Bulgarian Bendy-Bus
By 2pm we were on our way to the GA terminal at Istanbul airport for our day trip to Bulgaria. After a light Meze lunch/snack and during our approach into Sofia, I thought I recognised a building. The camera managed to hold its focus and later examination revealed it was indeed the Culture Palace. The same venue we played last time here.
But before all that….the day off –
“The rich flavors of Turkey are to be discovered at Raika ” claims the website banner and who are we to disagree? The day-off evening restaurant, located at The Marmara Taksim, offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city from its terrace floor.
One of the oldest and noblest traditions of the Anatolian table culture, “sharing” is revered at Raika as a serving style and last night, after another spectacularly luxuriant day off, we enjoyed some of the finest Turkish dishes. I’ve never really considered Turkish cuisine to be rated too highly but after meals like this one, one gets the distinct impression we are merely skimming the surface of the huge variety of foods available in this amazing country. Obviously the cuisine varies across Turkey, it is after all a huge country. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialities—many with strong regional associations. In turn Turkey has unquestionably influenced neighboring cuisines, including those of western Europe. All in all a wonderful experience. Bernie and his team of Range Rovers whisked us back to our hotel before 10:30 and it was an early night for all.
Show day –
The morning Birscher was as delicious as it has been every day and the health regime continued in earnest with a 550m swim and a 2000m row in record time. (that’s a lot for a muso) Then it was out to the pool area once again to bask and bake. The Four Seasons experience is spoiled only by the hideous piped music selection being occasionally blasted from Bose loudspeakers tucked away in surrounding pool buildings. I requested that it be turned down or preferably off. Mark and I recalled how the Four Seasons chain used to pipe Vivaldi around their hotels. Clearly new thinking has heralded a change in this policy. Too old-fashioned maybe? We love this hotel chain but to have Vivaldi replaced by the most ghastly cover versions of tunes like Satisfaction and Space Oddity fused with lounge style, soul and taste-less computer backing is an assault on the senses. There are however some OK Bossa Nova titles from the likes of Bebel Gilberto, Lura and Brenda Boykin (thanks Shazam) but most of it is drivel. A DJ Fletch playlist would be a simple solution although copyright restrictions would make this tricky for a hotel chain of such distinction. Or would it?
Greeted by Mannfred and his team, we were on the bumpy road to the city once again, commenting on how the landscape has changed here in the last 7 years since our 2008 visit.
You can’t miss that Bus…
Having talked about what we were going to play tonight with Mark in the back of the car, I forwarded to setlist to Kevin Hopgood our production manager at the venue so he could distribute the day’s menu to the crew. This is useful as when we change the set, unused instruments can go back in their cases. Sound check was quite a lengthy affair as it can be near the start of a tour. We ironed out a few things with the monitors and worked on a couple of segues and ran a few tunes new to the set, to make a debut this evening. One of which was Seattle. A big favourite amongst the band.
Chris prepares this evening’s Pork Loin wrapped in Parma Ham….using the old cling film trick! You live and learn in this place.
Being a band of foodies, I will enjoy detailing what goes on in the kitchens as we move through Europe. After a trip to catering and some of the best Jerk chicken prepared by Dave and Chris in the kitchen, it was time to warm up and prepare for the show. We took to the stage just after 8pm to a warm Bulgarian reception. The audience were fantastic for the whole evening and it was great to see many young children in the crowd once again, with excited parents passing on the experience to their children, most of whom seemed impressed by the whole thing. The show ran smoothly and before we knew it we were waving farewell once more and with white stage towels around our necks, were herded into the cars once more to return to the plane and our final day in Istanbul.