Day 83, Warsaw, April 1st 2012

Tea 83, Hot Chocolate (another tea deviation!), A cafe whose name I can’t remember, Warsaw

Happy April Fool’s day (belated)!

Today was, very sadly, my last day in Warsaw.  It’s very strange to be leaving, I am still really loving the city and the people here.

We decided to go for a wander around the Praga district, to have a proper look around on the other side of the river.  We managed to get one bus all the way from Wilanow to Praga, so that was pretty good.  The day was very cold again, with loads of snow once more, but very sporadic with beautiful sunshine in between, very British style weather (though that would probably be rain instead of snow which is worse I think).  We got off the bus in central Praga and just began to wonder, the streets and back courts are dotted with murals and Madonna’s, some of which are kept in wonderful condition, whilst others have slightly more bizarre surroundings.

We wandered around a little more, our original intention was to visit the Vodka Distillery, but this is shut at the weekends, though we knew that before we set off.  But we got a good look at it from the outside, before heading into an entrance way where I took one photo that then resulted in a slightly fraught conversation with a security guard about the private property aspect and not being allowed to take photos.  Marta managed to hold her ground pretty well though, then we made our escape.  We wandered around the outskirts of this same area of derelict land, coming around the opposite side we could look through a gate and see what all the fuss was about, but it was all just literally piles of rubble and the remains of one last building.  We took some more photos just to spite them!

We then popped to the shopping centre nearby to answer a call of nature.  I managed to enter a situation where a man appeared to have locked himself in one of the cubicles and was possibly doing more than his fair share of drugs, the cleaners were calling for security to come and sort the situation.

Managing to escape another strange situation we headed out of the shopping centre and then found ourselves wandering around some more old, old streets.  We managed to find an open door to one old tenement which we explored a little, with some beautiful old railings and a butchered bike on the top floor.  Then we found a nice little cafe selling lots of cookery books too, and with some great photographic and fashion magazines.  So we sat with a hot chocolate and read whilst we waited, in vane, for the weather to improve.  Back out into the cold we wandered some more, bought some crisps/chips and then got on a tram back to the old town on the other side of the river.

We got off at the first stop in the old town then made for the University Library building.  On it’s roof is a huge garden, which anyone can freely and easily explore.  It is pretty cool, even at this time of year when not too much is growing, though it is great to be able to see the buds on the trees starting to bulge with leafy life.  We then decided we were getting a bit hungry so we had a look in a few of the university cafeterias to see if anything took our fancy.  There didn’t seem to be too much, so we walked for a while along Dobra and in and out of a few shops, a great bookshop/cafe where I managed to convince Marta to buy a copy of Alain De Botton‘s ‘The Art of Travel‘.  I hope she will enjoy it!   This place didn’t have much savoury food on offer though, so we carried on walking.  We eventually made it to a branch of Rue De Paris cafe.  This one was decorated pretty roughly with lots of colourful lampshades and bare brick walls, a nicer atmosphere compared to many.  We had a Goats cheese tart and a Camembert and Walnut tart between us.  These were good, though were a little disappointing when you are literally just presented with a tart on a plate, no salad or garnish even for visual effect!

We ate and people watched for a while then had a slow and relaxed wander back to the city centre and then home.


Day 77 & 78, Warsaw, March 26th & 27th 2012

Tea 78: Turkish Coffee & Green Tea with Mint, Cafe Adi, Warsaw.

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!


Day 74, Warsaw – Torun, March 23rd 2012

Tea 74, Green Tea (not pictured), Torun

Today I travelled with Marta and her Mum to Torun, a town on the Unesco World Heritage list, founded by the German Teutonic Knights and the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus.  The day started with Marta rushing across the city to pass on a birthday present to a friend before we left.  She got this cool bracelet in the style of an Octopus arm from an online store run by her friend called oohandy.com.

I then met her at Dworzec Centralny at about 11 and we got a train at 1130 that took us to Zyradow, a station on the outskirts of Warsaw where Marta’s mum, Hanna, met us with the car.  We all piled in and off we went.  The journey to Torun took about 3 hours, the views are very nice, a part of it tracks a very pretty part of the Vistula river.  Though lots of the road surfaces aren’t exactly friendly!  They are building a whole new motorway infrastructure along this part though, that was intended to be ready for the Euro 2012 competition: take this as fact… it won’t be!

