I call Praga Magic Bike District mostly due to this sweet little find we had at the top of a creepy old beaten up staircase in the Praga district of Warsaw. So this day became the magic day, riding a Cafe Beigu Tandem around the city trying not to crash or kill anyone, including ourselves. The tandem came (kind of) free from cafe Beigu, a coffee shop just off of Plac Zbawiciela near the city centre (you had to spend 40zl on food and drink). It was a lovely sunny day and we covered a good few miles on the bike. This was all a day or two before the start of Euro 2012, so the town was starting to buzz and there were lots of tourists around. This first photo is taken at the Narodowa Stadium, the new national stadium in Warsaw, which was gearing up to host the opening night and game.
The last picture of the palm tree before it rather sadly and unceremoniously had a haircut, resulting in the removal of about 3/4 of it’s beautiful fronds.
Do you wanna be in the bus stop band?
Probably my favorite photograph so far, showing the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne
Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne
Day 117, Sunday. Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands! The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog. We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut! Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen. The purpose of our trip? To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River. The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack. Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick! The gig was good fun. The band played well. Then we headed back to Cologne.
Day 118, Monday. A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos. I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT! So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about. Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein. I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.
Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’. They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant. They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.
That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.
Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day. A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least! I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery. I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part. So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before. We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too. I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…
I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers) I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike. It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)
The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves! I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…
Thursday promised to rain in the afternoon, and so the morning I went for a short wander up the high street, mostly to see if the photos from my new old camera had been processed yet, they hadn’t so the delights of the Agfa are still a mystery to me. Then whilst it was still sunny I decided to help by starting some gardening, mostly ‘harvesting’ dandelions to try and prevent them from dropping too many seeds onto the ground. The person who had stayed in Regina’s flat whilst she was away was supposed to keep the garden clean and tidy, but it has turned into something of a jungle. So I spent a while doing that before the promised rain did indeed arrive.
That evening a few of Regina’s friends came for dinner, which lasted a good few hours, well past 1a.m. There had been a slight disaster with a savoury pancake mix that resulted in a last minute change of plan and therefore a bit of a delay in the food. But we did eat – Avocado with a raspberry sauce, then sweet potato with a coconut sauce and sesame coated asparagus, then a great ginger carrot cake with more coconut and fresh fruits. Tasty!
Saturday. Today we had a slow morning then headed into town to buy some tickets for a gig that Regina found online that she wanted to go and see. A band called Cursive, I’d never heard of them before, so thought I’d give them a go. We went and bought the tickets, then looked in vain for a particular bicycle shop. Then we stopped for a cup of coffee (sorry, tea sacrilege I know!). We left for the gig later in the evening, around 9 and watched the band play. The gig was kind of short, but the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. The bassist and lead guitar are pretty old and tubby, so I think these guys have been doing the rounds for a few years now. I can’t help imagining they probably work in Estate Agents or as salesmen during normal life!
After the gig we went back to the flat for a little while, I had a ‘power nap‘, then we headed to a club for a bit of a dance. The club was good, though the predominant DJ, (the one we had not gone to listen to) was playing pretty crap stuff. Someone informed us that he had been drinking solid for the past few days. I think he might of noticed my looks of disgust at some of his choices though as I caught him staring at my undoubtedly blank face a couple of times. The guy we had gone to hear ‘DJ Action Mike’ (ironic naming here) played some better stuff and we got some dancing in, though I didn’t manage to break into a sweat…
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!