So, Marta had never had Macarons/Macaroons before, and we came across this little stall in a shopping centre that was selling them, so I decided to get some as a little treat. Previously she thought they were some sort of wafer with a flavoured centre, but despite my attempts to explain them I couldn’t quite describe them properly. I guess you really do just need to taste them to find out. These ones from the company Le Roy & Louis (maybe an attempt at ‘poshing up’ the name Leroy?!?!) were pretty good, nice amount of crunch on the outside with a good squidgy centre. The Pistachio and the Chocolate were the best, the other two (Raspberry and Blackcurrant) were also good, but I think the Pistachio and Chocolate are a bit more classic. We munched them down with gusto when we got home, alongside a nice cup of Sencha Sakura tea.
That night there was the most spectacular thunderstorm, I have literally never seen or heard anything like it before. The amount of lightning strikes was just amazing, the whole sky was lighting up like a strobe in a smokey nightclub. It was just amazing. We went to the top floor of the apartment block, 10 stories up and watched the three storm formations circle around us. Despite the number (literally hundreds) of strikes it is surprisingly hard to take a photograph of the lightning. It took me the best part of 700 photos to get just three shots of the lightning, and only one of those was really something special. They are all below.
So, those of you who have followed me from the very beginning will know that this blog all started with a tea everyday, and usually a little something was said about the teas. This hasn’t really been happening in a while, but I just want you to know that I have not abandoned tea, far from it in fact. This is a little round up, a tea-cap if you will, of all the teas currently doing the rounds in my cup. Some have been with me a long time, some are much newer, some are good, some less so. But here you go!
The Golden Chariot tea above is not very good quality tea at all, hence it costing so little, but I bought it because I really love the packaging!
I bought this Mate in Berlin for 1Euro. It is a roasted variety and is quite pleasant, being much smoother and less bitter on the palate than a normal Mate, but it lacks the magic punch and stimulation of the unroasted variety.
This tea, which is not strictly ‘mine’, is delicate and sweet, with the smoothness of the Sencha balanced well with flower blossoms.
Definitely just for night-time!
I’ve not tried this yet, and it is again not strictly mine, but I will let you know when / if I get my hands on it!
This is probably my most coveted tea, from Estonia I have been carrying this around since February. It is excellent, you can steep the leaves several times and it is delicate yet nourishing. If you happen to leave it a little long the Ginseng, in which the Oolong has been rolled, will start to create an odd, but not unpleasant, sweetness.
I love Mate, ever since I found it tucked away in a little farm shop in the middle of nowhere in England when i was about 16. This one is good, actually quite delicate in flavour, but it definitely does the job!
Last, but by no means least, is my Yunnan Green Oolong. I brought this with me when I started my trip and it has been perfect every time. I am running extremely low on it now so will only drink it occasionally. It is perfect for lifting the spirits and refreshing the soul. This tea is a life saver!
Tea 80, Loads of Yunnan Green Superior for study support!, the apartment, Warsaw
Day 79, well, what happened on this day? I guess not a great deal, we did go and pick Marta’s coat up from the dry cleaners and then wandered around in the sunshine, it was a little windy today so much of our time was spent trying to avoid the wind tunnels between buildings. We wandered around Jana Pawla for a while visiting the places we didn’t manage to go to the night before, the little tea shop, which is a bit expensive, then into the XX1 gallery to see the show that is on at the minute, although I think it might be shut now. ‘Transfusion’ by Pavel Novak, apparently the Polish version of a super common name such as my own! He had presented a few paintings alongside a sculptural glass installation of clear glass heart casts. The work looked good in the space, especially with the sun beating through the window, glistening from and through the glass casts. They weren’t exactly presented perfectly in the space though, somewhat ‘plonked’ on the end of white poles. The press release seemed to say they should appear to be floating at heart level, but they weren’t floating.
