Tea 61, 20 Year old Pu Erh, Herbaciarnia, Krakow
So, the 10th. What I did on this day may come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually decided to return to Warsaw. I have decided that I will attempt to stay in Warsaw for a little while. My next intended stop is the Ukraine, and after a bit of deliberation I decided the weather was still too cold there for me, and that I still wasn’t done with Warsaw, so I decided to come back, sit out the cold weather a while longer and get to know Warsaw a bit more. This all hinges on finding somewhere cheap and easy to stay at for a month or so, but will probably be the case.
The morning was spent getting my stuff together, and then I went with Marta (Malgorzata’s flatmate, not Warsaw Marta), to the art school to have a look around the studios and see what their system is like (not the sort of system I agree with at all), and we talked about art and our passions and intentions with it for a while. Then I went to town and to this tea house called Herbaciarnia. This is tucked down a small staircase off of Florianska street in the old town that leads to the main square. It was an amazing find. The place is in the basement and the vaulted ceiling is bear brick and a bit like the little tea house under the church in Warsaw. I ordered a tea, a 20 year old Pu Erh tea. This was a great choice, it was a really amazing tea, one you could feel working, the warm glow you get in your cheeks and the tingle up your spine. It was a really amazing, meditative tea. Really wonderful. A while spent there until it got a bit cold from all the people coming in and out of the door. I paid, left the building, went to a milk bar for some simple but satisfying soup and salad and then went to the bus station, which it took me ages to find, getting lost in the train station because of all the construction work going on. Then I got on the bus and headed back to Warsaw!
Tea 59, Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, Czajovnia, Krakow
So, the unavailability of internet has wreaked havoc on my postings, a terrible, terrible neglect and I must apologise, but sometimes that’s how things go…
So, I think my last post was on the 7th of march, it is now the 13th!! :.S oops!
So, going back into my memory banks to the 8th… This day started slowly, I stayed in the apartment / dorm of my hosts for most of the morning. Malgorzata stayed home too and we spent most of the time talking and I also helped her with a script she is writing at the minute. She wants the film she intends to make to be in English and so I helped her with word order and the usual things, such as expressions and the simple way of how to say things, or how not to say things….one notable example being the English expression of being ‘pissed off’ with someone, this had become to ‘piss on’ someone! This provided a lot of laughter! She also showed me a few films she is into, and we watched bits and bobs of all of them. In the afternoon I had organised to meet another traveller and to go to this tea house called Czajownia. This is a very similar name to a place in Glasgow called ChaiOvna.
We met at about 3 and went straight in. This place is really amazing, it is divided into different loose themes, Japan, India, China (I think) and with different decoration and furniture in each. We were in a more Chinese styled area. The menu is really massive, a comprehensive list of teas from all over! I was in tea Nirvana! We were given the menus and a little bell to ring when we were ready to be served, a neat touch, though we both felt a little rude about ringing for attention!
I initially chose a really exciting sounding Putuo Fo Cha, a rare and exclusive tea from the island of Putuo Shan. To my disappointment this tea was so rare they had run out of it! I was a little upset, but then asked what would be a good alternative. I was recommended Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, and I took this.
It was a good tea, delicate, light in colour and flavour. Extreme clarity came with the tea, both in appearance and in flavour. The guy who prepares the tea does so with extreme care and consideration, he really knows what he is doing and he has turned his preparation into something of a show (albeit unintentionally), timing, pouring, heating, all the proper processes to make each and every tea according to each and every teas requirements. This is really a great, great place, unfortunately I never made it back there before I left Krakow, but the next time I’m there I will make that my first stop.
After this tea we were both still chatting about life and travel, and tea of course. So we ordered another. This time it was not strictly a tea, but a traditional Turkish drink called Sahlep. This is a milky warm spiced tea that is only served in the winter in Turkey apparently. Isabel (the woman I had gone for tea with) had had it before, during her various trips to Istanbul, her favourite place in the world it would seem. She was very excited about trying such a drink outside of Turkey. She assured me it was quite a good one, so I’m confident I had a decent Sahlep experience.
EVENTUALLY we left the tea house and I went to meet my host. We were meeting around the corner in Kazimierz, near the famous Zapiekanka stall on Plac Nowy. We then went to a little bar, the name of which I have forgotten. We ordered a beer each and waited for Malgorzata’s friend to arrive. She had organised that we meet so I could talk to her about Glasgow School of Art, she was hoping to go there on her Erasmus exchange, and wanted to find out more about it (I studied there). She arrived a while later with a friend, and we spoke for a while about it and about travel and all those things. Then they both had to leave and so we all went. Malgorzata and I went back home via the Zapiekanka stall, this was my first experience of it. Put very simply it’s a bit like a Polish version of Pizza. Bread, cheese and a mushroom sauce base on which you can have different toppings. I had spinach and onions, and it was a very good choice. They taste great! And the serving is MASSIVE! Really, really great! Especially so when it’s 11pm and you still haven’t had dinner!
