Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

A Greek island blog from Symi in the Dodecanese islands of Greece. "James’s great talent lies in his careful observation of the absurd and the amusing, the dramas and the difficulties..." Anne Zouroudi.

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

Music and more Music

Music and more Music

Now we are on March 22nd, and I have realised my timeline was incorrect yesterday. We booked the theatre tickets on our first night in Split, and the concert was on our first full day, after the bell tower nightmare and meeting Adriana on the Riva. So, it’s still Thursday and, having had a large lunch, we felt no need for dinner. Just as well as the concert started at seven-thirty, a most inconvenient time to be somewhere other than in an eatery.

National Theatre, Split

National Theatre, Split

No complaints from here though. Knowing that we had some time, we stopped for a drink at a place we nicknamed Audrey’s because it had a large photo of, and a large quote, from Audrey Hepburn. Like all the other cafés we used, the staff were young and friendly, spoke very good English, and taught us some Croat words like ‘Živjeli’ for ‘Cheers.’ (One night in unusual circumstances we learned the word for ‘gravedigger’, but I will tell you about that another day.) A glass of wine later and we decided that we would have a drink at the theatre bar before the concert and so set off into a chilly night.

20 minutes before curtain up

20 minutes before curtain up

There was no bar at the theatre, at least not one that was open. We arrived at seven-ten and were asked to come back later. Not like a British theatre, I thought, where the audience begins to cluster a good hour before the show to read programmes, have wine, compare outfits and use Edwardian toilet facilities. We dashed back to Audrey’s and gulped another glass, not wanting to be late despite that fact that, apparently, in Croatia, audiences are not expected to be early.

Inside the National Theatre, pre-show

Inside the National Theatre, pre-show (two minutes later it was full)

Back at the theatre at seven-twenty-five and, as if by teleportation, the foyer was rammed by audience. I have no idea where they had been hiding only fifteen minutes before. Tickets shown, we found our seats and settled in for a bit of Beethoven. Two bits actually, a concerto for piano, violin and cello in ‘C-duru’, which is either C major or C minor, and the Erotica symphony, number ‘Treca’ (which actually means third) in Eb-duru which I now know means major. Glorious performance by the Orkestar HNK Split – the orchestra of the National Theatre, conducted by Ivo Lipanovic. The interval allowed for a quick visit to a 20th-century toilet facility and a quick gasp of fresh, cold air outside and, after the concert, we returned to the city walls to find ‘Split’s only gay-friendly bar.’ (That’s what the unusual red photo is all about.) This wasn’t busy, but it was interesting with revolutionary murals and writing on the walls of the cavernous rooms in the medieval building and – sorry to mention them again – toilets that were from the same century as the walls; fourteenth, I should say.

A slight sleeting after the concert

A slight sleeting after the concert

There is a follow up to this story, and I’ll now fast forward to the Friday, the next day, and cover that quickly as, let’s face it, life’s too short for other people’s holiday stories. While wandering the town on Friday, having climbed the hill, had lunch at a graphic novel themed restaurant that even had Moaning Myrtle arising from the toilet bowl (clearly, today I am obsessed), and buying a massive and well-filled wrap for lunch (€1.20), we discovered that there was a free concert in the cathedral that night. Bless him, Neil kept a straight but enthusiastic face when I told him it was three Bach violin sonatas played by Orest Shourgot, professor of violin at the School of Music at the Arts Academy of Split.

Revolutionaries?

Revolutionaries?

We went, we listened, we were thrilled, and we forgot to eat dinner first. Afterwards, Neil recognised the man sitting just behind/beside me. He turned out to be the leader of last night’s orchestra. I complimented him on his orchestra and leadership, as you do, and Neil told him to keep up the good work. We shook hands and left him wondering who on earth we were while we went and mistakenly had another drink on an empty stomach, and then bought a bottle of wine for the room from an off-license housed in an old tram. The younger, English speaking staff running it were the cause of the gravedigger story which I will be getting to another day… Meanwhile, bonus photos:

Symi Greece Symi Dream photos Symi Greece Symi Dream photos

The market I mentioned yesterday, or part of it

The market I mentioned yesterday, or part of it

Let’s Split

Let’s Split

No, let’s not as we are on honeymoon. Or at least we were a couple of weeks ago. We’re on day three of the stay in Split now, which was actually day seven of the trip away thanks to the weather and boat schedules and that stop in Rhodes for four days. As you’ll see from the photos, the town was starting to fill up a little more by this day. We worked out the reason for this later when we walked along the harbour front. There was a large cruise ship in and, a bit like Rhodes and Symi the town was invaded for a few hours.

Split

We were thinking a lot about our friends as we wandered. Adriana was directly beside The Olive Tree.

That didn’t stop is from visiting the cathedral, which was once a mausoleum, hence its small size. Neil took a trot up the bell tower. I made it over halfway before the signs of an imminent panic attack were too strong, and I had to talk myself down. It’s an annoying thing, this ‘thing’ with heights that hit when I was forty, particularly as I used to love climbing mountains and abseiling down cliffs. These days, I have this worry that I will fall off, or worse, someone else will, and there will be nothing I can do about it. Anyway, he snapped the view from the top while I got my breath back at the bottom.

