SoCS: Fitbit

In Slovenia, we did a lot of walking.

Really a lot of walking. Way more than I usually do.

My Fitbit tells me that I walked 94929 steps during our trip. This is more steps than I usually take in a month – give or take. Life has been busy enough these last years that most of my steps are the daily life type, not fitness type.

B’s totals put mine to shame, though. He often walked while I was in rehearsal. Our first two days he walked over 25,000 steps!

When I went to view my Fitbit stats to add up the Slovenia trip steps, I realized that the last entry for steps was 166 on Tuesday and none at all since. Oops! I don’t walk a lot but I know it was more than that! ūüėČ

I have been using an old Fitbit Flex that I inherited from E when she got a new one. I think it may finally have given up the ghost. Fortunately, B’s job has a program for employees and spouse to get fitness trackers, so I think we will order a new one for me.

I don’t want a fancy one with tons of stats and heartbeat monitors and such. I prefer a simple one. I may get a cloth band for it that I can wear on my ankle, instead of my wrist. I can’t wear the rubber bands that come with Fitbits, so I have been using cloth bands from an Etsy shop. For my ankle, though, I will probably try a new shop that makes them with a Velcro closure instead of knots.

While I want to keep it simple, the new Fitbit will probably have the time on it. It would seem logical to wear it instead of a watch, but there is one problem. I love my watch! It is a solar-powered Citizen with a gold and silver bracelet-style band. Well, gold and silver colored, rather than actual gold and silver. I love not having to change batteries or charge it and I like that it just tells me the time.

Are you detecting a theme here?

I guess I am just simple-minded.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to begin the post with a preposition, which I did, with bonus points for ending with a preposition, which I did not. I was joking with her on her prompt post that my English teachers taught me never to end a sentence with a preposition, but she said that she is an editor and it is okay now. Still my stream-of-consciousness mind forgot about the ending with a preposition. I think my grammar school training is still in play…

At any rate, if you want to join in the fun, you can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/23/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-24-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

Remembering Nana in Slovenia

Our Smith College Alumnae Chorus tour of Slovenia was only a few weeks after the death of my mother, known here at Top of JC’s Mind as Nana. One of the things that was comforting to me was saying prayers for my mom at the various churches we visited. Sometimes, I was even able to light a candle in her memory.

In prior tour posts, I have shared some photos from some of the churches we visited, but I wanted to share a few more. The ceiling from the chapel of Ljubljana Castle:
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Most of the churches we saw on our trip had kneelers that were built into the wooden seats. I loved the curves of these pews from the Ljubljana castle chapel:
Ljubljana castle chapel pews

A cross silhouetted against Lake Bled in the entrance to the Mary of the Assumption:
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The beautifully painted Stations of the Cross there:
Stations of the Cross at Lake Bled

In Trieste, the organ and a bit of the rose window, which was a later addition to Saint Just, when technology had progressed enough to have that large an opening in the wall:

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Catholic altars contain relics, but one seldom sees them in such a conspicuous way:img_0233

A crucifix at St. George in Piran that had been restored from one of the older iterations of the church. I was struck by how contemporary designers have recalled this centuries-old style in their own work:
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The main altar:
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And the ceiling above the chancel:
chancel ceiling - St.George, Piran

There were two churches that I visited that were not part of the official tour. Because I was there as a pray-er rather than a tourist, I don’t have photos inside the churches, but they remain close to my heart. One was in Trieste, near the amphitheater ruins. Nana’s ethnic heritage was northern Italian, so it was special to be able to spend some quiet time in the church there. The other was when I went to Mass on our last morning in Ljubljana. It was comforting to be there as part of the congregation, even though they were speaking a language I didn’t know. All the same, I felt that the prayers in my heart were understood.

Besides my private prayer pilgrimage, I also silently dedicated my performances of the Duruflé Requiem to my mother.  This requiem is based on chants from the early church and is sung in Latin, as it would have been before the Second Vatican Council. Much of it is spare and meditative, beautiful but difficult to perform because the individual vocal lines are often exposed.

The most moving of these text for me is the “In Paradisum”, which is the final commendation of the deceased to God at the end of the funeral rite. The text translates:

May the Angels lead you into paradise:
may the martyrs receive you at your coming,
and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem.

May the choir of Angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor,
may you have everlasting rest.

At my mother’s funeral, this was the point at which I was most emotional, so I worried that I might have difficulty singing through it, especially as Durufl√© sets the first stanza for sopranos only. I found, though, that it was comforting for me to bring my mother to mind at that moment, making the traditional prayer even more meaningful. In the powerful silence after we very quietly finished the piece, I could find peace.

