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.
The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really. My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before. There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin. Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal. The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard. I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before. There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being tourist in such a situation. This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper. There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit. There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.
Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed! I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure. The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day. I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…
The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey. I wonder if they will ever try to clean it? I hope not.
After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while. There I discovered a chocolate museum. Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead. The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne. For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark! Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.
A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘. Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate. It was great! I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.
That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia. The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.
The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!
The 12th. Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday. So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday. When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux. The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door. So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite. This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere. I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time! After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat. On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!
The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday! We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque. I was on vegetable parcels. Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas. We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3. The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday. We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm. The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.
Day 125, Monday. Regina had to wake up early again! She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out. She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside. We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz. The weather was still perfect. When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch. I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii. Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese. It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese). After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline. After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money! In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back. That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing. It looked and smelt amazing! But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!
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…
Tea 92, Yunnan Green Superior.
also; Tea 91, Power Tea, , Tea 93, Japonska Wisnia.
Day 90, Sunday. Today the sun was shining and it was almost warm, but i still felt the need for some gloves. I left the flat reasonably early, around 10, in order to get to the Mauerpark Flea Market. This is up to the north of the city centre in a district called Prenzlauer Berg. There is everything you could imagine in this market, from a huge bric-a-brac stall, full of boxes of what is mostly junk and broken stuff, but with the occasional highlight, a few box-brownies for instance, to food stalls, bikes, camera’s. Everything you could imagine (almost). So I spent a while meandering up and down the aisles, all the time it was getting busier and busier. I almost bought quite a few things, but actually came away with nothing, despite the efforts of quite a few people… I then wandered in the sunshine, and relative peace to another market just a few streets away. This one, Arkonaplatz, is much smaller and the quality of things they are selling is generally higher, and due to the popularity of Mauerpark this one is much gentler and more peaceful. Some more browsing and yet again away with nothing I walked slowly in the sunshine back towards the apartment, but taking a few little side streets and a much deviated path back, ending up by the TV tower and then back onto my main route back to the apartment. This seems like a short day now that I type it, but I had spent a long time getting to and then around and back from the markets. The weather turned a little bit cold by the afternoon too. Also, due to it being Easter Sunday, almost literally nowhere was open!
Day 91, again today, very little was open. But I made the most of my day by embracing tourism once again and heading out to the Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor. The walk there was very pleasant, in the sunshine most of the time, when I stayed on the right side of the street. It’s quite a simple walk from Kreuzberg there too. It also takes you past the section of the Berlin wall still standing. I’ve walked past this before, but today was the first day I took a photograph of it. Then I carried on towards the Gate. In the area of the gate, which sort of acts, or acted like an entrance to the Tiergarten, is also the Holocaust Memorial, or as it is really called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I spent some time wandering amongst the huge concrete blocks. It’s an interesting place, with lots of children playing and smiles and laughter happening amongst the stones. This seemed somewhat strange to me, considering the context of the thing, but there was actually something strangely refreshing about this kind of atmosphere in such a place if I’m honest.
I then walked to the Brandenburg Gate itself. This is a big disappointment, not with regard to the gate itself. But they may as well charge entry and called it ‘Das Disney Welt’ if you ask me. There’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a big Teddy Bear, breakdancers, a sexy soldier girl with a flag, and Darth Vader! I can totally understand why the performers are there, they need to make money, but why on earth people would want to see these things here is another thing entirely! I soon made my escape from the circus and took some peace and sunshine from the Tiergarten. I sat by a little pond, people buzzing past on bikes and with their cameras. I saw what was only my second red squirrel ever! I sat for a while and wrote some of my thoughts down before heading back towards the river and past the Berlin Philharmonic hall and a few of the larger galleries, one was shut, the other open, but rammed with people so I decided to avoid it. I don’t know why but ever since arriving in Berlin I’ve actually lost my appetite for looking at art!
