Tea 50: Yunnan Green Oolong, the Apartment, Warsaw.
50 days! A half centrury and what happens….
Winter returned today! The snow was falling fast and fairly heavy, giving a good coating to all the freshly ice free paths and roads. It was almost as though the first lot of snow had not disappeared at all! I wrapped up warm and left the apartment. The chill was back in the air, making me fear the worst for the next couple of weeks. I hope that the winter is not coming back and that that was just winter’s last laugh before spring kicks in. I took the tram again today, heading for Jana Pawla II street once more, in search of this vegan restaurant I had seen the other day.
Making it there I wandered up Jana Pawla for a while to work up a bit of an appetite, then wandered back down to the restaurant. The place is called the Loving Hut, an asian food spot, with all sorts of exciting looking things on the menu. I went for the soup that you can see below, though I have forgotten what it is called. But it was great, filled with Tofu, Broccoli, Beans, Celery, Lemon Grass, a fake prawn, noodles, loads of things. It was spicy and coconutty, rich and lovely. I sat and ate it up, flicking bits of soup all over the table, it was really good, especially with the cold wintry weather going on out of the window. I also learned that Natalie Portman, Moby, Tobey Macguire and Bryan Adams are all vegan!
Food eaten, which took me quite a while as the portion was hugely generous, I wrapped up again and went out into the wind blustered snow. I walked down Jana Pawla II then turned left onto Solidarnosci and walked to this little area just on the outskirts of the old town, wandering around a little park, that used to be part of the grounds to a grand old mansion, which still sits at the opposite end of the park. Ducks were desperately looking for unfrozen water to wash in, crows were diving about in the snow playing with sticks and rocks, for what purpose I don’t know, but I do think they were just playing in the snow, one kept diving into it and rolling around!
More wandering, more looking in bike shops and I decided I was getting far too cold, so I went back into the centre, bought some food to cook for dinner and then headed home. Back home I cooked a Beetroot soup and some Pierogi for Ania and I, Marta was at Yoga class. We sat and ate and chatted for a while, then watched an awful film, then went to sleep. A short, snowy day today.
A spectacularly sunny day today! The weather was a little colder than on the previous days, but the sun made up for that, the sky was a great glass-blue colour, a few whispy clouds dotted about. I got up and took the tram to central. From there I went and bought myself a new memory card reader, another thing that has bitten the dust along with the crotch-hole jeans…
Then, after escaping the horrible shopping mall I followed Emilii Platter street south. It’s southern end is a stark contrast to the part north of central, narrow and quiet with lovely little shops and cafes. I wandered down as far as Wilcza then turned east, then back southwards along Marszalkowska. The town seemed a bit sleepy today, probably the fact of it being a Monday I imagine. Walking through Constitution Square and then down onto Plac Zbawiciela with the pretty Kościół pw Najświętszego Zbawiciela (church). I then went down Mokotowska, still southwards. By now my brain had begun to think about food, it was after two and I had a desire for something wholesome and nutricious. I wandered around, looking at the various options, a thai place, a cafe, until I found Restauracja Maharaja. This lovely little Indian restaurant is on Marszalkowska, right next door to Galerie Next. go through the door and up to the top floor and it is tucked away there. I guess I arrived pretty late, but the place was empty, although I did walk through at a semi-rush hour, two people literally in front of me up the stairs and a third close behind.
This little place is really great though, the food was VERY good, I ordered the veggie set lunch option, Saag Paneer. It is a thali style lunch so rice, naan bread, poppadum, yoghurt and all sorts of other things were included. It was a proper feast, I totally stuffed myself. The Masala Chai I ordered alongside my meal was very good too, the right balance of sweetness and milkyness, and went really well with the food choice. It tasted freshly made, and properly made, not just chai tea with a bit of milk in it, but properly made with milk and only milk. The food was exquisite, the Paneer cheese perfect, the brightly coloured sauces complimenting everything perfectly. And the addition of aniseeds (fresh and sugar-coated) to freshen the palate and breath was a lovely touch that doesn’t happen often. I must have sat there for the best part of 2 hours, eating for most of that time! No-one else came into the restaurant after the little tidal wave I had come in on, but they should. The lunch was only 20Zloty, the tea another 10. If you have a different main the price changes, but not by much if you stick to the set lunch menu. They have different lunch dishes on offer everyday of the week, so I might well go back before my time is up in Warsaw! And I would encourage anyone else to go too!