Split

Eeek!

Later, we visited the Temple Of Jupiter, had another wander around the town, listened to the acapella singers in the ‘vestibule’, and walked along the seafront again. Later, we found the market not fifty feet from our hotel. The market sold everything in linked areas. In one place, you’d find all the fruit and veg grown locally on small homesteads. There is an area with butchers’ shops on either side selling their famous cured hams and dead things, there’s a place for clothes and very few stallholders trying to badger you inside.

Split

The view from the bell tower that I didn’t see.

In the afternoon, we popped into the National Theatre and bought tickets for a classical concert there the following night. We were able to buy two tickets in the mid stalls, in the row behind the most expensive seats in the house. The tickets cost us the equivalent of €9.00 each. That was to come the next day, and there will be more about that tomorrow.

Split

Busying up

Athens – Frankfurt – Croatia

Athens – Frankfurt – Croatia

Today we’re travelling again. This time, it’s a mixed journey that started at seven in the morning with a flight to Frankfurt. It’s always a fun thing to do, fly over your destination on the way to somewhere else and then turn around and come back. Lack of direct flights to Split was the cause. We could have gone to Zagreb and taken a train but booked with Expedia and so took the most reasonably priced option including all flights. On the way up to Frankfurt, I had a good view from the window, and it was clear to see that we were heading for a cold climate.

Croatia

view of the landscape from the plane

Frankfurt airport wasn’t too bad in terms of transfer time, as we had a good couple of hours to kill. Just as well really because to get from A to B (literally as those were our arrival gate and departure gate areas) took 45 minutes, and yet the gates were directly opposite each other about fifty feet apart. Plenty of distractions along the way, shops, cafes and policemen with guns kept us entertained as we took advantage of the travellators to whisk us along. We stopped for a rest near our departure gate, and I salivated over some typically German sausages in buns. The last time I had one of those was in Berlin in 2007, and I was long overdue a Bratwurst, but I resisted, knowing that we would have lunch on the plane. We did, and an hour or so later landed in Croatia.

Croatia

It was closed.

Well, it wasn’t, but we had the distinct feeling that we were the first tourist arrivals in Split. The airport is being extended, which bodes well for tourism to Dalmatia, were Split is, and I later found out that tourism is definitely on the increase there. Our taxi driver, Erin (male) who had been booked for us by the hotel, took us and our luggage to his swanky car and whisked us off to as close to the hotel as possible. That trip cost €40.00 which was, frighteningly, cheaper than the online offers I’d seen. It was also easier than taking the bus. We were met at the Riva (the frontage of cafes outside the old palace walls by the sea) by a helpful young chap from our hotel who accompanied us through the underground entrance to the old palace, through the Peristyle and around the corner to our hotel.

Croatia

Peritsyle early season

This place, the Hotel Murum, is less than half a minute’s walk from the cathedral and city museum, and very handy for everything within the palace. This palace, in case you don’t know, was the summer retirement home of the emperor Diocletian, and over the years has been developed from its Roman origins and now looks more like a walled, medieval city, albeit a small one. We checked in with the young and friendly receptionist (everyone at the hotel was young and friendly, mainly students gaining extra income while studying complicated subjects, or saving to head to the yUK for some reason), and our room was perfect. (See my hotel review on Trip Advisor.) That done, it was still early afternoon, and so an orientation walk was in order.

Croatia

One of the oldest bookshops in the world

This is when it felt like we were the first to arrive. The Peristyle (where you gather to hear singing, enter the cathedral and bell tower) was deserted, as was the Riva, just about, and many of the winding, tunnelled, narrow streets of the old town. I’ll call it an old town rather than the palace, so you don’t think we were staying with royalty or anything. It was also cold. There was snow on the surrounding mountains, and we wore our thermals. After a good wander, we stopped for a glass of wine at a Riva café – a bit posh. One of those places where the glasses are big enough for a bottle of wine, and they give you a spit of the stuff somewhere towards the bottom. Very nice it was, mind you, and only €3.40 each, with acceptable modern music played against incongruous videos from MTV.

Croatia

Could do with signs like this in Horio in the summer

More walking, and, later, a shower and change of clothes, and a dinner at The Oil Bar, a place that makes its own olive oil and salt, and also sells it. I tucked into pumpkin soup and a dish of Pašticada, a traditional Dalmatian stew. That’s a beef stew from the region of Dalmatia, not a stew made by Cruella Deville. Neil had a bruschetta the size of a submarine, followed by a mass or pork, all with homemade bread and local wine. There was a quiet, warm atmosphere and friendly staff. Dinner for two here cost just under €50.00 including a €17.00 bottle of wine. There was none of that handy half-litre jug business we get here in Greece.

After that, a nightcap and a well-earned sleep. Tomorrow, we’re doing more Split exploration. See you there.