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 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 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!