Full and satisfied I dragged my belly back down the staircase to the street and then decided to finally venture down Mokotowska Street proper. This street is one of the popular streets for posher shop and things, but it is also where I have found my first hammer and sickle in the ex-soviet bloc so far! A building being held up by two figures, one holding his sickle, the other his stylized hammer. They are posing as though they have just caught the building and are holding it there so it doesn’t fall down, infinite strength or infinite labour, you decide… Carrying on down the street I came back to the big palm tree and the start of Nowy Swiat, which leads into the old town. I walked down this street, weaving in and out of the crowds of tourists, students and one unicyclist. Making it to the start of the old town, the sun getting low in the sky, reflecting off of windows and making the colours of the buildings bright and vibrant, I took a side street to get off of the main drag of the old town, the narrow street cobbled and lined with old terraced buildings. Back into the old town I took a photo of the view out across to the stadium and then was asked by another group to take their photo. They were visiting from Spain and were also about to head to Bucharest, seeing some friends. Back onto the cobbled streets and I walked through the town square and down to a little viewpoint out across the river. Then heading back north into the ‘New Town‘ part of the old town. The buildings still coloured and higgledy-piggledy, I walked up to Fort Legionow, a round building which appears to be shut at the minute but looks as though it usually holds a museum, up onto a long double-decker bridge, the trams buzzing along on the lower level and the cars and buses rushing over the upper level. It was quite late by now, the sun had set and I decided it was time to head home. Luckily one tram goes all the way from there to the southern part of the city, so it was an easy journey home.
Tea 48: Mate Palona, Gander’s Tea House, Warsaw.
Marta and I left the flat and headed into the city centre, we jumped on the tram to centrum and got off. We were both feeling a bit drowsy, despite everyone in the flat sleeping really well we seemed to all have a heavy headedness. It has started to snow again a bit today so we think it might be the change in air pressure or something like that. Marta had promised to show me the sculpture at the Palace of Science and Culture of the guy holding a book bearing Lenin‘s name. After a bit of a hunt we managed to find it, on the Emilii Platter side of the building, standing up the guy holds a book bearing not just Lenin’s name, but also those of Marx and Engels. It seems that it has never been attempted to be removed or altered in anyway. A proper throw back to the historical period that built this huge building.
My curiosity at long last satisfied we got onto another tram that took us to the other side of the river, to Saska Kępa, the more beaten up, but slowly reviving area of the city. We got off just after the bridge, which seems to go on forever, taking us across the wide river then past the new football stadium, still waiting for the christening of the Euro 2012 competition. We walked down Francuska street, past some old shops and buildings being taken over by modern eateries and bars, then past the sculpture of the famous poet and writer Agnieszka Osiecka, sitting outside of the Rue de Paris cafe. Across the street at number 12 Francuska is Gander’s tea house. This is the best tea house I have found in Warsaw so far, in terms of atmosphere, tea selection, tea quality and quirkyness. It is a bit like going to your posh grand-relatives house. Old wooden furniture upholstered with texture floral patterns, doily table cloths, slightly tarnished silverware. And for the first time the background music was more suitable! We sat and read through the bible of teas they have on offer, loads of varieties of all colours of teas as well as a few traditional Polish mixes, Ayurvedic teas and so on. I decided to go for Mate Palona, this was a great choice, the first PROPER Mate I have had in ages. It is made with toasted mate leaves, almond pieces, cocoa husks, sunflower and cornflower petals. The tea is really smooth and, for a Mate, delicate. You can chose whether to have it in the traditional way, with a gourd (as above) or I presume as a simple infusion. It was so good to be able to have it the proper way for a change, carrying a gourd and bombilla around in a backpack is not much of an option for the travels, though I might try to get hold of a bombilla at least, I left mine at home.
The Mate shook off the heavy headedness pretty effectively, and after a couple of hours sitting there we left and walked north, into a little park called Skaryszewski, its grass covered in hundreds of mole hills, probably from the poor things almost drowning from all the melting snow. There is also an old soviet sculpture, dedicated to the Red Army who fought against the Nazi’s during the Second World War, still with its five-pointed star, but bearing the scars of having it’s hammer and sickle removed. Red paint is spattered all over it too, though whether this is through protest or support I couldn’t say.