Day 80, Thursday, we didn’t really leave until late, later than we had intended really. Marta was studying for a job interview most of the day, I did pop to Galleria Mokotow for a short while to buy some eye moisturizer stuff from the pharmacy, as I had managed to lose my other one somewhere between Torun and Warsaw. When we did eventually leave we headed straight to central and to a photo development shop where we dropped off Marta’s first ever medium format Holga film! That was very exciting, and they had it ready in an hour, which amazed me, stuff like that in the UK usually takes about 2 weeks! While we waited we went back to Zacheta, to see the newly installed sculptural installation show called ‘New Sculpture?’. The show is good, I’m glad I got to see the other spaces in this gallery. There were various large scale works by a number of artists including Martin Boyce (giving me a sentimental thought of Glasgow) and Mai-Thu Perret, as well as others. We wandered around in there for a while, attracting various suspicious glances from the guards. The security guards in Poland are pretty hardcore, even more so in the health and beauty stores, Rossman’s is the worst, they may as well handcuff you as you walk through the door, and don’t even think about going in for a simple browse, not unless you are a massive fan of the serial voyeur!
Show seen we headed back outside, then had a whistlestop run around the old town to try to find a shop we had been to before that sells a great almond cake, we found the shop but sadly no almond cake! Then we had to rush back to the photo shop to collect the film, but not without a quick diversion to the donut place on Chmielna to fulfill our sweet cravings. We were both quite excited about the Holga results. We really didn’t know what to expect, especially as the film that Marta had bought was such a cheap one that we didn’t even know if we had put it in around the right way to begin with! But we were not disappointed! The results were very pleasing, though we both realised that we had been a bit foolish, Marta had been using the different colours of the flash when she had taken the photos. But it turned out we had both totally forgotten the film was black and white! Needless to say coloured flashes are utterly pointless in this case! Two of the photos are below, so I must credit Marta for them!
Day 81, the last day of employment for Marta! And also a job interview for her too! She had headed for this very early in the morning, I just about remembered to wake up and wish her good luck, before crashing back into sleep again. When I eventually awoke I spent some time on the computer before deciding to head into town. This was made a little difficult, I had been locked in! Marta had accidentally taken the keys with her to work. I sent her a message asking where they were, she looked in her bag and there they were. Luckily she managed to get permission from her work to come back and free me. Once that fiasco was sorted I went into town and walked around the shops for a while. The biggest thing on my mind was (and is) a hunt for this camera, a DIY lomo (yes, Marta’s Holga experience has inspired me). But this is a little different, one you build yourself from total scratch and that uses standard 35mm film. It’s called a DIY Recesky Twin Lens Reflex (or TLR), and looks like it could be good fun. I spent a lot of time searching around in the camera and gadget and toy shops, but to no avail. I think I am going to have to buy it online when I am in Berlin, the problem is the delivery times, but I will still keep looking for the next few days I think.
After the fruitless search I went and met Marta outside her work. She arrived carrying a load of stuff including some leftover cake from her goodbye cake collection and a goodbye present she had been bought, the fantastic teapot you can see above. The cups are double-walled to keep the tea warm for longer! A really great present, in my opinion! We christened it with some Sencha Sakura, a floral, delicately flavoured tea (she had been bought this as well as some Chinese Sencha and two flower teas). The tea was good, delicate and green, a very good sencha, and the flavoured aspect was very well balanced and didn’t take away from the tea too much!
The first and only full day in Torun. Marta, her Mum and myself all went into the city centre in the morning for a little bit of a walk around (mostly in shoe shops for Marta and her Mum’s amusement), but also to the old Teutonic Castle ruins, past a little model of a dragon where the world’s only confirmed sighting of a real dragon was made, also a sight of a screeching pair of Peregrine falcons flying about their nest just across from the castle. I wonder how long Peregrine’s have lived near the castle? Maybe they are a medieval throwback!?!?
Then we went into this cafe / chocolaterie called Madame Chocolat. This is a fairly new place in Torun apparently. The decor is a little basic and plain, I think because it is so new, and it is potentially slightly naively named, and decorated also… We ordered: Green Pepper Hot Chocolate, Advocat Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Fondant cake, Chocolate Advocat cake, and another chocolate cake, whose contents I can’t really remember, but it was very tasty none-the-less! The chocolate was tasty and rich, nice and thick. Sadly the green pepper part was just some fresh green pepper on the top, it hadn’t been cooked with the pepper in it, so it hadn’t really got any chance to infuse the flavour. But it was still quite good hot chocolate, nice and thick. The cakes were all very good. My fondant came with a nice, but small blob of ice cream and a chocolate twirl.