We made it to Torun at around 4, and were dropped off in the city centre.  We then wandered around the town a little, soaking up the sunshine and then we went to this pancake place called Manekin, where we met Carolina and Mike, who had also come to Torun for a couple of days, though they were there waiting for the bus back to Warsaw.

I ordered a pancake with Feta cheese, olives, basil and tomatoes, which was very good, though both mine and Marta’s pancake ended up with us after a short stop at the wrong table…

After the pancake and a pint to drink Carolina and Mike had to leave to catch the bus, so we all left and Marta and I took in a bit more sightseeing, with the light failing and the stars appearing in the sky.  Eventually we too decided it was time to leave so we headed to the bus stop, got on a bus and went to Marta’s uncle’s house somewhere in the Torun suburbs.  We spent the evening chatting and eating, another huge weekend of food was ahead of me!  And then Marta’s uncle got out a few of his spirits and we drank a little too, cherry liquor, quince liquor, and one make from aronia, or chokeberries.  All of them very tasty, if I had to pick my favourite, I’d go for the quince!


Day 56, Warsaw – Krakow, March 5th 2012

Today marks my 56 day, and the official turning over of my second month of travel!  CRAZY!!!  It went slow to begin with, but the speed at which I’ve hit two months is mad!  Anyway, my anniversary was marked with a long 5 hour journey to Krakow from Warsaw, so there is, alas, no photography for today, and also my first day without having a tea photograph!  This makes me very sad, maybe sadder than it does for all you guys, but I do hope you will forgive me!  For compensation here are a few more photos of my time in Radom…


Day 45, Warsaw, February 24th 2012

Tea 45: Pu Erh Chocolate Cake, Marta’s Apartment, Warsaw.

First things first, but it seems I have forgotten how to count and have managed to add a day onto my travels as if by magic, so the last three posts have been updated with the correct travel day.

So, Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  This tea is very unusual, as if you probably couldn’t guess that anyway.  Pu Erh tea, for those of you who do not know, is a partially fermented tea, and with a very unusual flavour, rather aquired I would say, but once you are into it I’m sure you will enjoy it’s complexity.  This one is reasonably smooth for a Pu Erh, not too much bitterness or dustiness.  The chocolate element is very interesting, similar to the chocolate tea I had in Helsinki.  The tea itself is very dark and thick, like the colour of black treacle.  It is intriguing and I can’t make up my mind about it, I feel I need to experiment with it some more, maybe with sweetness and with different steepings.

Today I didn’t go into the city centre until the late afternoon, the morning was spent catching up with life, finishing off some bits and bobs for an artist residency program myself and another are running in the summer, which will actually be in Poland, albeit a completely different part of the country to where I am now, and the two do definitely feel a world apart! And resting my oh so tired legs from the previous days marathon walk…!

Eventually making it out of the house I was walking towards the Metro station thinking to myself, ‘the pavement is very wet’.  Puddles everywhere!  But then I realised that all the snow had melted!  The grass was back, albeit very muddy, but it was grass, which it feels as though I haven’t seen in over a month!  I made it to the Metro, bought a 20minute ticket and was about to validate it through the barrier when I noticed that there were trains sitting at both platforms, and neither were moving… I waited a few more seconds to see if their doors would slide shut but they didn’t and then an announcement came over the tanoy, which I can only presume said the Metro was not operational, as everyone began to leave the station.  I left and found the Bus stop, as did basically everyone who had been in the metro station.  Eventually the bus arrived, already loaded with people our stop must have basically trebled the number of people.  Sardines in a can is not an appropriate metaphor, but it’s the best there is!  The next problem… the bus follows the same route as the Metro, meaning it stopped at all the metro stops into town.  And being as the entire Metro was down, every stop had a massive crowd waiting for a bus, many of which still thought it possible to get themselves onto the bus… click HERE for a scene that is very similar…

Eventually we got into town, me with my arms directly over my head for the entire journey until Warszawa Centralny, where everyone got off except for about 5 people!  I stayed on until Zacheta, where I was meant to meet Marta.  We were intending to visit the Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, or contemporary art gallery.  Unfortunately though this was shut today because they are currently installing a new show.  So, I took out the map and found some other places nearby that we could go to.  We first tried to find a little place called Galeria Kolonie, but we failed at this task, I think it might be in an office building, but we couldn’t seem to find it unfortunately.  Then we stopped off at a little place that sells traditional Polish doughnuts, this is a little window out onto the street.  A lady stands and serves you, whilst in the background the kitchen is a hive of doughnut baking activity.  I chose a chocolate and cherry one as well as a more traditional Rose Marmalade one.  They were warm, sweet and utterly delicious!  I scoffed them down much too fast, but they were SO good!  We then decided to look for another gallery space, this time on the opposite side of the Palace of Science and Culture.