Tea 58: Lemo Mate, the Apartment, Krakow.
The sun and it’s warmth came back today, gladly (though I hear it’s not to last, again). I left the apartment and walked in the sunshine to the river, the Wisla. I walked past the big helium balloon and crossed the bridge. I then turned south, towards the sun and following the rivers edge. As i walked the bells of three churches all began to ring for 12 o’clock. Though it would seem they are all have about 20 – 30 seconds of difference between them. Maybe this is on purpose so that they can all get a fair share of the attention. The big white church next to me was the last to chime, it’s big bells clanging about with great passion.
I continued along the river, then crossed the blue arched bridge to a part of town that could still be part of Kazimierz district, or it could be part of Podgorze district… There I wandered up a staircase to a small park dedicated to Wojciech Bednarski, a polish educator, councillor and activist from the 19th – 20th Century. The park is small but has a nice feel, with lots of trees and a large cliff at the far side, which has a wall built on the top of it that looks to be a fort of some kind. I sat there in the sunshine for a while, then left out of another entrance / exit. There was this huge old house at opposite the entrance which looked like something out of a fairytale, with a great roof and cornicing and a turret. I then walked back down the hill and onto a town square which has a large intricately decorated church at one end, that basically backs onto the little park I was in. I wandered down the main street, with its old buildings and their great old signs and facias.
After a while of weaving in and out of the streets, trying to keep in the warm sunshine, I made it back across the water and into Kazimierz proper. I wandered around a little more, walked up Mostowa Street and onto another little square, then along Jozefa street, where there is a tea house I have read about, I didn’t visit it today, but have found it so I know where it is when I am ready (probably tomorrow)! I then continued east, went under a tiny little bridge with the railway going over the top and found myself outside the large Jewish cemetery called Nowy Cmentarz Zydowski. I went in, began to walk amongst the hundreds and thousands of gravestones that fill this place. There is such a concentration of graves in this place, like I have never seen before. There are even tombs lining the pathways and they are so tightly packed that you can see where paths used to be, but which are now totally taken over by graves. The place is in quite bad disrepair, which is a shame, some of the stones were once very beautiful but have suffered terribly, probably largely due to the various wars. After a while amongst the stones I left, walked north and found myself in another food market, with people milling about getting their fruit and veg. Walking out of the market I found myself at a large old bridge, built in the middle of the 19th Century, which marks the start of Dietla street. Walking down, still in the beautifully warm sunshine (though I still needed a hat and gloves) I then went back into Kazimierz, and found this little cafe I had walked past a little while earlier, called Mostowa artcafe, named after the street it is on and the art on the walls. I ordered a coffee (I needed the caffeine, the cold is still keeping me under it’s influence), and some olives and sat for a good hour or so writing and just staring out of the window onto the street outside.
After that I left, and walked back to the little square called Plac Wolnica, with the Krakow Ethnography Museum on one side. I decided I hadn’t been in a museum for a while now and that I would visit this one. It’s fairly simple, with examples of old tools, traditional costume and reconstructions of houses and rooms. The usual stuff you find in such a museum. The best thing about this place was the photographs. There are loads and loads of old photographs (all reproductions) that are really great, so many faces and characters that say so much more than an outfit or old hammer in a glass case.
A while was spent in there, keeping warm, the temperature had begun to drop when I left the cafe. Then back out, the sun had begun to set and I wandered back to the river, via a supermarket, and this time instead of crossing straight over I decided to walk north, towards the Jubilat shopping centre, with it’s red neon sign reflecting in the water. The sky was turning a wonderful orange colour as the sun got lower and fuller. People were milling about on the rivers edge, rollerblading, cycling, taking photographs and being romantic, even a man walking his horse! I made it around to the next bridge and walked over it and then weaved through the streets of Debniki district until I found myself home again. Attempting to get into the building by asking the concierge to let me through the door descended into humorous chaos as I attempted a tiny bit of Polish and then got my tongue all twisted, but eventually we managed to communicate and I got back into the building.
So, today was my first day in Krakow. The cold has returned a bit today, which is a shame as I had begun to get used to the warmth again! Hopefully this little cold snap won’t last too long, though looking at the weather that is happening in what will hopefully be my next stop (the Ukraine), maybe it should stay so I can get used to being cold again.
