Over the rainbow and far away…. well, as far as Radom anyway.

This installation, by the artist Julita Wójcik has moved from it’s temporary home in Brussels to it’s new permanent (I hope) home on the super trendy, hipsterville of Plac Zbawiciela.  You can read more about it by clicking here.

Next a just a smattering of photos from my latest trip to Radom, there was a huge thunderstorm in the night, and although I didn’t manage to catch an actual lightning strike, I did do some long exposure photographs that have a strange glow in them when the lightning struck part way through the exposure time.

Day 27, Tartu, February 5th 2012

Tea 27: Grenadine Tea, Cafe Truffe, Tartu

Today was my first official day in Tartu.  After a great breakfast of way too many delicious pancakes with ice-cream, nutella, and homemade apple jam, and a long time trying to prepare my mind to venture out into the cold, my host and I went for it and headed for town.  She lives just a short walk away from the ‘city centre’, or the town square.  The sun was shining down, but I now know to associate this ominously with the cold, as it means a clear sky, and a clear sky in winter means COLD!  Today, initially, felt a bit warmer than yesterday, but after a few minutes walking the inside of my nose began to freeze and I soon came to the conclusion it had all been an illusion.  And, yes, your nose freezing is reasonably painful.  We escaped into a shopping mall, where we both went simply to warm up a little, and also for me to buy myself some more toothpaste.

That task achieved we headed back out.  We walked around, through a little park area, with the most bizarre, and I must say slightly worrying sculpture by artist  Ülo Õuna, called ‘Father and Son’.  It is kind of bizarre, reading more about it reveals its, fairly obvious intentions, but still, it is a little strange.  We continued onwards, past the pretty, pastel coloured buildings, some of which are really old, including the university building, which was built around 1804.  But the university itself was established in 1632, making Tartu University one of the oldest in Northern Europe.  We went up Toome hill, towards the observatory, beneath ‘Angels Bridge’ (Inglisild), and then up and across the bridge, getting some nice views out across the city.  We then circled around the little bit of parkland, outside the old Hospital, past an ancient looking church that is made up of various functioning and ruined parts.  The great exposed red-brick built arches reaching high up over our heads, the sun shining and turning them an even richer shade of red.  We walked back around and down into the centre again and I got a few ideas of little cafes to pop into.  The city is pretty sleepy feeling, whether this is because of the weather, the winter or just because of the fact that today is a Sunday I do not know.  Tomorrow should help me find out.

We then decided it was far too cold again, and headed to Heli’s (my host)  favourite cafe, Cafe Truffe, right on the main square.  This is a nice contemporary cafe, with loads of cushions and a lovely menu, though their cheesey ambient jazz music selection was questionable.  I ordered a lovely sweet and sour Grenadine Tea, lemony, bright pink and a good hit of all things citrus.  Heli went for a Cinnamon Coffee that looked pretty good.  We also both ordered soup, Heli a Creamy Cheese Soup, whilst I had a Vietnamese Style cream soup with mushrooms, shrimp and fish.  It was very tasty, the mushrooms are flavoursome and dense, whilst the spices were perfect, and the first proper bit of spice I have had for a while.  They don’t tend to do spicy in Estonia, or Helsinki really.

After a nice long time chatting and getting fed and warm we left and more or less immediately went into the Tartu Art Museum.  This is in a small building that seems to be contending with the Leaning Tower of Pisa for worlds most falling over building.  The work on show was of good quality, much like the work in KUMU, kind of chronologically, but from the 60’s to 2010.  There is a lot of interesting and rather amusing stuff in there.  It seems as though they must be having a constant battle with the building and gravity, the leaning of the building making some of the works hang one way and on the other side they hang the other.  On the ground floor is a solo retrospective show of work by Enn Tegova, some of the paintings here must have been in storage or the dark for a long time, as the colours are still so rich they could have been painted yesterday.  Some have even been victim to a little bit of warping too, which is kind of a shame, but also quite nice that they are still being shown.  They kind of fit with the involuntary theme of the tilting building.

The sun had begun to set, the nearly full moon was shining brightly in the gently darkening blue sky and we headed home, my nose freezing once more.

Day 23, Tallinn, February 1st 2012

Tea 23:  Black Tea with Red Berries, A deli in the old town, Tallinn

So today I totally forgot to get the name of the place where I got my tea!  I blame it on the biting cold adn the aching fingers.  The cold is also to blame for the steamed up image, the lens on my camera totally steamed up and I didn’t want to wait for it to clear up before taking the photo…..