We wandered through the neon and traffic light filled streets to the Palace which was lit up in the darkening sky.  Wandering around looking at the sculpture that adorn it’s walls, there is a little ice rink set up on one side for those of you who enjoy a little bit of skating.  The building is all divided into different sides, youth centres, sporty bits, cultural parts and of course science.  On the other side of the building we crossed a Zebra-Crossing designed to look like the keys on a piano and then turned left down a little street with a large neon announcing ‘MUZEUM’.  This is the Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie, sort of.  The museum doesn’t actually exist yet.  It is currently in construction phase, and is planned to be opened in 2014.  This space is a temporary space for small shows and examples of the work they hold.  And currently they are actually running a KINOMUZEUM, a free cinema showcasing many new films.  They opened with the premiere of Steve McQueen‘s Shame, we managed to see a new film by Miranda July called The Future.  I’m not a big one for reviewing films, but needless to say we were both glad we had stuck around.  I can’t totally make my mind up about how I feel about the characters, at some times they were infuriating, whilst at others very sweet.  If you like Miranda July films definitely see it, it also reminded me a bit of The Science of Sleep, a film I love, so if you like that then you should see this too (though it’s not so good).  Anyway, I suppose that was a bit of a review.

The film finished and we headed back out into the night, the air had turned a bit chilly and a slightly icy wind was billowing up the gaps between the skyscrapers.  We got a tram that took us directly home, cooked some tasty food for our now angrily rumbling tums and eventually went to sleep.


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 37, Riga – Kaunas via Vilnius, February 15th 2012

Tea 37: Not tea, hot chocolate, Emils Gustavs Chocolate Shop, Riga

Today was a travel day, 1040 – 1645 on a bus.  Riga to Kaunas in Lithuania.  This bus was probably the nicest one so far, good leg room, good temperature, though a dubbed version of Fast and the Furious Five was maybe not the ideal ‘in coach entertainment’ choice!

I left the apartment in Riga earlier than I really needed to, but this was because I was determined to leave Riga on a high note.  And, at long last it worked!  I managed to track down the illusive Emil and the holy chocolate grail!  This made me exceedingly happy.  The perfect treat for 9:30am?  A cup of the gorgeous hot liquid chocolate.  This small but perfectly formed little cup provided me with a much needed and much appreciated chocolate high.  This hot chocolate was literally just melted chocolate in a cup, even those little bits that are left in the cup you see began to turn back into solid chocolate.  It was simply wonderful, only cost 1 lat and the lady that served me did so with a lovely smile and a warm bit of broken English conversation.  It was a great ending to a strange few days in Riga.  Thank goodness!  The little shop is in the central train station, and there is even a tea shop too, I think I probably should have just hung out there the whole time I was in Riga!

I got to the bus station, waited a little while then hoped onto the bus, a double decker beast of a thing, but as I said, nice and comfy. The journey didn’t feel too long either, we made a small stop somewhere, then another short stop in Vilnius, which looked, from the bus window, a bit like Riga…  Then I arrived at Kaunas.  I went into the bus station to ask about buses for the next leg of my trip, received friendly and efficient service and then waited for my next host, Lina.  She arrived a little after 5pm and after a quick pop to the supermarket we headed to her flat, which she shares with her husband.  The flat is lovely, on the top of a hill only a few minutes from the bus station and it has the most wonderful view of the city, I will try to get a photo of it in the coming days.  We sat and chatted, ate a little, drank a bit of brandy, which I actually enjoyed even though I didn’t think that it was my sort of drink.  Then  one of Lina’s friends arrived, we ate some dinner, a bit more chat and now it is time to sleep…

Goodnight.