After this rather indulgent start to the day we went for a bit more of a walk, to burn off a bit of the sugarific-ness. We ended up in a Gingerbread shop along with a crowd of rather merry polish guys out on a team building weekend. They appeared to be buying the who shop up, gingerbread gift baskets were flying off the shelves! All for their boss apparently, though I’m pretty sure lots were for wives and girlfriends too, an apology for the horrendous hangover they were likely to be suffering the next day…
We then headed back to the car and back to the house where lunch was being prepared. Another huge meal with everything you could imagine, including another traditional wrapped Polish dish called Gołąbki. Minced meat, rice and spices are all wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves. They were very good, despite looking a little anaemic initially. We ate until we were royally stuffed, as usual. Then sat in the beautifully sunny garden for a while drinking tea and eating (more) cake! This all took a couple of hours and then we decided to head back into the town, to visit the Centre of Contemporary Art, or CoCA. We got back in the car and were dropped off. The gallery is a nice space, surprisingly large and the work on show is of a good quality generally. There is a show on at the minute entitled The Fourth State of Water: from Micro to Macro. This is obviously all about water. It’s a strange show, a bit hit and miss and some of the curatorial decisions are a little dodgy, but it is a definite improvement on the work I saw in Krakow! The other show on at the minute is called People and the City, a collection of photography, video and the occasional painting. There are some big names here, Henri Cartier Bresson, WeeGee, Wolfgang Tillmans and Peter Blake to name a few. The collection of works is good, and is put together in a straightforward, simple, but effective way. This space is much better than the other. More open and higher ceilings.
We eventually got asked to leave the gallery, the place was closing, but luckily we had made it around everything. They shuffled us out pretty quickly, but I still managed to get a photo of this hilarious sign declaring that the gallery had been estimated as a very good gallery…
We left the gallery and went for a walk around the town as the sun began to set. The town was quite quiet for a Saturday night, that was until a group on bikes cycled past us with music blaring out from a speaker system being pulled along by one of them. We went to see Copernicus’s residence, then to this leaning tower which I fully expected to be an actual tower but turned out to just be a four story building, but it was definitely leaning…
Then we got picked up again by Marta’s mum who had been on a trip with her gran to visit the grandfather’s gravestone. We then drove across the river and found the panorama, a spot across the river where you can get a really wonderful view of the whole of the old town. Postcard perfection!
Back home and more food was prepared, pierogi’s, bread, cheese, salad. Everything!
Tea 55, Green tea, mystery mix, Radom.
Today was Marta’s Mum’s birthday, when we woke up she had already made another spectacular breakfast spread with all things you could think of, cheese, bread, tomato, cucumber, salad. Loads and loads of stuff, and I was still pretty full from the indulgences on the previous day. We sat and ate and chatted and watched the TV, which was dominated by the tragic and awful news of the train crash that has happened on the line between Warsaw and Krakow.
After a while of this we decided to head out, Marta, her mum and I, to this park area which is also home to a few galleries and loads of sculptures. It is around 10km from Radom, and in which direction I am not too sure. We also took the dog with us, fully intending to take her for a walk around the park too. We arrived at this little place, which is dotted with buildings, looking a bit like a farm in lots of ways. Everyone out of the car, including the dog and Marta and I went into the first building, a modern built gallery, to buy some tickets. Luckily our tickets gave us access to more than one building because this first show was a bit of a disappointment. The space is pretty interesting but it had been totally rammed with sculptural works by this one guy, which were, basically, terrible. They looked like they were built in the 60’s, and this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if they had been. But they were all pretty much brand new, gaudy, Francis Bacon-esque structures of painted driftwood and plaster. It was a shame, and if there had of been even a TINY bit of critical choice in what was presented it would have been a hundred times better. But it was just like the guy wanted to show and tell EVERYTHING! And I know I myself am a minimalist, so usually something is always too much that nothing, but this was just stupid!