So, yes, today I headed first for the Old Town.  Wrapped up as warm as possible I left the apartment and soon discovered that as warm as possible was most definitely NOT warm enough!  I think today’s high temperature was -10, but I am fairly certain this was optimistic.  It was the coldest day so far I think, I had icicles all over my face!  And leather / suede, thick lined gloves are totally ineffective it would seem!  On positive factor was the sunshine though, and the, albeit psychological, warmth it brought was very welcome.  There also seemed to be tiny bits of snow, which has now turned into proper snow, floating about in the sky glinting in the sunlight like glitter, despite a seemingly cloudless sky.

It took me around 10-15 minutes to walk into the old town, through the pretty little Tammsaare Park and you are there.  The ancient medieval gate towers at this entrance are very impressive.  Then it’s up hill towards one of the three main churches that stand atop of the the hill.  Winding cobbled streets weave a rabbit warren of multicoloured houses, cafes, restaurants and millions of souvenir shops.  Make it to the top of the hill and you will probably arrive at the orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian built impressive and imposing looking building.  I wandered inside to be quite shocked at just how small the place is.  The inside space is tiny, magnificently decorated, but how they ever hold services in there I do not know.  There were about four people in the place and it felt full!  I only stayed in there a short while before heading back outside.  I turned right out of the entrance and up a small street (ok, they’re all small) past what seemed to be a ballet school and a drama and music school then past another church and onto a viewing platform that looked out over the west of the city.  Views of modern buildings mixed with modernist buildings mixed with the old, whilst factories billowed out smoke from chimneys into the clear blue sky.

I was now starting to get really cold, so I went in search of food.  There are quite a few nice looking restaurants around the old town, and you can eat from many different country’s cuisines.  After spending much too much time procrastinating, again the cold not helping brain function, I went into a deli whose shelves were filled with lovely looking things.  I went for a Goats Cheese and Spinach lattice type thing and a cup of the above-mentioned tea.  I sat down, took my gloves of and tried to move my fingers.   They were so cold I could hardly hold my tea it felt so hot.  Eventually they warmed up and I drank it up, it was nice a mellow, not too acidic with the fruit and the right flavours to warm the cockles!  By the time I had finished my Spinach thing and was thinking about leaving the girl from behind the counter came out and started putting discount stickers on some of the cakes… So clearly I took that as a sign I should stay and have one.  I treated myself to a Sacher (or Sachertorte as research has now found out), a traditional Austrian cake which basically consists of chocolate cake, apricot jam and then a layer of chocolate to cover it all up.  It was delicious!!!  The perfect thing to get me back into the frame of mind to face the outside.

I was now heading back east to KUMU, the art museum, to hang around there until 6, when a documentary about Olaffur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls project was being screened.  The gallery is an amazing building.  Shaped and lit really well.  It basically goes chronologically through time showcasing numerous works by Estonian artists.  Many of the pieces are really great and for the first time in a long time I am once again enjoying looking at classical painting.  I think it may be down to the fact that most of these artists, if not all, are completely unknown to me, and also just their subject matter, and their motivations are different from the more western European styles, although they do clearly have the same influences and come from similar schools.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but it is nice to be able to enjoy looking at these things again.  The top floor is currently showcasing works by various contemporary Danish artists, some of which is really very good, other’s not so good. A noteworthy has to be Jacob Kirkegaard, whose video and sound installation is excellently executed, completely enthralling.  I also enjoyed the work of Rolf Notowny and Marie Kølbæk Iversen.  After a few hours spent wandering around in there, and only just realising I had missed a large space, though I wasn’t too keen on the work, so it wasn’t so bad, it was time for the film.  The auditorium was packed, but i guess that’s what happens when you show a film by an artist like Eliasson.  The film entitled ‘Olafur Eliasson: Space is Process’ was good, charting the ups and downs of his planning, developing and eventual execution of his project to change the new york city environment and to create ‘one more story for the city’.  It was intriguing to see into the world, and to some extent, the life of such a well respected and prolific artist.

Ingrid and I then visited Kom Pot, a lovely little restaurant serving traditional but modern fayre, in a lovely space, filled with jars of their own compote (I’m assured a traditional Estonian foodstuff and pastime), light fittings made from graters and colanders, clocks from spoons and forks, and a feature sofa area dolled up like a Soviet 50’s household.  The food was really good, I had a traditional Estonian meatball dish with Beetroot salad and sea-buckwheat sauce, whilst Ingrid had another dish consisting mostly of pork crackling and mash-potato, but it was very tasty despite how it sounds.  For dessert I had a great compote dish with Kama Mousse.  Kama is basically the Estonian equivalent to porridge I think, but as a mousse it was very tasty and the mixture of fruits in the compote was delightful!

