14th and early 15th Century music. It was James’ debut playing the Viola da Gamba and an impressive feat alternating with his Violone.
From there another picturesque drive to the Bavarian town of Füssen to join Lizzy and Tony Dyson for our second Ring of the summer and their first ever!
There was some considerable stress when we came to a total standstill on the autobahn not far from our lunch date destination!
For those who are interested our review is below.
The Bulgarian Ring at Füssen.
The Festspielhaus at Füssen, Southern Bavaria, must be the most picturesque of all opera houses. A building modelled on Bayreuth, it stands in wooded country on the side of Lake Forggensee with a direct view to Castle Neuschwanstein across the water. It was even more stunning by night with Ludwig’s brightly illuminated folly reflected in the still water.
During the first interval of Götterdämmerung, after some heavy rain, we saw a rainbow emanating from the Alps directly above of the castle. Füssen’s own rainbow bridge.
It was to this quintessentially Wagnerian setting that The Sofia Opera and Ballet brought their Ring Cycle, which they have been presenting in Sophia over the last two years.
The basic formula was the same as last year, a highly colourful setting with space-age costumes together with a straightforward recounting of the story. The predominant scenic effect was a large ring which could be broken in half and hydraulically manipulated to represent the various Ring locations. Upon this were projected computer driven lighting effects of splendid colour and variety. One frequently recurring symbol was the almond shaped mandorla, which served as a love nest for Siegfried and Brünnhilde and also as a boat. The cone shape was frequently used to represent, castles and towers but also horses for the Valkyries. Brünnhilde had to sing the whole of the second act of Die Walküre balanced precariously on the side of a cone. However, her ride into the flames at the end of Götterdämmerung on the cone, Grane, was very effective.
The singers are all Bulgarian, young, enthusiastic and well trained. Special mention should be made of Martin Iliev, who played Siegmund and the Götterdämmerung Siegfried, Yordanka Derilova, the Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung and Tsvetana Bandalovska, Sieglinde and Gutrune. They produced excellent personal chemistry and electric vocalism. It is proposed to repeat their production of Tristan and Isolde, premiered earlier in 2015, next July. Tristan, Martin Iliev and Isolde, Tsvetana Bandalovska had excellent reviews. So a visit to Sofia in 2016 could be well worthwhile.
The orchestra, also all Bulgarian, were only 88 strong, packed into the small Fussen pit which is covered, á la Bayreuth, with a wooden shell. This meant that the overall sound was not of Wagnerian proportions but they did not swamp the singers and the brass were particularly solid and accurate. They were led by Erich Wächter, the only German in the production and the most modest and self-effacing conductor we have ever seen, and also the most relaxed. Most conductors, at the end of Götterdämmerung, look as if they have run a marathon whereas Maestro Wächter looked as if he had just had a walk in the park.
The audience, which included five members of the Wagner Society of NSW, were thrilled by the whole performance. Very sadly the house was not completely full which may have been due to poor marketing since the quality of this Ring should have ensured a sell-out.
Professor Plamen Kartaloff must be given full credit, not only for his direction of this inspirational Ring Cycle but for his vision to bring his entire company from Sofia to perform in the magical Füssen Festspielhaus.
As an aside only true devotees would now visit Ludwig’s castle at Neuschwanstein. Having paid the exorbitant entrance fee (1 Euro off for the over 65s), and climbed the hill, one is now admitted at the exact time on the ticket – be late and you miss your tour and no refund. The tour is then a rush of exactly thirty five minutes, so no lingering to examine all the allegorical paintings and the guide had some erroneous ideas about the Lohengrin legend. However you are allowed to spend as much time as you like in the souvenir shop.
And so September 19th we welcomed our last crew of the season, Maggie Jones, Sue and Richard McKenzie, the last of the hot days on their arrival.
The forecast thunderstorm duly came during the night but it cleared enough for sightseeing in Trogir and Split before a strong – 25-60 knot – Bora kept us all awake the next night. It blew itself out after 17 hours so we ventured out of the marina to our favourite Movarstica for a quiet night at anchor.
A couple of swims, a night at the lovely little village of Maslinica on Solta Island. Another delicious Peka, thank you crew, before again taking shelter in Marina Kastela before the next storm.
September 29th we put Exotica to bed for the winter. Sadly, the Bora raged for 4 days before our departure so we were unable to see her being lifted onto the hard standing. Two days later the boatyard settled her onto a cradle and tied her down to large concrete blocks to protect her from the winter winds.
2015 cruise we have travelled a total distance of 1245 nautical miles, to five countries in five months. Have enjoyed the company of 19 crew over the summer and have had 61 sailing days, an improvement on 2014. We anchored in 22 bays, picked up 12 mooring buoys and over-nighted in 21 marinas. We arrived in Croatia on July 1st and have only cruised one third of the coastline. Contrary to predictions we were never asked to pay for anchoring in bays in Croatia. As there are over 1000 islands we intend to explore the Northern Adriatic in 2016. Thank you to all who have followed our blog and particularly to those who have commented, we love your messages.