We continued through the park and then into Praga, the more populated and central bit of this side of the river. We wandered up and down the old, decaying streets as the darkness began to fall and the snow with it. The streets here are quite a stark contrast to each other, half of the buildings are new, others are renovated and the rest are still waiting for something to happen. There are still big old wooden gates to the entrances to most of the buildings, the balconies and plasterwork look as though they could fall on your head at any minute! We then went in search of another sculpture, one of a street band. We didn’t find this straight away, but then went for a look at a couple of churches, lit up resplendently in the night air. At the rear of one red bricked church we found the sculpture. This was made as a sort of dedication to this part of the town where many folk and street bands can often be found busking and celebrating their art.
We then decided we were far too cold and we went to get the tram back into town. This went back across a different bridge than before, one that leads to the old town. We jumped off after a couple of stops and found the tram that would take us back to the centre. We were both hungry and had decided to search out a little place. We found it but it was shut, doesn’t open at all on the weekends, but close by is U Szwejka, a vibrant Hungarian place, that looks from the outside like the British Harvester of Beefeater chain type places, but it is actually very nice, a great atmosphere and some lovely food. We both had a Goulash soup, a bargain at less that 8Zlotys, and then we shared a plate of Pancakes filled with Spinach and Cheese and Chicken. I seemed to devour most of them myself though!
Fed and satisfied we headed back out into the dark, cold and snowy night air. Walking down to another tram stop, throwing snowballs at each other and at other stuff (until I hit Marta in the mouth….oops….). We got on the tram home, watched a film and now it’s time to sleep, again! Days are going fast!
Today was another major work day, the residency I am running in the summer, Hello Collective Summer Studio, went open to applications today, so 6 hours was spent on Skype getting all the posts sorted out and started to be advertised. Anyone interested? Click here.
By the early evening I was finished and so Marta and I went out for a couple of hours into the city centre. We made it to the tram stop fine, but a couple of stops later the rain began to fall. Luckily enough I had managed to remember the umbrella so by the time we got off, at Nowolipki, with the rain still falling we had a little shelter as we seeked out the tea house we were heading for. Herbaciarnia is situated in the arches below the church on Nowolipki street. It is only open at the weekends and only from 6:30pm – 11pm. The space is cozy and dark. Red bricks with Toulouse-Lautrec and Mucha prints dotted over the place, old furniture and TVs from the 50’s and 60’s. We found a little recess with a sofa and a low table and looked through the teas. They have lots of options, many of them mixes of floral and fruity stuff, and also a list of core ingredients for you to create your own bespoke tea experience. We ordered a couple of teas, initially Wisniowy Sad and Miraze Robinsona, all the teas are named after famous books. The first was with cherries and raisins and rum flavouring, the second was with mango, orange, sunflower petals and strawberry. The guy took our order, although seemed to laugh at our indecision over cake and pie… We went back to our sofa and a little while later the guy came over and suggested we would like to try a different tea, to swap the Wisniowy Sad for a tea called something like ‘Herbata u Kapelusznika’, basically Mad Hatter’s Tea. This had Hibiscus, cherry, raisins, rum, apple in it at least. It was good and the hibiscus gave it a lovely sweetness, I’ve not had hibiscus tea to aaaaages so it was nice to have it again. We stayed in there for hours, the tea pots were HUGE and we must have got through about 2 liters of tea. They were reasonably priced too, and if you don’t want a whole pot you can order it by the cup instead.
Leaving the cafe after our long stay the church must have been holding mass or something, as we had arrived we could hear singing, and as we left everyone else was leaving too. We walked in the rain for a while, taking shelter under the buildings that line Jana Pawla II street. Then we decided we were a little hungry so we went into a little turkish kebab place with interesting decor (see panoramic photo). I had this tasty Courgette patty in a wrap with salad and spicy sauce, and Marta had a classic mixed meat wrap thing. They were tasty and very satisfying, especially with the rain pouring down outside and the car lights reflecting through the spray from the road.
We ate up, got on the tram and came back home.