Ehem, so… moving on… We went back out into the park, Marta’s Mum had joined us half way through our tour around this first space and then we all walked to the next space, on a little tour with a lady in a brown hat who seemed pretty passionate about lots of the elements. She explained a few of the things we could see as we walked along, and then we arrived at an old chapel, the all seeing eye staring down at us from on high. We went inside and found an installation created by a guy and called (in Polish) Harvest. This was a collection of ceramic figurines, made by the artist, who were, basically, Chavs / Neds / Delinquents whichever phrase you choose. Then Marta explained to me that in Polish the word for harvest is very similar to that for something like a self destructive society. The piece was a play on words. This work had a lot of humour and enjoyment in it’s rather bleak subject matter, on figurine is peeing in a corner under the old alter, one is texting on a mobiule phone, others drinking in little huts and some fighting.
A little while spent in this space we left again, the lady in the hat locking the door with a huge key, had to be almost a foot long, and we continued onto another space. This one used to be an greenhouse and so is open and full of light. The work presented here was more interesting modern sculpture, of simply a toilet and a cement mixer. They had, however, been covered in little squares of mirror, like on a disco-ball. The toilet span around on its low plinth and the cement mixer was fully working, though only for a short period of time when the lady in the hat switched it on and then off again, suggesting that it may not be the most secure of creations. There were also some photos of the artist’s other creations, including a drain cover, a wheelie bin, and an original Volkwagen Beetle! The photos were documents of when the artist puts them into real life situations and illuminates them, generally at night.
That space over we went back out into the park and headed for the main house. This has been kept in its original condition, with its classical furniture, paintings and it’s egg cooker… so is more of a historical document than gallery space. But it is an interesting little place with some very nice artworks and some intriguing gadgets!
Back in the car, we let the dog out for another, brief walk (she looked a little perplexed to being told to get back in the car after such a brief exit). We then headed back towards town, Marta’s Mum dropped us off in town and we had a short walk in the sun and then went into a café/restaurant that used to be Marta’s favourite when she was younger. We ordered a couple of juices (I decided I needed the vitamin C, I think I am getting a cold!), and a pizza to share. It was a very good one with olives and capers and anchovies. However it turned out to be a bit of a mistake, because on our return home it turned out Marta’s Mum had been busy in the kitchen yet again and there was another HUGE spread on the table. Soup, potatoes, chicken, leftover goulash, more salad, and then when that had been gone over by us all there were cakes brought out! This weekend I have been well and truly stuffed and feel like I won’t eat for a week!
After another few hours spent eating (again), it was time to head back to Warsaw with Marta’s brother. The Clio’s heating system had been fixed so we didn’t have to drive with condensation all over the windows, but the seatbelts were still useless. We made it back to Warsaw safely though. Tomorrow (today) I leave for Krakow, I’m excited to be travelling again, but sad to leave Warsaw as I still think there is so much I haven’t seen!
So, I know that the Brits are famous for talking about the weather, but please forgive me this once.. Three seasons in as many days!??!?! Today was grey, drizzly and dull. The sunshine of yesterday was long forgotten and positively autumnal weather has taken over! The day before yesterday was winter, yesterday was summer, and today autumn, when is spring going to arrive!?!?!??!
Ehem….moving on… Because of today’s greyness I didn’t really have much incentive to leave the apartment, so I stayed in and did some work for a few hours and then at around 2:30 I left, I ate lunch in the flat in an attempt to reduce my costs and then caught the tram into town. I got of a stop or two before Centralny today and walked East, past various forms of architecture, new, old, decaying and decayed and found my way to Marszalkowska, the main traffic street in this part of the city. I just sort of wandered for a while, the drizzle hitting my face despite the umbrella. Eventually I found my way to Raster, one of the more independent and contemporary galleries in town. It is hidden a little way along Wspolna Street, number 63. They are currently showing a piece by Michał Budny called Zywica. He had spent some time installing the piece, playing with different compositions and designs of the space and has landed with a superbly minimal and interesting work. Sheets of polythene hang silently from the walls, a plastic covered square piece sits above the lintel like a clock, the noisy door opening and closing with a bang and screech. It was a work I couldn’t quite get hold of to begin with, I think because I have seen so many noisy and chaotic pieces lately, but I spent some time in the work and it began to evolve, and the atmosphere developed over time, people entering and leaving the space, the receptionists light keyboard tapping, the temperature.
