Knoxville to Milan - August 4
It is with jet-lagged eyes and a fuzzy head I begin this blog about the trip across a small part of Europe with my friends Beppe and Federica (Freddie). She is nick named Freddie because Dan Crary couldn't pronounce Federica.
I left Knoxville at round 10am Saturday August 4th and arrived in Milan the next morning about 8am.
Here is the view from my seat - The Bathrooms. That was a popular hangout during the night.
After getting through thier intensely high security (one sleepy guy in some uniform at a doorway and passport folks talking with one another), I had a capuccino and waiting on Bep and Freddie. They show up at the end of my drink and we load up the car. He has a nice van with plenty of room. A seasoned traveler. We drive, stop for coffee, drive a little more, another coffee and finally get to the home of one of next week's promoters who just lost his wife to cancer. We talked and he seemed shaken but strong. He is ready for next week and didn't even think of cancelling.
I took this photo from hi front porch. A super view in Italy of unknown location.
Then I had Beppe and Freddy pose for a couples shot.....
Another 5 hours drive and we reach our destination high on a mountain (3000 ft) in Ambroz, Slovenia. Most of the students are here already. We arrive around 7:30pm. Long day... uh two days. Then the dinner bell rang and it was pasta ragu. Not our American ragu but a very fine meat sause not tomato base over elbow macaroni cooked perfectly to al dente... ah.....
Next was the camp meeting and meet and greet. Then for me it was off to bed. I awoke at 6:30 Monday to this view out of my window...
Now it is time for class...... more later.....
OK So now one week of teaching has past. I hoped to have time to post every day but I've been worked like a borrowed mule since I got here. Actually the first couple days was getting over the jet lag then getting into the swing of things.
This is a photo of our morning ritual - Breakfast. It's continental as you would expect. Thinly sliced meats and cheese, fresh rolls, fresh vegitables, Slovenian dark coffee, Nescafe of course, patte and more. Pretty good. Every day - not so good but ok.
This was a good time to hang with the gang before class. Class was from 9:30-12 and 3-5:30 then there was always a night time activity. Beppe and Federica always came up with something fun for the group.
Here are some photos of students.
First is Morrissio getting ready for class and Bacci (young guy about 20) who have been here many times.
Now we have photos from the big Student-a Concert-a. ( I am thinking in Italiano Englesie)
It was a great week. I will try to upload the final song of my students playing Blackberry Blossom and dedicated to our hero Doc Watson. They learned a ton of stuff in my class including this song that they played lead, rhythm and harmony at about 180 bpm - in-a just-a one week-a (There I go again-a).
It was a great week but today I am packed and loaded and ready for a three hour drive to Croatia where we will play two touristy shows to get ready for the big Italiano concerts later in the week. It will be nice in Croatia by the sea. Federica (Beppe's wife) promises me all the calamari I can eat - Oh Joy! I hate calamari.....(G) but I promised Donna I will try to eat-a like-a a big-a boy so I will try it.
Some last Ambroz Slovenia photos: Beppe and Federica at dinner and some students at dinner. This shows the strong Euro charm and feel of the dining hall. The last photo is The Beppe conducting a rehearsal for the big show.
Here is the hotel that the workshop took place in and the view of the valley below:
And at last here is Freddy happy to wrap another year and looking forward to the 21st BGSW in Ambroz.
You should try to visit Ambroz if you get a chance. Ciao Ciao Ambroz ( Bye Bye in Italiano) - Hvala (Thank You in Slovenian)
On to Croatia and the story continues.....
The trip to Croatia was only about 3 hours and was over after one mid stop for coffee and a dollop of ice cream - good call Freddy! We arrived at the around hotel 5:30pm and checked in. We are in the Hotel Vali and is one of the most modern Hotels in this town of Drumali. Is is directly on the Adriatic Sea and is a gorgious view.
Here is a picture of The Bepster overlooking the sea upon arrival.
