Sunday, 14 January 2007

travels 2006

In October 2006 I was lucky enough to be able to join my family who were holidaying on the island of Brac in Croatia. We developed relationships with mountain goats, and got used to squinting at the sun reflecting off the white stone of the landscape. After lazing in the Adriatic sun for a week, exploring the many little coves and beaches, discussing the meaning of life, and playing a few fiery games of boules, I went with Jonathan, Jane, Laura, India & Emily to the nearby island of Hvar. Here we saw a local Dalmatian choir sing in the courtyard of a church on the harbour. The little coastal village of Milna, on Hvar, was where I first pitched my tent. I then hit the road on my own, travelling up the coast and visiting Trogir [A UNESCO World Heritage Site] and Zadar; and then moving inland to Zagreb, where I discovered the wonders of naive art, maraska cherry liquers and streetside corn-on-the cob vendors.

A beach on blissful Brac

3rd century Roman emperor Diocletian chose Split as the site for his retirement palace

The intricate tiled roof of St. Marks, Zagreb

Travelling through Slovenia, the beautiful alpine landscape provided a contrast to the barrenness of the Adriatic islands I had grown accustomed to. Ljubljana is a jewel of a city, and its chilled-out culture reminded me of Amsterdam. Here I stayed in Celica Hostel, which used to be a prison and is now part of Metelkova, an area overrun by squatters and hippies. We had some amazing parties here, dancing to weird electronica in a variety of small warehouse-type clubs. One of these was designated the movie thatre, and here we sat in haphazardly-arranged antique theatre seats and watched a Sex Pistols documentary which was being projected onto a wall. The innovative Slovene Ethnographic Museum was a highlight of my trip. Atop the 15th century Ljubljana Castle I saw a wonderful public performance where a solo masked dancer moved across the castle wall accompanied by robed figures singing chants from below. The performance made us ponder the history of the place more deeply than any museum plaque could have.

Julia Primic, who gazes out at at the statue of her unrequited love France Prešeren
Prešeren Square, Ljubljana

The Dragon Bridge is a symbol of Ljubljana

Having sung Hungarian folk songs since I was four, there was almost a sense of home-coming as I crossed the border into Hungary. This was the land of Kodaly, to whom I owe a great deal. My life would certainly not have been the same without him. I travelled to Kecskemet, Kodaly's birthplace and the home of the Kodaly Institute, where I discovered only one employee who spoke English, but plenty who spoke solfege. Here, the small collection of Kodaly photographs, manuscripts and programmes had my heart racing like a fan at a Star Wars convention, but it was nothing compared to my wonder at the Kodaly Museum in Budapest. The museum is a conversion of his apartment, and still contains many of his possessions in place, as if he had just stepped out for coffee. The opulence and magnificence of Budapest was slightly overawing. I saw the Buda hill and its many churches, ate wonderful ice cream in Pest, soaked in the hot springs at the Széchenyi Fürdő and went to the Terror House - a museum which depicts, in a disturbingly artistic way, the horrors of fascism and communism suffered by the Hungarian people.

I first saw the Danube as I emerged from the streets of Pest at night

It was difficult to leave the luxurious Széchenyi Fürdő


Having been told that I was crazy for choosing Bratislava over Prague, I enjoyed my time in this city. I met some amusing fellow travellers, and together we sampled Slovakian beer [which to me tasted like vodka], and some 'Slovakian' cuisine that probably wasn't in a pub called, imaginatively, 'The Slovak'. We went to a drum & bass club built into the hill beneath the castle, to which you had to enter through a tunnel. Here I saw a very different view across the Danube, dominated by 'soviet-style' housing blocks, and the ufo-shaped restaurant which stands over the bridge. This structure made the place seem ethereal, and mixed visions of The War of the Worlds, The Twilight Zone, and 1960s Russian cosmonauts were brought to my mind.

One of Bratislava's quaint narrow streets

"It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition."
[Rod Sterling]

My dear friends Monika and Aggy were my guides as I explored some of the vast and beautiful land that is Poland. Monika trekked from Poznan to Krakow to meet me, and here I discovered my weakness for pierogi - dumplings that are a sort of equivalent of vegetarian steamed dim sims. We explored the Cloth Hall, the cafes, and the buildings of the 16th-century royal palace and castle on Wawel hill. We wandered the streets of Kazimierz, where the Isaac Synagogue is now a museum showing Nazi footage of the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos. Although the district isn't deserted, here we felt a sense of loss, and of 'what might have been.' In Warsaw Aggy showed me the Old Town, which was ravaged in the Second World War, and painstakingly rebuilt. We saw an Israeli film Frozen Days at the Warsaw film festival which was modelled on a Roman Polanski film so it was interesting to hear the questions put to the Director by the audience. The screening was in the imposing Palace of Culture & Science - Stalin's gift to Warsaw. Aggy took me to see Maria Peszek sing at a club, and her amazing vocal skills and charisma combined to be one of the most truly 'alternative' musical performances I have seen. The Polish fringe of art, design and fashion is very exciting. I saw Poznan through a cultural eye too, Monika taking me to a contemporary art gallery in the old town's lovely main square, and to Poland Now, a photographic exhibition exposing the quirks of Polish culture. We watched the mechanical goats on the town clock, and also found some good pierogi.

In the sobering streets of Kazimierz, Krakow

The recovery of Warsaw's war-torn Old Town is a source of national pride

The goats come out to fight every hour in Poznan

The colours of Poznan's main square

lowlands 2006

[revolution of love]

arctic monkeys jose gonzalez raconteurs scissor sisters orson
wolfmother kooks belle & sebastian razorlight snow patrol
magic numbers muse massive attack dj shadow guillemots
bloc party fun lovin criminals yeah yeah yeahs corvus corax dirty pretty things
arctic monkeys - when the sun goes down
jose gonzalez - heartbeats
raconteurs - bang bang
scissor sisters - filthy gorgeous
orson - no tomorrow
wolfmother - woman
kooks - she moves in her own way
belle & sebastian - funny little frog
razorlight - america
snow patrol - run
magic numbers - i see you, you see me
muse - starlight
massive attack - protection
dj shadow - midnight in a perfect world
guillemots - we're here
bloc party - two more years
fun lovin criminals - scooby snacks
yeah yeah yeahs - cheated hearts
corvus corax - cantinus buranus
dirty pretty things - bang bang you're dead

gateway to paradise


the giant flower

the magic numbers

the giant hand

freedom of expression


meet you at the buddha

belle & sebastian on the last night

posters of the revolution

london 2006

leicester 2002 - 4

dj vixthe poguesrobert milesavril lavignenellytatumazzy starvelvet underground

My first memory of Leicester - the Roman baths at Jewry Wall and St. Nicholas' Church

O'Neill's, Loseby Lane - here I fell in love

The shortcut home from town along the canal, Soar Lane

Diwali 2003

A view of the garden from Newarke Houses Museum, where I redesigned the Toy Gallery

The Mela, Summer 2004 - Bob bought me a kulfi at this stall

The view from the bench at Leicester Cathedral - a good place for contemplation

Supporting the Tigers from the terraces at Welford Road

The central Mosque

The Guildhall, where I sang with the Kingfisher Chorale, Christmas 2004

A stained glass window in the Guildhall