Tea 46: Power Tea, Marta & Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw
I had a much earlier start to the day today, and managed to leave the flat at a reasonable civilized time. I went out and caught the tram to Raclawicka, where I had read about a bicycle shop. I got off and found the shop, which was unfortunately shut, but I had a good look through the window anyway. For those of you that are wondering, I am just currently flirting with the idea of doing the rest of travels on a bike, maybe…
I got back on the tram and took it to central. I got off at Dworzec Centralny and walked to the Palace of Science and Culture. I was on the hunt for a sculpture that Marta had told me about, which apparently still bears some signs of it’s Communist upbringing…I didn’t manage to find the one, but I will get her to take me at some point. Hopefully it still exists. I walked around the building and then decided to visit Galeria Studio. This is a little gallery inside the Palace, part of the theatre department of the building. I walked through the big heavy wooden and iron door and went to the glowing sign that said Galeria Studio. This is at the bottom of the staircase which had a cordon across it, but there were two ladies there who seemed to be a setting up some sort of cloakroom service. So I asked if the gallery was open. They didn’t speak much English, but we managed a bit of communication and she called over an older guy in a smart suit. Again more vague communication and the guy smiled and walked to the cordon, waved me over and we both stepped over it and he escorted me up the staircase, through a corridor, up another staircase and into the main gallery space. He told me to wait outside of a dark curtain. He disappeared for a few seconds and the lights to the space switched off. Walking inside the space there were two large glowing sculptures. One was of a Uterus, the other of some flying ejaculate heading in the direction of the Uterus. They were amazing sculptures. Made from smooth, solid material. The guy came over and put his hand to the material, wrapping his hand rather surreally around a little offshoot of semen…he took his hand away and was delighted by the result, a perfect shadowy print of his hand on the surface which slowly began to fade. The pieces were made from glow in the dark material, and further intensified by the use of UV lighting. The pieces are by Karol Słowik, a polish artist, and the show was rather fittingly named ‘Immaculate Conception’. It finishes in a few days, but if you are in Warsaw give it a look, and go to the gallery too. After a little while in the space I left and the guy escorted me to another part of the show, a video work by another Polish artist, Anna Niesterowicz, entitled SKRA it is a document of an old sports ground / area, no mostly derelict. She has also produced a few monoprints for the show too. The short looped video is understated and pretty effective, it doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t and is just a good honest piece of work.
That was the end of my own private, escorted view of Galeria Studio. The guy in the suit left me at the top of the stairs and I walked back down them, nodding my appreciation to the two ladies at the bottom of the staircase that had facilitated my viewing. Back out in the city I decided to get on another tram and head to the north of the city, I had read about another bike shop up on Stawki which also sells second hand bikes. So I went up and found it, there are some really lovely bikes in there, but way past any semblance of a budget I may or may not have for the purchase of a bike. Shiny chrome, a multitude of glorious powder coatings. It was nice to be near bikes again, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last rode mine!
Outside of the shop was a great little sight, three lovely, tiny Fiat 126‘s sitting in a row, blue-red-blue. I reckon they had parked next to one another on purpose. Maybe I could drive around Europe in one of those… though I don’t think I’d fit in one very easily, not made for the 6ft 1 high people I would hazard.
Back into the city centre I wandered around some of the streets for a while, just looking at the sights and architecture. Then I ended up back at the huge palm tree on Aleje Jerozolimskie, I think I mentioned this the other day, so i’ll try to not repeat myself (an art project that stuck). From there I decided to try to find another gallery, Galeria Foksal. This is planted at the end of Foksal street (believe it or not), a street parallel to the palm tree. It’s part of the wing of a big posh looking hotel, you have to walk through a bit iron gate to get to it. The show was called Nosferatu, Dyktator Leku, (The Fearful Dictator), by Jacek Malinowski. It is predominantly one large video piece, though there are two smaller video pieces in the hallway. The video is pretty intense. The acting is good, one of those performances I wish I could get myself to do but I just stand in awe of the bravery and balls of those that can! The piece itself is fairly sensationalistic I suppose and I came out trying to figure out my opinion of the work. It is definitely well considered and theorized, but there was just something that didn’t sit right for me.
I left the gallery and walked back to the centre. I have just discovered that I have been walking about with a hole in the crotch of my jeans for god-knows how long so I decided a visit to the sale section of TK Maxx was in order. Jeans bought (these ones promise to have a ‘flexible 3D system’, hopefully equalling effective crotch stitching…) I met Marta and we got on the tram homewards.
Back home and myself Marta and Ania had a few things to eat, a bit of a chatter and then we headed out for a night in warsaw. We didn’t go crazy and just went to one place, called Reaktywacja. A place with various rooms, some for sitting, some for dancing. We sat for a while over a couple of beers then went for a bit of a dance. Ania had promised us she was going to try and get us some ‘drink sponsorship’ through her flirtations with some guys she had spotted during some ‘foreigner spotting’, a regular pastime in Warsaw I am told (jokes)! Unfortunately this didn’t work out, but we had fun dancing to some of the music (Top of the Pops themed night), we left the club/pub/bar at around 3 and got a taxi home.
