This week’s Fractal has some special features – reminder to donate blood and an interview with Andrew Flynn, artistic director of Decadent Theatre and director of ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’.
I arrived back in Ireland on the 5th of September after nearly seven weeks to find out ‘Dún na mBan Trí Thine’, the Taibdhhearc’s Galway International Arts Festival play from the summer, would be touring in November. I wouldn’t be operating the subtitles as the tour was of the Gaeltachtaí; Gaoth Dobhair, Ráth Cairn and Coirce Dhuibhne. Instead I was operating Qlab (Audiovisual), as our original operator had a new job.
I couldn’t be at the rehearsals leading up to the remount in Galway because the second #ABCirk exchange was taking place that week. Luckily the experience of operating subtitles put me in a good position to operate Qlab.
We had two shows in the Taibhdhearc, 8th and 9th. We packed up the van to travel after the show on the night. It took until 1am to de-rig everything, decide what to pack, and pack the other rentals away.
10th; We left at 9am to travel to Gaoth Dobhair, Dún na nGall. Amharclann Gaoth Dobhair was nice and had some staff on hand to help us. We did our get-in (literally getting all the stuff) – and then we got kicked out shortly after 7pm! They were showing a film. We decided to have family dinner in The Ivy. Everyone we spoke to had Irish and it was a fine evening! We stayed in Teaċ Campbell – a very nice B&B.
11th; Focus (directing and focussing lights), Q to Q (where the technicians go from each cue to the next to make sure everything looks and sounds right) then we had a few hours free before the show at 8pm. The technicians attended the local pub, which also proved to have very nice food (nice one, Gaoth Dobhair). And show at 8pm! It all went well even though it was strange not to be in an enclosed control room.
12th; The mostly free day. Found the beach! Show at 8pm. Which had some strange added heater noises! But went well otherwise. Then the get-out (like the get-in, but reverse), met some of the crew in Tí Sheáin-Óig again, and bed.
13th; Start the process all over again! Out of Gaoth Dobhair and on to Ráth Cairn at 9am. We arrived to find ourselves in a community Hall – which still had a set on stage!
But our inventive touring set-builder deconstructed and reconstructed it to give us a great backdrop and masking (wings, for actors to hide behind before entering the stage). Here we weren’t kicked out until 8pm, which gave us enough time to rewire our 16Amp plugs to 15Amp plugs. Though we struggled to find food it Athboy, where we were staying in The Lawrence.
14th; Focus, Q to Q and the show was well-attended in the evening! We enjoyed some refreshments in the bar next door, and got to hear some of the local musicians play.
15th; Found little to do in Athboy for the day other than stroll, nap and send postcards. Show again at 8pm and then the get-out.
16th; All aboard the bus again to leave for our last stop, Coirce Dhuibhne in Ciarraí. This was another lovely theatre space! We had some problems with sound because one of our cables (jack to XLR) got damaged, so we had to edit the file on Qlab to travel through one channel and rely on the one other jack to XLR we had. We stayed in Óstán Coirce Dhuibhne, which was beautifully located amongst the hills by the sea. I would have gone walking but the boots I had were letting in water sadly.
17th; Once got everything ready for the last time, and the show was well-attended in the evening.
18th; Our last night! Our touring lighting technician had a show in Dublin and our back-up joined us for the last show. We gathered everything up for the last time, checklist and all. Once again we had to rewire the 15Amp plugs we borrowed, and headed back to the hotel. Not only were we celebrating the last show and the end of the tour, but also the 70th birthday of one of our actors!
19th; A quiet bus ride back to Galway, rewiring 16Amp plugs on to cables, stopping in petrol stations, and we landed back to our home theatre for shortly after 5pm after completing the Taibhdhearc’s first national tour in over ten years.
The last leg of my journey in the summer of 2016 was to Athens, Greece. Just shy of midnight, on Friday the 19th of August, I boarded a night-train from Sofia, Bulgaria to Thessaloniki. I had a compartment to myself. This seemed great at first but then I found myself a bit more concerned by something happening than if I’d been sharing with people. Though nothing happened other than one passport check at 3am.
Arrived in Thessaloniki on time at 6:30am, despite leaving Sofia, Bulgaria late. I was travelling his whole time with an interrail ticket.
So I hopped on the next train to Athens which turned out to be at 7:04am. It was very sunny and warm so I slept most of the way.
However, I discovered reservations, after tickets, are mandatory on trains in Greece. I should’ve checked this out before but the ticket-checker was obviously used to this. They said they’d come back around after a while to get €20 off me – which turned out to be the reservation fee and not a fine!
I found out later upon waking up again that I was in fact sat in someone else’s seat; no need for reservation signs if EVERYONE reserves.
Arrived in Athens shortly after 1:30pm and hard time figuring out the Metro. Eventually got the Metro to Omonia and walked a bit through a rough looking area to a nice looking hotel.