Onto day 92, Tuesday. Shops are open again! This lead to a celebratory visit to Lidl to buy chocolate! Then, with the first day for a few that can actually be described as warm I ventured back into the city centre, with no real aim other than to enjoy the sunshine. Today was Abigails birthday, so we had spent the morning chilling out and eating the chocolate before she went to see Sergej who had unfortunately had to go and work on a pitch for the next day. So I took myself out into the sunshine and just people watched. I did visit Berlin Carre, a funny little shopping centre with only a few shops on the inside (most actually face the street, but head inside if you want what I imagine is a reasonably authentic East Berlin experience!) I bought a snack in the supermarket and then went back outside.
There was a tiny protest happening at the Neptune Statue next to the Rathaus and the TV tower. It seemed to be about banking and they had a lot of colourful umbrellas all painted with slogans. There were less than ten of them, but still had the beady eye of the police on them constantly. It was a strange protest with no chanting or marching around or anything, they just seemed to make little structures from the umbrellas, which the police then told them they had to keep behind a certain line that he drew with chalk. Very odd. Anyway, I let that play out for a while before wandering a bit more, visiting a huge second-hand clothes store, then I bought myself a new pair of sunglasses and went back to the apartment.
Day 93, and I’m sorry to say no photos of today. Abigail and I had to put our heads down good and proper for the day, working on the Hello Collective, getting the plan of action down ready for the summer residency / studio program. And also trying to figure out what will happen if we don’t reach our sponsorship target. But hopefully we will. http://kck.st/GD326Q Click the link if you are interested in the project and can maybe help by pledging a little. If you let me know that it’s through my blog that you have donated I’ll send you some tea as a thank you!
So, monday was a bit of a write off, the only reason I left the flat was to go and do a bit of food shopping and come back again. So, not much to talk about there, and no photos either I’m afraid.
Straight onto Tuesday then, and a bit more eventful. I started the day with a little trip to Raclawicka again, to show Marta the little second-hand bike shop and to wander around in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day with loads of sunshine, though a bit windy. After a while walking around there, into a second hand shop where Marta bought a lovely red hooded coat with black toggles for a bargain price, we started to head towards town. We popped into a little photo shop to see if they develop medium format film, Marta recently invested in a Holga and has used her first roll of film! She also got her photo taken for her US Visa application. The place was tiny and dark and smelt like many decades worth of cigarette smoke had seeped into the walls. The guy looked like he has propped up the counter for his entire life too.
Back out into the daylight I had a sudden craving for an ice cream, the bright sunlight stirring that primal ice cream eating monster inside us all! A chocolate Magnum made it into my stomach in double quick time, and we carried on walking. We walked through Pole Mokotowskie, and then into the city centre, on the hunt for a launderette for Marta’s new coat. We didn’t manage to find a reasonably priced one before making it to Central Station, where we stood in a queue for ages and I bought a ticket to my next destination, Berlin next monday.
Ticket bought and we intended to get a tram up to the old town and to stop for a coffee in the cafe where I had the great Turkish Coffee, cafe Adi. All the trams were totally packed though, so after attempting to get onboard 3 we decided we would just make the most of the sunshine and walk. We did so and made it to the cafe whilst the sun was still streaming through the open window. It was so warm and lovely in there, and the turkish coffee was really good again. The place started to suddenly get really really full of well dressed pensioners, who were probably waiting for a show at the theatre across the road. We had finished our drinks so we decided to leave.
We then continued our walk, it was still sunny and quite warm so we walked up to the huge monument to the Polish Resistance and the funny multicoloured Pegasus’s ( Pegasuses? Pegasi?? ) that sit outside of the national library and the supreme court.
Then we headed West and ended up on Jana Pawla, where we managed to find a cheap launderette for the coat. We left it there and carried on our walk, south now and back towards the city centre, we stopped off in a few shops in search of some Ciechan Honey Beer, which seems to be in short supply at the minute. Unsuccessful we headed back to the Metro at central, at the minute and until the end of April part of the Metro is shut down so you can only get as far as Central from the stations south and only from Ratusz Arsenal north. You have to get a tram or bus between Central and Ratusz Arsenal at the minute. But this didn’t really affect us, just meant a slightly longer walk, we bought some chocolate covered raisins to sustain ourselves!
Back home via the Marc Pol store, where we successfully got some honey beer, though not Ciechan, but another brand, we ate some food and drank some beer and then the clock decided it was high time we headed for the sack!