First things first, but it seems I have forgotten how to count and have managed to add a day onto my travels as if by magic, so the last three posts have been updated with the correct travel day.
So, Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea. This tea is very unusual, as if you probably couldn’t guess that anyway. Pu Erh tea, for those of you who do not know, is a partially fermented tea, and with a very unusual flavour, rather aquired I would say, but once you are into it I’m sure you will enjoy it’s complexity. This one is reasonably smooth for a Pu Erh, not too much bitterness or dustiness. The chocolate element is very interesting, similar to the chocolate tea I had in Helsinki. The tea itself is very dark and thick, like the colour of black treacle. It is intriguing and I can’t make up my mind about it, I feel I need to experiment with it some more, maybe with sweetness and with different steepings.
Today I didn’t go into the city centre until the late afternoon, the morning was spent catching up with life, finishing off some bits and bobs for an artist residency program myself and another are running in the summer, which will actually be in Poland, albeit a completely different part of the country to where I am now, and the two do definitely feel a world apart! And resting my oh so tired legs from the previous days marathon walk…!
Eventually making it out of the house I was walking towards the Metro station thinking to myself, ‘the pavement is very wet’. Puddles everywhere! But then I realised that all the snow had melted! The grass was back, albeit very muddy, but it was grass, which it feels as though I haven’t seen in over a month! I made it to the Metro, bought a 20minute ticket and was about to validate it through the barrier when I noticed that there were trains sitting at both platforms, and neither were moving… I waited a few more seconds to see if their doors would slide shut but they didn’t and then an announcement came over the tanoy, which I can only presume said the Metro was not operational, as everyone began to leave the station. I left and found the Bus stop, as did basically everyone who had been in the metro station. Eventually the bus arrived, already loaded with people our stop must have basically trebled the number of people. Sardines in a can is not an appropriate metaphor, but it’s the best there is! The next problem… the bus follows the same route as the Metro, meaning it stopped at all the metro stops into town. And being as the entire Metro was down, every stop had a massive crowd waiting for a bus, many of which still thought it possible to get themselves onto the bus… click HERE for a scene that is very similar…
Eventually we got into town, me with my arms directly over my head for the entire journey until Warszawa Centralny, where everyone got off except for about 5 people! I stayed on until Zacheta, where I was meant to meet Marta. We were intending to visit the Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, or contemporary art gallery. Unfortunately though this was shut today because they are currently installing a new show. So, I took out the map and found some other places nearby that we could go to. We first tried to find a little place called Galeria Kolonie, but we failed at this task, I think it might be in an office building, but we couldn’t seem to find it unfortunately. Then we stopped off at a little place that sells traditional Polish doughnuts, this is a little window out onto the street. A lady stands and serves you, whilst in the background the kitchen is a hive of doughnut baking activity. I chose a chocolate and cherry one as well as a more traditional Rose Marmalade one. They were warm, sweet and utterly delicious! I scoffed them down much too fast, but they were SO good! We then decided to look for another gallery space, this time on the opposite side of the Palace of Science and Culture.
We wandered through the neon and traffic light filled streets to the Palace which was lit up in the darkening sky. Wandering around looking at the sculpture that adorn it’s walls, there is a little ice rink set up on one side for those of you who enjoy a little bit of skating. The building is all divided into different sides, youth centres, sporty bits, cultural parts and of course science. On the other side of the building we crossed a Zebra-Crossing designed to look like the keys on a piano and then turned left down a little street with a large neon announcing ‘MUZEUM’. This is the Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie, sort of. The museum doesn’t actually exist yet. It is currently in construction phase, and is planned to be opened in 2014. This space is a temporary space for small shows and examples of the work they hold. And currently they are actually running a KINOMUZEUM, a free cinema showcasing many new films. They opened with the premiere of Steve McQueen‘s Shame, we managed to see a new film by Miranda July called The Future. I’m not a big one for reviewing films, but needless to say we were both glad we had stuck around. I can’t totally make my mind up about how I feel about the characters, at some times they were infuriating, whilst at others very sweet. If you like Miranda July films definitely see it, it also reminded me a bit of The Science of Sleep, a film I love, so if you like that then you should see this too (though it’s not so good). Anyway, I suppose that was a bit of a review.