We got settled and then went off to the big gig. It was held in an enclosed stone court yard about 15 minutes away in a very old city. We had a good crowd of maybe 75 folks who mostly understood English though maybe not my brand of humor but one out of two ain't bad. Tough day for my right hand. Still have a bit of a sprain left so I didn't play as fast as I would like but I did play as fast as Beppe would like (ha- just kidding). After the big gig, we all went to dinner and I had one of the best fillets I've had in a long time. Beppe, Federica and our host had grilled calamari - I was a big-a boy and had a bite. Got to bed around 1:30am. Now moving towards real musician hours. Got up around 9 - what a slug huh? Usually up at 5:30 back home.
Here is a Freddy Foto of Bep and I playing in the stone courtyard in Novi Vinodolski, Croatia. I would like to thank our Light Man and Sound Crew (Beppe) for a great evening.
Had a great breakfast with a view. Check this view out.....Eating outdoors right on the sea..... Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, uh no, tomorrow - back int he van.....
Took about a 4 mile walk today on the coast road. Here is a fun at the beach shot.
Time to go downstairs and meet Bep and Freddy for a coffee and on to the big gig. Tonight is is in a renovated church. I'll let you know how it goes.....
The story continues
The church gig in Crikvenica, Croatia was great. Here is a Freddy Foto of the set with Beppe. It was a full house and Beppe and I played like we were on fire. As typical, when we finished the show we then packed up our stuff and went out to dinner. Eating after the show wears me out but I understand it to be the Italian way so that's what we do.
August 14 - Italy
The drive from Croatia to the concert in Udine (Oo-Di-Nay), Italy was nice and only a few hours. We drove around and finally found the venue for the evening. It is a restaraunt - later to find out a GREAT restaurant - which will seat about 150. They take the glass off the right section of the building and people sit in and outside.
Finally a place where we have dinner first. This concert was put on by the Folk Society and the restaurant and was a huge success/ Folks were filled inside and all table and chairs taken outside. Many people came from far and after the evening concluded, I was told there were tons of guitar players in the audience. A good thing to know (AFTER). Dinner was great - I like to fill you in on the cuisine - a homemade pasta ragu with flank steak but for an started we had a proccutto that is made right in the area and would simply melt. Va Benne!
A Freddy Foto from the Udine concert. What a good looking couple of guys and we play good too! I even use those high frets sometimes even though Norman Blake tells me there is no money past the fifth fret.....
August 15 (very early)
Ok back at the room and it's about 1:30. Time to go to bed and get up to head to Cremona where they make violins of all levels. Ciao until later....
And the story continues...........
The drive to Cremona was ahead of schedule and I think this is a personal first for the Bepster. You will need to ask him. We arrived and were greeted by our good friend Alessandr Zaini. One of the hardest working musicians I know. Great guy and you see him for two weeks at Kamp most years. He took us to lunch in an open air cafe. Always great food. August 15 is a National Holiday so most business is closed. We will see what we can see.
Here we are a lunch. After lunch and on the way to the Bep Mobile, we stopped to look at the city centre or piaza. Here are a few pictures of the tallest all brick tower in europe and the Domo in the center of Cremona....
After lunch, Alessandro took me to the Stadivari Museum in the city centre. You find Stradivari sculptures like this one all over the city. Here is Stradivari studying his creation sitting on a street bench.
I was not allowed to photograph inside the museum so now we move on. It was spectacular.
Now it is time to go for a one day holiday in Salo, Italy right on the HUGE lake. If I could use larger letters I would have. We were right on the water in a hotel runned by Alessandro's cousin Fiora. She is one of the hardest working people I know. 15-20 hours a day with a huge staff running the restaurant, hotel and a water park across town with is also on the lake with swimming, sunbathing, two restaurants, tennis court and a soccer field. Wow!
Here is our host Fiora and her hotel is the Albergo-Ristorante and Hotel Lepanto at www.hotelristorantelepanto.it You really need to check it out if you are thinking of a great time in Italy! The restaurant food is unbelievable as well.