Day 15, Helsinki, January 24th 2012

Tea 15: Lemo Mate, Eeero’s House, Vantaa.

Today I had a reasonably early start and got into Helsinki city centre at about midday. Today I didn’t really have a plan apart from meeting up with Eeero at around 5:30pm.  I headed west out of the station and had a wander around the parliament building, After all the excitement of the first round of Finland’s Presidential Election the town seems a little quieter.  I’m sure it will hot up over the next couple of weeks before the second round of voting.  The choice seems to be between a Conservative candidate and a Green League candidate.  I know who I’d pick given that choice!  I was hoping to find a decent amount of statues / sculptures in that area, but apart from a couple I think I should have walked further up Mannerheimintie, maybe another day.  I then ended up in the Culture Museum.  That was quite interesting, exhibits from all over the place, and a little bit of education on the origins of the Finnish and Estonian languages.  I pottered around there until it got a bit busy and I headed back into town.  I decided that as I felt at a little bit of a lose end I’d go to the ferry terminal and buy my ticket to Estonia.  Sorted that easily enough and got the tram back into town.

I got off at the stop nearest to Helsinki Cathedral, a huge white neo-classical structure designed by C. L. Engel, it looks as though he expected snow, it is really impressive in the snow, like the top of a huge iced cake.  Quite beautiful. It has many intricate and interesting carvings and pillars, including the Eye of Providence, or all-seeing-eye.  I decided to venture inside, it was quiet and peaceful.  The inside is remarkably minimal, the altar piece and a huge painting in front of me and a few scultures.  The chandeliers are pretty impressive too.  And so too is the huge organ.

 After a little while clicking away with the camera I went back out into the snow and wandered north, got myself some lunch (a freshly baked garlic bread, not the most gastronomic lunch, but it was warm and fresh and satisfying, and super cheap, only 99c!)  I got a little lost but found myself walking along the edge of the river I photographed on my first day here, but now its completely covered in snow, the murky brown ice is now a perfect sheet of uninterrupted snow.  There were some men further around doing a spot of ice-fishing, using huge screw things to cut through the ice, it looked to me as though the ice must be a good foot thick at least.  I meandered along the river some more, through a park and then headed into a bookshop to rest my legs and to wait for Eeero.  I read books about traveling and a TIME magazine publication about the most important historical places on earth.  Then I went and met Eeero.

We went for a bite to eat, I had a really satisfying Falafel in pitta with loads of salad.  After scoffing that down we headed for the Metro and to Kaapeli (The Cable Factory) for the performances we had decided to see.  These were in a part called ZODIAK, a contemporary theatre / performance space.  The event was called ‘The Greatest Love Songs‘ and featured 10 artists, performers and dancers.  The pretext was that the organiser, Maija Mustonen, had been reading peoples love stories and performance ideas whilst listening to love songs, and so she brought together ‘a colourful group of artists and styles’, from an open call, and asked them to design their own performances, based on lovesongs.  Some had written the songs themselves, whilst others chose songs, which included such classics as Whitney Houston’sI Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’, Sam Brown‘s ‘Stop’, and even Squarepusher’s ‘My Red Car’.  The performances were all brilliant.  From the first piece resulting in a cupping of the crotch (the performer Masi Tiitta’s own, not mine…), to the piece that will haunt me for a while:  The excellent Katri Kainulainen, who, wearing only knickers and a bra with extended straps, arms raised straight up above her head holding up the straps so the bar didn’t fall down, entered what was basically a staring contest with me, climbing over the crowd towards me.  I think she won the contest…. but I put up a good fight.  The organiser, Maija Mustonen, who studied at Trinity Laban, herself performed a piece to Maria Callas‘s ‘Casta Diva’, a beautiful and haunting performance, fitting to the song.  And the Jarkko Lehmus (who was with the Scottish Ballet from 2003-2009) performance to the Sam Brown hit was possibly the best piece of the night, performed and choreographed excellently.

Tea today is a new one for the travel tea collection!  Lemo Maté, bought from a lovely little eco-shop aptly named Ekolo.  It is nice and light, the maté leaves are substantial in size so the tea is not too ‘bitty’, for want of a better phrase.