I woke up, first time, at around 8 today. The sun was pouring in through the window, the bright blue sky up above giving more illusion of a warm summers day. One of the people I am staying with (another Marta, not to be confused with Marta from Warsaw) made me a cup of tea, a dose of Chocolate Cake Pu Erh tea. She then left for university, which resulted in me promptly falling back to sleep and not waking up for another two hours! So, second attempt at being awake, and this was much more successful. I topped my tea up with some hot water, luckily I had removed the tea-ball before I had fallen back to sleep so it wasn’t too well steeped. Then me and my host Malgorzata sat at the table with some breakfast and some more tea, this time a cup of power tea (the one I bought all that time ago in Copenhagen), we sat and chatted about art, art schools (she is studying at the Krakow Academy of Art), art students, painting, Marina Abramovic, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Guy Debord. Loads of stuff. It was nice to have a good long conversation about these artists and philosophers that I’ve not had much chance to talk about for quite a while. She seems to be going through a similar time at art school as I did, especially in my third year, the year she is currently in.
A couple of hours later we decided we should probably head out into the town. Marta had called and asked if we wanted to meet her in a cafeteria that is part of the Music school, so we jumped on the tram and took it to the old town. We wandered around a little, trying to find the place. Old Town is one of those ones that is pretty easy to get turned around in and we had gone slightly the wrong way, but a quick phone call later and we were back on track. We went into the Music school building and took the lift up to the top floor, where the canteen / restaurant is. This little place has got an amazing view! Both side of this floor are glass and offer a wonderful panoramic view of the entire city, one downside is that if, like me, you are a non-smoker, then one side is for smokers and the other not, so you only get one choice of city view. But it is great! The food is good quality too, like most student places it’s good value and good portion sizes. I ate Zapiekanka ziemniaczana, a kind of potato based lasagne-style thing. It was pretty tasty, cheese, potato, some sort of sauce, beetroot, salad.
After that, and by this time it was after 3pm, Malgorzata and I left Marta, who was preparing for a presentation she had to give in English later that day. On the way out I went to the loo. This was in the basement of the building, and there were loads of people practicing every kind of orchestral instrument imaginable. A trombone, tuba, violins. Then, walking into the actual toilet I was greeted by a lad practicing his clarinet, he was all set up with stool and music stand and everything and seemed very content there! Rather surreal if you ask me!
We left the building then went separate ways, I was on the hunt for the tourist information, to raid their free maps and info. Walking in the sunshine was lovely, the rays soaking into my skin making me feel nicely content.
Map found and I went for a little aimless wander around the city, a little while spent in the old town. The obstacle-course of tourists leading me to the decision to head outside of the city walls (!) and explore the less touristy bits of the city. My first impressions of Krakow are that it is a very different place to Warsaw. I think this may be due to the huge focus on the old town that there is in Krakow, it is the heart of the city. In Warsaw it is more of a part of the city than THE city.
I left the old town out of the western side and walked down a little street that could have been Karmelicka street. A mixture of buildings, old and older, all with various bits of facia and / or concrete falling or chipped off of them. I kept on walking around, heading north and then east. I ended up in a little market area, fruit, cakes, bread spread across tables, people with brilliant faces and great characters. They were beginning to shut down their stalls, and pack up there things, so this was only a short visit, I will try to have another look around on another day.
I then made it onto Plac Matejki, a large monument to Grunwaldi dominates the street. I turned right back towards the old town. I wandered through the park area that surrounds the town wall, soaking up the last few rays of sunshine as the sun began to fall below the level of the buildings. Then I followed the wall east, popped into the Galeria Krakowska to go to the supermarket, came out and did another little loop around a few of the narrow streets. Then back to the town wall and I followed this around and then began to follow the tram lines until I made it to the river, the sun was totally down now and it was getting dark and cold, but I stayed for a while a took some photos of the river and the helium balloon that goes up and down all day long, giving views of the city. Then I got the tram for about 3 stops and came back to the flat.
I sat for a while, catching up with all the belated postings I owe you all, then Malgorzata and Marta came home. Malgorzata made me a lovely cup of Green Tea with cherry (my bag from Warsaw) with added lemon and honey to try to fight off my cold and slightly sore throat. Then Marta made a great hot chocolate for herself and Malgorzata, and which I tried a very small cup of, despite the risk of congestion I couldn’t really resist!
Today marks my 56 day, and the official turning over of my second month of travel! CRAZY!!! It went slow to begin with, but the speed at which I’ve hit two months is mad! Anyway, my anniversary was marked with a long 5 hour journey to Krakow from Warsaw, so there is, alas, no photography for today, and also my first day without having a tea photograph! This makes me very sad, maybe sadder than it does for all you guys, but I do hope you will forgive me! For compensation here are a few more photos of my time in Radom…