Next we have my morning view from my window. I know what you are thinking - Oh poor Steve..... I know ..... I got up saying the same thing. Poor me, poor me. and next is last nights sunset from the cafe in front of the hotel.
The hotel on check out day...
Now on to the next big gig at a castle in an unknown town until Federica tells me how to pronounce and spell it.
Ciao Ciao and the story continues.......
Alessandro and I left Salo after going on a great Parmesano Regiano formalgia run. We went looking for parmesan cheese and found a shop in the next village that had only cheese and every kind you could imagine. It was family run and they knew everything about each cheese. Very educational. I bought cheese made from the “red” cow. I think this is a real cow and not a made up story book cow like a blue one and I don’t think it ever jumped over the moon or anything. It is a reddish cow that eats totally organic food and then the milk from this cow is cleaner and safer and then they make the parmesan cheese and age it up to 18 months. The difference is the red cow cheese is much smoother and has less of a grainy consistency. Now you know to get the best – get the cheese from the red cow.
On to the castle. Allesandro and I left about 12:30 and arrived at the castle near Trisobbio about 4:30 with sound check being at 5. Plenty of time. We had to park at the bottom though and walk up so Alessandro went to find a parking spot. He came right back and said we should drive around because the walk was gonna kill us. He called Beppe who was already there to find out the best place to park. Beppe asked where we were and Alessandro said at the front of the castle. Well, Beppe was also at the front of the castle and couldn’t see us. DOH! We were at the wrong castle – go figure. That’s why above I said we were at a castle near Trisobbio. We needed to be IN Trisobbio.
Here’s a picture of the wrong castle gate. Nice huh?
After getting better directions we went to the correct castle and it was amazing. A restored castle owned by the town and used for events. This is a 12th century structure and really cool. The Castello de Trisobbio. We had a great stage, sound crew, lighting crew and an overflow audience. They thought they had enough chairs but were about 100 short. So they went to the church below and grabbed more chairs. Beppe and I were on fire that night and the crowd loved us. Yeah! Martino, a great mandolin player from Beppe’s old band and still active band Red Wine joined us on the encore along with Alessandro on banjo. Great night.
Must mention about now that this is the hottest summer on record for quite a while and these hotels and castles have no AC. You have to lay very still until the sweat dries off your body before you can fall asleep. The up side is it’s medieval but the down side is…. It’s medieval……
Here is the correct Castle along with the dining hall. Very impressive place. We all had dinner after the show with our host Roberto. These are really late nights for this old man. Play till 11:30pm then site down for an Italian style dinner of many courses, much talking and lots of wine….. I know – poor me…..
We talked Alessandro into going on another road trip for the last big gig. He will join us.
I rode with Alessandro and Beppe and Federica road ahead. We have a three hour drive ahead to a mountain villa also from about the 12th Century. It’s an old, old town mostly abandoned like a ghost town where only a few folks were living until about 10 years ago when some decided to buy in and restore the buildings. It is a true Italian mountain villa and the folks up here live the dream. Quiet, breezy, fruit trees, community – everything anyone could ask for with a bigger village just below. I guess that’s where they do their shopping. I was warned in advance that another late night was coming. My plan for tomorrow is to take a direct train from here to Milan station, then catch a bus to the airport then a shuttle to my hotel the Crown Plaza at the airport. The village set up the concert and did a super job. Tons of great people as have been the regular all along the concert tour.
Here are some casual shots of the last day's gig. Here is the Boss of the villa and my host Franco. He is a generous family guy who made sure everyone had everything they could possibly want.
Next is the village committee in Franco's 12th century home. This is the basement shot where he has a sitting area and kitchen. The upstairs is modern. Great group of folks.
Special thanks to Beppe and Federica, Alessandro, Ambroz folks and all the promoters and fans that made this Euro trip so special and fun.
Here is a final photo of Bepster and me saying "Done"......
I am ready to get home and look forward to seeing Mark and Donna and Tennessee.