The film finished and we headed back out into the night, the air had turned a bit chilly and a slightly icy wind was billowing up the gaps between the skyscrapers. We got a tram that took us directly home, cooked some tasty food for our now angrily rumbling tums and eventually went to sleep.
Tea 44: Dark Hot Chocolate, Wedel Cafe, Warsaw.
Today was a huge day of walking, I’ve no idea of how far I walked, but it was FAR! I left the flat, which is in the south of the city and wanted to head to this graveyard I had read about, and Evangelical place, in the North West of the city. This walk took me about an hour or so I think. Walking along the wide Woloska Street. Glass fronted buildings mixed in with unfinished constructions, mechanics, petrol stations. Trams buzzing up and down and cars hurtling past, the gentle rain fall melting the piles of snow into huge puddles, forcing you to walk in a zigzag up the street. I eventually reached a little park ‘Pole Mokotowskie‘, wandered around the icy patches and the puddles, a few people were walking their dogs, some taking their lives in their hands cycling over the ice. I walked through and found myself by a huge main road. Cars rushing past and the spray from the rain and melting snow going everywhere. I crossed the road and went through a little area of houses and woodland, a bit like some bits of Brighton in some way. The area is called Filtry and seems quite pretty and a bit artsy in places. finding my way through the small streets I got back onto another main road, Towarowa, this was a long long road, with loads of traffic and more mixed up buildings of various ages and uses. The low clouds obscuring the tops of various sky scrapers that dominate the sky line, the hazy rain fall softening the traffic noise and making everything seem grey and dark.
Eventually I made it to the graveyard. Although the first few gates I tried were locked, I almost gave up, thinking I had wasted my time walking all that way, but then I found the proper main entrance. The graves and tombs in this place are really crazy, so many of them squeezed into such a small place, but so many of them being huge structures. The amount of money and design that must have been poured into these things is totally unimaginable, it made me think that maybe whoever got buried there must of just left their fortune to their own grave! One tomb, which was just for one person, not even a family tomb like many, could have easily house a family of four! There is a great mixture though, some being very dour and sad with skulls and crossbones or weeping angels, others more unique and celebratory, a stone carved loosely into the image of a man and woman kissing, a great blue wave and a simple dry stone cave. I wandered for another 45 minutes or so; weaving in and out of the graves, gawking at the sheer expenditure in the place, something I find pretty incomprehensible: except the case for the potential of it all being the dead party’s last laugh.
Walking back East towards the town centre, along Zyntia and Nowolipie, then South onto Al. Jana Pawła II, I found a largish food market called Hala Mirowska. Fruit, veg, chicken, sausage, cake, all you could ever really want I suppose, if you looked hard enough. There were some great characters in there, dour faced women hunched over cauliflowers, merry butchers whistling and having a little dance whilst wielding their hatchet over chunks of meat.
Back onto Al. Jana Pawła II and I came across a small gallery called Galleria XX1. It was nice to be a little independent art space again, it feels like a while since I have seen something fresh and new. The show has various red and black constructions floating about in the space, one wall is covered by a huge black and white print of an old fighter plane wing, with more of the strange objects superimposed onto the image. There is another small space in the back of the gallery, which had an object installation, tall, human-scale grey structures. Looking something like a small, metallic henge. I couldn’t really figure out what they were made of, but metal and construction foam seemed to be involved. Back out onto the street again I decided I wanted to warm up a bit with a drink. So I headed to the Wedel cafe in the dreaded shopping centre. One more thing to add to the good reasons for their existence, the other being free use of the toilets…
I ordered the dark hot chocolate, Gorzka (meaning exactly that). The chocolate was rich and bitter, really great. You have to drink it using the little spoon provided unless you want to get you face covered in rapidly solidifying chocolate… It was pretty good, not too cheap, but worth it! Warmed up and a small chocolate high beginning in my cheeks I wandered around a little more. Then I walked back to Mokotowska, the area Marta works and met her after she had finished work.
We went for some food in a ‘Milk bar’, the place most Polish will go to eat, traditionally frequented by the poor or homeless these places are dotted throughout the city and are going through something of a renaissance. Called Bambino Bar, on Krucza Street, the food is good value, satisfying and traditional. We ordered from a little man behind a screen who handed us our receipt which we then handed to a woman through a kitchen hatch, who takes it and a little while later passes our food to us through the same hatch. We sat with our food and ate it up. I had barley ‘grits’, what the British would call ‘Pearls’ (to make it sound more appetizing and to charge more for it probably), a piece of broccoli (basically half of one ‘bulb[?]’), and some Pierogi Ruski (the Russian variety stuffed with cottage cheese and potato). These pierogi were MUCH better than the ones we had from the little touristy place in the old town. I would recommend going to a Milk Bar over that place any day.
