Farewell Euro 2012

So, Euro 2012 is over, done and dusted, the victors are the Spanish, who become the first team to have ever secured 3 major international tournament wins in a row.  A rather comprehensive 4-0 against the lack-luster Italian side who had seemed so promising in their semi-final game where they knocked out the impressive (if efficiently robotic) German team.

No sooner was the competition over than the big screen came down, the palace lost it’s lovely huge posters and the fanzone was little more than a mere scaffold skeleton.  All this by, literally the next morning.  Back to the grim looking minibus station and the cars and motorbikes hurtling up Marszalowska…

Well done Spain, and well done Poland and the Ukraine for a successful and great Euro experience.


Day 104 – 112, Berlin & Cologne, April 22nd – May 1st 2012

Tea 104, the ‘free sample’ tea from the department store mentioned in last post, ‘Silvery Pearl Mountain’.

22nd, A slow steady day, with just a little wander around the Warshauer Street / East Side Gallery area, enjoying the sunshine and relaxing.  Nothing much remarkable to talk about really.

23rd and 24th were spent working on a few projects and things like that, not even a photo to show from these two days I’m afraid

25th, and just some more walking around, back to Gorlitzer park and around that area.  Still relaxed and nothing new to report.

26th, Today I decided to head to Treptower park.  I had read at the Russian monument a week or so before about the graves and memorial that had been built there in memory of the lost Russian soldiers, as well as housing mass graves of over 7000 soldiers.  The walk there was along the canal and was very pretty and sunny.  The park is huge, a big open space of grass then you wander around or through this and ‘come across’ the memorial.  I say ‘come across’, you do sort of find it, as it is surrounded by tall trees and in some ways hidden.  But the place is absolutely huge.  A massive area of almost perfect symmetry.  At one end is a statue of ‘Mother Russia’, where you enter the memorial from.  Then you come across two pylons designed to look like lowered flags, with two kneeling soldiers, one on each flag.  Then you enter the burial area properly, with 5 areas of grass, beneath which lie the graves.  On either side are 8 white plinths with varying images of war carved into them and quotes of Stalin written on them, Russian versions on one side, German translations on the other.  Then at the far end is the main piece.  A huge structure of a man holding a child and a huge sword, standing over a destroyed swastika.  The sculpture is amazing, it is so huge, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tall modern statue!  You can walk up the staircase to the feet of the sculpture and, although there is a locked gate, inside there is a small circular room with a mosaic mural to the soldiers.

27th, A day before the deadline to the residency program so I just worked and a little walking around.  Not much to talk about, just food shopping etc etc.

 28th, The sunshine was so hot and wonderful today.  I decided to walk back to Karl Marx Allee and to the fountain, which is basically a roundabout.  I sat on the edge of the fountain for a while soaking up some sunshine and dipping my feet in the water, which was surprisingly cold!  But very refreshing on my well walked and tired feet!  That evening I went out for a walk in the hot night air.  It was so warm even in the dark and there were people out and about everywhere!  I took some photos, one of which made a petrol station look like something from the film TRON (one of my favourites), complete accident but I like it!

 29th, Today, my penultimate day in Berlin, I decided I wanted to go and find the graveyard that contains the lying places of the Grimm brothers.  This is called the St. Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery, in Schoneberg.  It is quite an impressive place, with some old, and some very rich people buried there.  The graves of the Grimm brothers (there are four there altogether, though the ones of the fairy tales are Jacob and Wilhelm) are actually very subtle and not as in your face and imposing as you might imagine they could be.  I was pleasantly surprised by this.  I wandered around and sat in the peace and quite there for a while, it was a Sunday and there were quite a few people there tending to the graves and making them neat and tidy, it seems to be something that is taken quite seriously, after visiting a couple of other cemetery’s in Berlin, which all seem to be very well looked after.

 After that I walked back to the flat and had a late lunch before heading back out to Hasenheide Volkspark.  I’d been here before and decided to pop back in order to take pictures of the animals they have in this petting / rescued animal area.  There are camels, llamas, emus, storks, deer.  All sorts.  Many of them look a bit shabby and there’s a pair of Australian Black Swans that look terribly sad, but I think, I hope, they are rescued and basically have to be there.  One of the camels looks like it has a bad case of mange!

 30th, The day arrived to move out of the apartment I had rented for the last two weeks.  So I spent the day making sure it was all clean and tidy, taking the rubbish out etc etc.  Then I just went and sat by the river, to write and wait for the guy to arrive back so we could swap keys and deposits.  That all went off without a hitch, the guy even gave me some Bulgarian tea to add to my collection!  Excellent!  Shame to leave such a great little flat, but it is definitely time to move on.