After some time in the space I left and went back into the grey, drizzly day. The space seemed to reflect the grey, muffled silences that the drizzle creates in the city. I walked for a while back north east, towards the palm tree and the old town. After more little derives along streets and window shopping I headed to Zacheta, the contemporary art gallery for another attempt at getting in for the free thursdays (last week the gallery was shut). This week I did manage to get in, but only to see the new exhibition ‘7 Rooms’, by Rafał Milach. This is photography and stories of Russians born during the USSR period and their opinions and experiences comparing then to now. The show is fairly documentary, and does exactly what it says on the tin. The photographs are varied and some do have a great deal of beauty in them. The rest of the gallery would seem to still be shut. I presume they have a permanent collection, but there is a cordon up across the staircase and beady-eyed guards making sure no one makes it up. There is basically no information to say what exactly is going on though, so I can’t say when or even if the permanent collection will be back on show…
That done I decided I needed a sit down, I thought there might have been a cafe in the gallery but alas there is not. So I headed for the old town, walked past a cafe that looked OK but carried on in the hopes of a cozier looking place, but this never happened, so I came around in a loop and went back to the first place I had spotted. I took a seat and ordered a hot ginger, lemon and honey drink and sat and wrote on the back of a press release, trying to figure out the next step of my journey. A little while later, at around 6:45 I met up with Marta and we wandered to yet another part of Warsaw that I had still not discovered. This is the old Jewish district. There is one street that still has some of the old buildings that date back to before the war, and are still potted with bullet holes and some still have their old shop signs. The street, which is now ghostly and silent was once the bustling heart of the district and is now in ruins. The buildings had been left as some sort of document of the past, and also because of anyones reluctance to renovate, it seem that now there is some kind of work going on, one side of the street is blocked off by steel fencing and there is a crane and building materials dotted about. This place is also where they apparantly filmed The Pianist, the film about a Jewish man who managed to evade capture by hiding out in the Warsaw Ghetto. We went into a little cafe that sits on the end of one of the buildings, somehow managing to survive in the crumbling tenement block. Called Cafe Prozna (on Prozna street), this is a nice little place with wooden tables and chairs, though very modern in style. We ate some food, Marta had a sorrel soup whilst I had a tasty quiche with salad. I enjoyed the food though Marta wasn’t very impressed with her soup.
We then went for a walk in the dark, but multicoloured city lights, ending up in the original Wedel chocolate cafe. The walls are decorated with paintings and old photos, the building itself is capped with a big illuminated Wedel sign, so it is pretty hard to miss. I decided that it was dark enough and cold enough to justify having a hot chocolate with rum, whilst Marta had the traditional chocolate. She has lived in Warsaw for basically two years and this was her first time here!!! CRAZY! It is a nice little place, and the chocolate is really great. There was a very good helping of rum in mine and it did the perfect job, chocolate high with a rum filled edge… We sat there for a while chatting and talking about what Marta will do now she has resigned from her job and then we decided to walk around the city some more.
The drizzle had abated a little and we walked back towards Nowy Swiat. Then further East to outside of the Chopin Museum (today was his birthday and there are various things happening, many that seem to involve carrying around Polish flags…) The building is all lit up at night, like most of the famous and big buildings in the city. From there we walked across a footbridge and down a staircase and then down onto Dobra Street where we walked South towards the railway and tram bridge (Poniatowski Bridge), then along the side of this bridge, up the staircase and back into the city centre. We caught a tram home and got in around 11pm.
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.