We left the bar and then got on a old tram from the 60’s back home. But first via the post office, Marta had finally tracked down her parcel, which turns out to be a Holga Camera, she is very excited about getting it up and running, but first she needs to get batteries for the flash to work! We were going to go back into town to see the city in the darkness, but I’ve totally tired myself out!
Tea 43: Japonska Wisnia (Green Cherry), Marta and Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw.
Today was a good long day of walking and sightseeing. I took the Metro two stops past Centrum to Ratusz Arsenal. This is the nearest stop to the old town (I think). I left the station and took yet another guess at what direction to go, used the sun as a reference to what way was east and west. I made it successfully to the Old Town and hunted out a Tourist Information to raid the free maps. The one that Marta had bought the other day is good, but is massive and really conspicuous to carry around, I much prefer one you can slip in and out of your back pocket. I wandered to the old town square where a good tourist information is, with a good selection of maps and guides in every language imaginable, and maps and guides in hand I went back out of the old town to the tomb of the unknown soldier. This is a ceremonial heart of memorial for all the lost soldiers in the wars and is guarded constantly by two soldiers, guns in hand, a fire burning to keep them from freezing to death. There is a small park behind the tomb with an impressive switched off fountain and various sculptures of goddesses, Venus, Art, Justice etc etc, there are a few without titles which I found a little odd, and tried to figure out what they were but failed. The ice was thick on the ground, still solid with no sign of it shifting any time soon.
I wandered around that part of town for a while, the huge Soviet ‘Sofitel’ hotel mirrored across the huge open, parade type, square by the more modern glass fronted building, that looks to be offices. I headed towards the hotel to the front of another building, which turned out to be the Zachęta National Gallery of Art. I didn’t go inside as I am planning that for thursday when, hopefully, entry will be for free. So I turned back and went to the Old Town side of the square, by the statue of Józef Klemens Piłsudski, which stares down on it’s audience with a dour and stern look on it’s face.
I then decided to go back to the tea house I had seen. It is a Demmers Tea House, which turns out to be an Hungarian company. I didn’t stay to drink inside, but instead chose to look through the teas smell a couple and make a purchase. This I did, I picked Japonska Wisnia, a delicate green tea, Sencha I think, with cherry. The smell of cherry is quite strong, but the flavour less so, which makes the tea very interesting and a good sensation to taste. One of those teas where you can decide what to concentrate on, smell or taste, without either of them becoming the focus. I also bought an intriguing sounding Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea. This will be reviewed next I am pretty sure. It smells great! Purchases made using a good mix of broken English and Polish I decided to head towards the river. I went down this looping road that is still directly in line with the tomb and the Piłsudski statue.
The road has got this great big yellow bridge over it, with two tunnels through it, traffic goes one way through one and the other through the next. There is are big sculptures lining the bridge, a mermaid stands on top looking down onto the passers with a threatening look and wielding a sword. Behind her a bearded man’s face looks out, I can’t totally giure out if it is meant to look like it has been chopped off of it’s body, but that is what it looks like to me… the mermaid is the emblem of Warsaw and there are many of them dotted about over the city. Walking beneath the bridge, a little shrine set up to something, I headed for the river. Making it there I walked past this amazing green glass building, but one that is not brand-new. It looks like a huge greenhouse, and I thought maybe it was a public building or museum, but I don’t think it is, I think it is just offices. But an amazing building. The street was lined with coaches, loads of them. I think this is because a little further down is the Copernicus Science Centre, or Centrum Nauki Kopernik. This is housed in a modern building, it’s facade covered by lots of bits of metal in various tones of reddish-brown.