A Slovenian post for poets

One of the interesting things about Slovenia is that one of their national heroes is a poet. France PreŇ°eren (1800-1849) was the first major poet to write in Slovene. His poetry influenced all Slovene literature and one of his poems is now the national anthem. The main square of Ljubljana was re-named for him with a monument erected in his memory over a century ago.
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The statue depicts the Muse holding a laurel branch of over PreŇ°eren, but, given that the Muse is mostly unclothed, the monument was controversial, especially as the Square is bordered by the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, also known as the “pink church.” I was able to attend Sunday Mass there on our last morning in Ljubljana. (This photo was taken from across the river; the square itself was partially closed off due to reconstruction of the pavers.)
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And because many of my poet friends write ekphrastic poetry, I will close with a photo that I took in the baggage claim area of Ljubljana’s airport. I think we would all be able to write many lovely poems if we were able to visit this installation…
in Ljubljana airport
…which is called “a temporary art intervention” on this banner.

I know I, for one, could use an “art intervention” about now.

Our last full day in Slovenia

After collapsing into bed after our bus ride back from our Koper concert, we were gifted with a (mostly) free morning. B and I took the opportunity to finish shopping for gifts and remembrances to bring back. We shopped for honey, as Slovenia is home to a long-standing tradition of bee-keeping. We bought two Christmas ornaments, one of handmade lace and one of wood, both crafts that are important culturally. We bought sea salt from Piran. A cute, artist-designed Ljubljana dress with a dragon on it for ABC. Chocolate because they had interesting flavors, including a lot of white chocolate products, which I appreciated as I need to avoid dark chocolate.

Then, we started a string of official Smith College Alumnae Chorus events. We had a meeting to hear from our officers and take care of some organizational tasks. We went to a local restaurant for our farewell luncheon.  We proceeded to St. Jakob Church for our last rehearsal.
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LIke many other churches we visited, it had been renovated and changed styles as the centuries went on. Also, like other churches, some of the renovations had been necessitated by earthquakes.
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We were surprised to see a vehicle from the Slovenian version of public broadcasting. They were setting up to record the concert for broadcast. Our rehearsal in the church was quite short; we couldn’t run long because we needed to clear out for vigil mass. While we rehearsed, B took some more photos.
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For some reason, there was a donkey grazing beside the church…
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Street performers were amusing the children with giant bubbles.
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After rehearsal, B and I grabbed a quick salad from an al fresco restaurant before returning to the church to get ready for the concert. We were honored by a visit from a representative of the US embassy, who wanted to meet us before the concert.

The concert went very well. We again had a full house and the audience was very appreciative.
concert in Ljubljana

We had a reception back at our hotel, a last chance to talk and laugh together Рand to compare which sections of the Haydn and Duruflé kept playing over and over in our heads.

And to eat cake, because, I, for one, always have room for a good piece of cake.

 

 

Koper

After a few hours in Piran, we boarded our bus for a late lunch in Koper and then went to the cathedral to rehearse for our concert that evening.
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The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Our Slovenian guide told us that about half of the churches in Slovenia are dedicated to Mary under one or another of her many titles. Originally built in the 12th century, the cathedral evolved over the centuries to incorporate elements of later styles. Interestingly, the bell tower was originally a Roman watchtower, which explains why the stonework is so different from the rest of the cathedral. You can see some beautiful photos of the cathedral, including its impressive artwork, here.

As we saw often in Slovenia, locations tend to be a mix of styles over its long history, most of it spent dominated by other entities. The square where the cathedral is located is named Tito Square, after the president-for-life of Yugoslavia. The City Hall, which is on another side of the square, is a 15th century Venetian palace.
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After rehearsal, we had a bit of time to get something to eat before we had to dress for the concert. Given that our lunch had been both late and large, B and I decided to visit a gelato shop down near the port. We ate quite a lot of gelato in Slovenia, as there were shops or stands selling it wherever we had free time, perhaps a nod to the Italian influence in at least the southern part of Slovenia. Fortunately for B, who is lactose intolerant, most of the shops had a nice selection of sorbets and vegan gelato. On this evening, I chose a yummy vegan peach gelato.

After we dressed in our black concert attire, we waited outdoors until it was time to file into the cathedral. Here, my roommate at Smith and my first Smith friend are sitting and waiting, utilizing the fans that she brought for us. The sitting was important because we would be spending a lot of time standing on stone floors. The fans were important because it was July and quite warm. We were lucky, however, to have been in Slovenia in the time between two major European heat waves that set many all-time high temperature records. (I’m the one on the right with the silver hair and blue fan.)
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The concert was well-attended and well-received. It was so much fun to sing in that acoustical environment. You can read more about the music and concerts here.
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SoCS: where?

Where I’ve been was a topic I addressed in a recent post. The short answer is Slovenia. I have done a number of posts about the trip with more to come.

The long answer, aside from my physical location at home, is in the ozone. Well, not literally. Or in a fog. Not literally that, either.

I’ve been juggling a lot of things for a long time, primarily caretaking for various people. After my mom, known as Nana here at TJCM, passed away in May and after the immediate busy-ness of the funeral and the bunch of paperwork and phone calling that needed to happen, I had hoped that I could be more organized and not feeling like my mind is scattered most of the time, but no. At least, not so far.

A friend reassured me that it is still early days, that my sense of clarity will return, but that it takes a long time.