 1st and a delightful 5:30am wake up followed by a trip across town to get to the bus station, to get my 7:30am bus to Cologne!  The bus trip itself was totally fine, and actually arrived a bit early which was great.  And by the time we had made all the stops there were only two of us left on the entire coach!  Like a huge limousine!  I met Regina at the bus station and we headed to her apartment, had a drink then went for a walk in the evening sunshine with the dog!  The sun was warm and the city feels peaceful and calm, a stark contrast to Berlin, and a welcome one!  We went for some Thai food that evening and had a cocktail then headed home and baked scones at midnight, as Regina returns to work after her sabbatical tomorrow, so needs to take exciting cakes!  They are vegan orange scones and they taste great!  Scones are amazing!!!

 That’s it, I am finally, and at long last up to date!!  I do apologise again for the huge break in posting, but the distinct lack of internet in Berlin, as well as trying to work towards the summer project has been a big issue in terms of updating.


Day 40, Kaunas – Warsaw. February 18th 2012

Tea 40:  Green Tea, Ecolines Coach, LithuaniaPoland.

Today was a long arduous travel day.  I woke up fairly early and got myself packed up and ready to go.  I said goodbye to Lina, my host, who was going to visit her sister in the morning.  Then got myself a little breakfast and a cup of tea.  Anglis and me chatted for a while about work, study and travel and by then it was time to go.  We both walked to the bus station, but via this amazing lookout point from the top of the hill that Lina and Anglis live on.  It looks out across the sprawling railway tracks and across to Napoleon’s cap, another mound of land that it is said Napoleon viewed his advancing army from.  Down to the bus station and after getting a few bus snacks and chocolate I waited.  The bus arrived about 10 minutes late, luckily the weather has been getting warmer so it wasn’t too bad to sit there.  Getting on the bus anticipating it to be busy I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually mostly empty and quiet.  This, however was to be short-lived.

The next stop brought with it a group of lads, the type that enjoy the sound of their own voices, and the sounds of their tinny mobile-phone speakers playing terrible Lithuanian disco… This trauma lasted the rest of my journey to Warsaw.  I feel sorry for those who had to put up with that any longer.  The bus was traveling to Paris, I hope for the sanity of the other passengers, that they were not.

Arriving into Warsaw, about 35 minutes late, due to immense thick fog and a lorry carrying cars falling off of the road, quite literally.  The Zachodnia Bus Station is a little uninspiring, probably even more so at 9pm on a Saturday night.  I waited a while for my host, who was running a little late and managed to miss the bus stop, but it wasn’t too bad, my late arrival mixed with hers made it all ok.  We then hopped on another bus then a tram to get to her place.  A nice small apartment in a newish building to the South of the city centre.  Warm and comfortable, and a good selection of teas…


Day 26, Tallinn – Tartu, February 4th 2012

Tea 26:  Õuna-Ingveri Plahvatus, Heli’s Apartment, Tartu.

Today I travelled to Tartu, in South-East Estonia.  I woke up, packed up, said my goodbyes to Ingrid and made for the bus station.    The bus I took left at 1pm and cost me the princely sum of 5 Euros!  On a Saturday people aged 26 or under can travel for half price!  That was a hugely pleasant surprise!  The coach took 2 and a half hours, in which time I managed to catch up on a little sleep missed the night before and to see a bit more of the Estonian countryside.  The country is pretty flat for the most part, with a few huge lakes, currently covered in snow and a little hard to differentiate from the fields.  But the scenery is beautiful, which chunks of old, fir tree woodland, covered in snow, making the fronds and branches droop under the weight.

I arrived in Tartu at 3:30pm, and was met at the bus station by Heli, my new couch surfing host.  We went straight from there to her apartment, kind of in the north of the city.  My beard froze more or less instantly in the cold -21’C air!  I was introduced to her family, and a brief introduction to the cat.  Then started to make myself at home, chatting all things travel, to art, to card games and liquor.  Some lovely Mandarino Italian liquor Heli brought back with her from a recent trip to Italy, and then a great Lasagne cooked by her sister Evelyn.  It was very good, the perfect food for a cold day and an empty stomach.  We sat a chatted for a while after, played a few card games and I am now sitting in front of the fire drinking a cup of the above-mentioned tea, before I head to bed / couch.  The tea is a fruit tea, with all sorts of lovely chunks of orange, apple, and ginger.  The name actually just means apple-ginger explosion!  It is lovely, not strictly tea, but good none-the-less!

Below is a picture of the fire and a couple more from my time in Tallinn.