Walking past the Science Centre and then to the corner of the street I made the decision not to cross the river today so I turned right instead, past a hodge-podge of old, middle-aged and new buildings. One very old building still appearing to bear the scars of some battle, bullet holes peppering it’s front. I have read that this isn’t such a rare thing to see in Warsaw, so I’m pretty sure they are relics from WW2. I then turned left onto Dobra Street, meaning ‘Good’ Street. In front of me was a great sight, two old grey arching bridges loomed over the road, one being seen through the arch of the other. They both carry trains I think and are huge and heavy looking. I walked beneath them, with a short diversion into a supermarket, and then I walked along the edge of the biggest of the two, arch after arch leading up to the city centre. Part of the bridge looks like it was once going to be developed into something, bare concrete blocks making rooms and spaces, with concrete staircases leading between floors. It has now been taken over by graffiti artists and skateboarders. A strange construction, I can not imagine how it was intended to look and how it would of ever looked right sitting between the legs of the bridge. A long, tall, covered and graffitied staircase leads back up to the main town. At the top of the staircase is the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, or Polish War Museum, this is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the outside area is still open and you can freely wander amongst aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and missile launchers. If that is your cup-of-tea. Some of the stuff is pretty impressive and the size of some of the rocket launchers, and their rockets, is quite a scary thought…
I left the ‘war garden’ and went back to the centre of town. I walked through Waszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) Train Station then back out and into the big new shopping centre. The roof of this place is the most interesting part, made up of thousands of glass triangles the roof flows like the surface of an undulating sea. The bluish glass reflecting the sky. That’s about all I have to say about this place, it’s a shopping centre, we all know what they are like…
It was getting quite late now so i decided that I would head back to the apartment, so I got onto the Metro at Centrum and went back. I rested my feet for a while, managed to get the internet to work on my laptop and then went out to buy some food, I had said I would cook tonight. Successfully find a supermarket (though not the one I was looking for), I bought some pasta, Broccoli, Chorizo, Garlic and a couple of bottles of Zubr, a Polish beer. Back home, Ania had got back to the flat whilst I had been away so we chatted a little and I began to make food for the evening, Marta was out until around 8:30pm.
Food eaten, Beer drunk, Marta and Ania decided to make a banana-chocolate cake. No cinnamon in the house, Marta popped out to the shop and came back with that and a couple more beers, this time a honey beer Ciechan Miodowe, another Polish made one. Sweet and tasty, I would definitely recommend it for those of you that enjoy honey.
Beer drunk, cake eaten, a quick cup of tea and it was time to sleep again!
Tea 42: Green Rooibos ‘African Sun’, Marta and Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw.
PHEWWW!!! Finally got the internet to work on my computer! At long long long last! Hopefully this will mean my postings will be back on schedule! So, yes, today (or yesterday)…
I didn’t actually leave the apartment until really really late in the end. And I managed to miss most of the sunshine! That was a bit of a shame, but I think I needed the rest. EVENTUALLY I made it to the Metro and took the train to Centrum. I came back above ground and tried to figure out which direction was the right direction. I took a punt and ended up going down Marszalkowska, heading South, and eventually back to the tube station I had gotten off the day before. At least I had figured out some geography and not gotten totally lost! After find myself back where I had started the day before I decided I would head to the Royal Park, Lazienkowsky. The long Aleje Ujazdowskie, is lined with big embassy buildings and other parks. It is quite a spectacular road. I wandered down the road, popped into another park, paths thick with ice, slowly beginning to melt, a small hole in the ice acting and looking a lot like a bath just the right size for a duck. Birds scrambled about for scraps of bread recently left by some kind samaritan.
Making it to Lazienkowsky I was first met by a huge sculpture of Chopin. This is a really amazing looking sculpture, Chopin sitting beneath a stylized Willow tree. Walking around the rear of the sculpture you realise you are at the top of a high mound of land, with one steep side leading down to the rest of the park. I slowly scaled the slippery path down to the main area of the park. A rather treacherous journey! The park is huge, full of buildings for various purposes, cafes, amphitheaters, museums. Ducks, and peacocks. One wandered up to me, probably trying to figure out if I had anything it would like to eat, unfortunately I did not. There was also a really beautiful Mandarin Duck and his partner. I’ve never seen one of these up close before and he was very impressive. It was now approaching 5 and I had arranged to meet Marta after work and go for something to eat. I wandered back out of the park. Along the long embassy road again and back towards the Stary Mokotow district.
I met Marta outside of her work building and we walked past a lovely church lit up in the early evening light. We then hopped onto a Metro train for one stop, jumped off again and found this little schizophrenic Chinese restaurant (the ceiling is covered in fake Grape Vines, suggesting it was once an Italian place. We ordered some food, I had some Soy Noodles with vegetables and shrimps. It was tasty, but much like the Baltic Countries I have visited, the Polish do not do much spice! We ate our food and had a rather long and fruitless wait in a Post Office whilst Marta tried to track down a parcel that she was expecting, then it was time to head home.