Admittedly, it doesn’t make sense to reorganize my life now anyways. We are in the final weeks of having daughter E and granddaughter ABC in residence. We expect her visa to come through sometime soon and then she will need to move to London within 30 days. I am expecting that, when they leave after 2+ years of living here, there will be another period that is like mourning, too.

So, I guess it may be a long time before I feel like I can think, plan, write, organize, as I used to.

Before I feel like I know where I am going.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “where.” Join us! Find out how here:¬† https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-10-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

Piran

On Friday, the Smith College Alumnae Chorus and our travelling companions visited Piran, a beautiful, historic town on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia. Slovenia, before its independence in 1991, had spent centuries under the dominance of other entities. Piran shows the influence of its time as part of the Venetian republic.

The main square has a statue of Italian composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini, whose birthplace, now a historic landmark, is on the piazza.
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As you would expect, some of the streets, now used as footpaths, are very narrow.
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Consequently, the cars are very small by US standards. (For scale, I am 5’1.5″ or 156 cm.)
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We walked up to the Church of St. George, shown here from Tartini Square.
St. George, Piran, Slovenia

The baptistry is the small, octagonal building whose roof you see to the right of the belltower, which is itself a smaller replica of the tower of St. Mark’s in Venice.
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The restoration of the church is amazing! The wall on the left has a sculpture of St. George slaying the dragon.
St. George church, Piran, Slovenia

The ceilings were especially eye-catching.
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Because I was an organist, B took a special photo of the organ.
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A path leads down from the church to the point and lighthouse.
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Piran affords views of the coast of Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia.
Piran view of the Adriatic

We loved our visit to Piran and definitely recommend including it in your itinerary if you visit Slovenia.

One-Liner Wednesday: another joke from Slovenia

Another joke from our Slovenian tour guide: If Melania and Donald divorce, Slovenia get half the United States, although it depends on the prenup…
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Find out how here:¬† https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/07/one-liner-wednesday-the-good-ol-days/

Lake Bled

Our first excursion away from Ljubljana was to Bled, which is northwest of Ljubljana and close to the border with Austria. Bled is famous for its beautiful lake, which has an island with a church and belltower.
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As you can see in the foreground of the photo above, one common way to visit the island is by pletna boat, powered by a single (very adept) oarsman. This is a job that tends to be passed down within families; our rower had a brother working on the lake, both following prior generations of their family.
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One must climb 99 steps to reach the church.
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The current form of the church dates from the the 17th century but there has been a Christian church at the site since the 12th century. In earlier times, it is believed that a temple to a Slavic goddess stood at the site. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, but is sometimes called, for obvious reasons, Our Lady of the Lake. Here is the main altar in the Baroque style; on the side walls are fresco remnants of the prior Gothic-style church, which was damaged in an earthquake. img_0180

After spending some time in the church, we climbed the belltower.
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B took this interesting shot as we ascended the stairs, showing the weights that make the clock work.
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We were in the tower at noon. Unlike many clocktowers which would just ring the hour, these bells rang for several minutes. It was a bit loud, being that close to the bells, but it was interesting to watch the mechanism work.
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After our time on the island and the return to shore by pletna, we took our buses up to Bled Castle. And I do mean up! Here is what Bled Castle looked like from our boat.
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And here is what Lake Bled looked like from the castle.
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The castle paths were quite steep, but we were rewarded with a fancy lunch at the restaurant. It was the first time I have had trout caviar; probably the first time I have had caviar at all.
menu from Bled Castle

And because it never hurts to end a post with dessert…
dessert at Bled Castle

Centered in Ljubljana

One of the nice features of the Smith College Alumnae Chorus’s tour of Slovenia was that we stayed for the whole week in Ljubljana in the City Hotel, just on the edge of the (mostly) pedestrian-only Old City. It was nice to be able to settle into our hotel rooms and walk to rehearsals, meals, shops, etc. in the Old City, only using our buses when we ventured further afield for sight-seeing or singing.

Because I needed to be in rehearsal, B had the chance to do more exploring than I did. I happily delegated picture-taking to him and want to share a few photos of places he/we visited.

One of the really nice features of our hotel rooms were that they had large murals of black and white photographs of Ljubljana by Slovenian photographer ŇĹiga Koritnik. Here is the one in our room: CIty Hotel Ljubljana

While walking around the city, B found the exact location and took this photo, with the river walls in the foreground and the castle on the hill above:
matching our hotel room mural

While I did get to go to the castle on the hill by funicular,
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B walked up several times, enabling him to get some shots of the city and the Alps beyond:
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And a close-up of the castle clocktower, flying the flags of Slovenia and Ljubljana:
tower of Ljubjlana castle

The Ljubljanica River flows through the heart of the Old City:
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where it is crossed by many bridges, including the Triple Bridges:
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One of the most famous of the bridges is the Dragon Bridge, guarded by this fellow:
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with the help of some griffins:
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Every day in the Old City, there are farmers and artisans selling their wares from shaded booths:
Ljubljana open air market

And sometimes, just the walkway itself is interesting:
sidewalk in Ljubljana