I’d managed to save some money while travelling and had decided to stay in a hotel for my last stop. But in actuality this hotel was not much nicer than any hostel I’d stayed in. I also ended up being a bit bored and lonely. All the activities advertised in the hotel were for people who travelled with a lot more money than me. A good lesson though!
The next day I took the tram to the coast – which was definitely where I should’ve stayed instead! I found a beach bar. I’d forgotten my swim wear but it was nice to sit and watch the water in the shade, eat pasta for breakfast and see cats.
I then visited the Sea-Turtle Centre.
It’s nice to see sea-turtles! But also sad as they’re all injured and sick, and mostly on purpose by people. My tour guide did tell me that most of them make a full recovery and get released back into the wild.
My tour guide, upon finding out I was ravelling alone, invited me to come swimming with a group on them that evening. I ended up taking the wrong tram and being totally delayed, but I did luckily get to find them the next day!
Monday, I visited the flea market and bought some gifts to bring home, before meeting up with the sea-turtle tour guide.
They took me for a drive around Athens, up the mountains and to a coffee shop. We then picked up another volunteer from the Sea-Turtle Centre and drove out to Poseidon’s Temple. It was crazy hot, between 35-40 degrees Celsius all day. The road out was also very windy, but it was worth it!
On the way back we stopped in a different beach bar. It was a bit postcard-like.
The evening I packed and prepared all my stuff to fly back to Ireland the next day.
The bus to the airport from Syntagma was a nice journey. It was nice to see the landscape and mountains again.
Wednesday, August 17th: On the overnight train to Bulgaria myself and the British couple I was sharing a compartment with got woken at 3am by border control. We were meant to arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria at 8:45am but actually arrived at 9:20am.
The British couple and I said goodbye, and then I immediately found myself walking towards Makedonia street with some Belgian and Swiss travellers. We departed after a while and some people along the way gave me directions until I bumped into an Italian traveller looking for the same hostel!
Hostel Mostel – whichs turns out to be the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in.
Dropped off my bags and decided to join the Free Sofia Walking Tour at 11am as I was too early to go into my room. I’d never been on a walking tour before and expected it to be really lame and touristic – but it was actually great! Our guide was a very funny historian who was super enthusiastic and made it amazing. They also had lots of other tours to suggest to see more of Bulgaria.
On the way back I walked through a market selling communist era memorabilia and Cathedral of Saint Alexandar Nevski.
Took a walk to the train station and around town for a while before chilling in the common room with the Italian traveller I’d met.
Thursday the Italian traveller and I decided to go on a hiking tour to the Boyana Waterfall. The hike up took about two hours, with a ten minute break, and was super beautiful.
Boyana Waterfall –
and then Boyana Church.
It was a small group and everyone was very friendly.
The tour guide was also very enthusiastic and chatted with us about lots of stuff.
We made friends with some other travellers on the tour, and after, four of us got a recommendation for lunch from our tour guide; the national archive.
A somewhat imposing building, that you can’t enter without giving passport details, turns out to have a café on the top floor with a 360° view of Sofia.
So you can see the weather coming a mile away!
We decided to go to dinner together, too, to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant; Manastirska Magernitza.
One of the other hikers turned out out to be staying in Hostel Mostel so we returned to shower and nap before heading out again.
We all wandered around town after, taking pictures and discussing travelling – and then had to bid goodbye to one of our party. This was surprisingly sad as we’d all known each other less than a day!
We walked back after and went to bed.
Friday I headed to Rila Monastery, a tour which was arranged through the hostel.
They had drivers who drove the two hours out to Rila, which is a lovely drive through some small villages. Going with me were two German and one French traveller.
We stopped into a short hiking route – a short pilgrimage in fact to visit the cave of a monk.
And it turned out you couldn’t come back out from the cave – you had to climb out a small hole in the roof of the cave.
This was actually spectacularly terrifying, even to small woman experienced in circus. But the five of us, including the driver-come-tour-guide survived. We then visited a small chapel dedicated to the mink.
We then carried on to Rila.
We had two hours to walk around.
There was also a lot carefully preserved frescoes.
Also some traditional clothing and information on farming inside some parts of the building.
We left a bit early, as everyone was quite tired, and it turned out it was the driver’s last day before holidays so we figured they wouldn’t mind finishing early.
The next day I would realise I left my travelling partner of five years, Günther, in that car.
I went to the train station and reserved my space on the overnight train to Thessaloniki, Greece. I spent some time before the train in the hostel talking to a Welsh family who’d moved to Bulgaria. When I returned to the train station I bumped into three of the French travellers who’d been on the hiking tour. We chatted until the train arrived – at 11:55pm, 25 minutes late.
I had a compartment to myself this time, which at first seemed great – but then was actually a bit unnerving. But did eventually get to sleep.