Day 68 – 70, Warsaw, March 17th – 19th 2012

Tea 70: Turkish coffee, Cafe Adi, Warsaw (imagine a coffee house just to my left in this photograph!)

Saturday, a beautiful sunny day, with proper warmth in the air!  It was a really lovely day, like summer had just popped up to say hello!  I spent the day wandering around the city, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air.  Marta and I ended up back in Cafe Vincent, we had planned to go to the is fish place called Top Fish, but it was full with people, like most places.  We were really lucky with Cafe Vincent, managing to nab a seat as some people left.  I had a really great Salami and Mozzarella baguette and some orange juice.  It was very good, one of those baguettes with proper substance to them, nice and chewy, and warmed up a bit too.  We scoffed those down and then carried on our sunny walk.

We walked and then sat in the university grounds on a bench in the sunshine for a while, until some neddy characters turned up and decided to stare at us until we decided to leave, what is with some people some times, they are just out to spoil other people’s enjoyment, I have never understood that.  Anyway, we started to wander again, then bought a cartoon on Green Grapefruit Juice and went to sit by the river.  The bank has large steps built onto parts of it and there were loads of people out enjoying the sunshine.  It was a lovely atmosphere, people buzzing up and down on their bicycles and rollerblades.  We sat there for a while until it started to get a bit cold as the sun went down and then we attempted to go home.  This took us aaaaages!  We got on a tram, then, with the intention of speeding up or journey home, got off at the Metro stop and went down to the platform.  What a mistake, engineering works were happening which meant we could only get a train two stops, then we had to get off, get another train another two stops, from the opposite platform, then get off again and go home.  This whole fiasco took about two hours in the end!  There was loads of confusion about which platform to be on and when and why.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone, I think I would of ended up in Siberia or something!

Sunday, and another great sunny day.  I went to the flea market up at Kolo, on Obozowa street.  This was full of stuff, much of it bric-a-brac and junk, but it was a good experience, lots of good faces and banter going on.  I bought a little badge that the stall holder described as junk, which it probably is, but then, aren’t all badges really??  We walked up and down the stalls for a while.  I took a few photographs, and was glad that I hadn’t photographed one stall, as I saw a girl trying to and then the stallholder come bowling towards here waving his arms at her camera in anger.  That was a lucky escape, for me, and for her camera which remained intact.

We then met up with Carolina again, and her boyfriend, another Michael from Scotland (though this one was born and bred).  We then headed to the Jewish Cemetery, where Marta was meeting a friend.  Her friend is part of a scheme that is currently trying to clean up and restore parts of the cemetery as it is in a rather sorry state.  The place is really massive though, so it is little surprise.  We wandered around the graves for a while, it is reminiscent of the graveyard in Krakow, although much much larger and there is a little bit more space between the gravestones.  The sun was still shining down, and a small breeze was waving the tall, thin tree trunks gently back and fourth.  The place is very peaceful, and in the sunshine very serene.

After a while there, meeting Marta’s friend and talking and her showing us some of her favourite and some of the most famous stones, we left and went to get something to eat, sadly just some fast food in the Arcadia shopping mall.  Then we got a tram to the New Town area, and walked south into the old town, people watching, the other Michael taking cheeky pictures of girls who took his fancy, a 50/50 mix of people who seemed flattered and some who were less so, and a few that pretending to be annoyed but with a rye grin on their faces.  We ended up in BrowArmia, a pub that brews it’s own beers and has a terrible live singer stuck in the window, in a vain attempt to draw in more punters.  If I were them I would stick to radio warsaw….

A nice half litre of Stout drunk and we left, wandering towards central.  Carolina and Michael jumped on a tram home and Marta and I walked around the city a while longer.  We found this interesting little place called V9, a sort of artists space, mostly for graffiti artists it would seem.  Then we carried on our walk and finally headed back home.

Monday, I spent the morning at home then left and went to the city, I am still thinking about the bicycle travel plan, but can’t quite figure it out in my head just yet.  But I had another look at a few bikes.  Then got drawn into a bookshop by the window display of books about chinese tea.  Then I found myself in Cafe Adi.  I ordered a Turkish coffee and sat down.  There were only a few other people there.  One appeared to be the owner, a big Turkish man who was definitely the patriarch of the place.  The waitresses, yep, all girls, seemed to be at his beck and call.  One even had to go out and clean the inside of his car window!  But it all seemed fairly light hearted and they seemed to know how to deal with him.  The coffee was really good.  Much better than the Israeli coffee I had in Krakow.  The flavours of the spices were properly there and the coffee was thick and rich.  I sat for a while, writing and thinking.  The sun was pouring through the window, making you forget about the wind that was lashing the awnings and forcing the door shut with a huge slam a few times, even with a rock the size of my head holding it open!

I drank up my coffee, then walked slowly back to the city centre, got on the metro at Politechnika and went back to the flat.

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Day 52, Warsaw, March 1st 2012

Tea 52: Not tea, Hot Chocolate with Rum! Original Wedel Chocolate Cafe, Warsaw

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.


Day 43, Warsaw, February 21st 2012

Tea 43: Japonska Wisnia (Green Cherry), Marta and Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw.

Today was a good long day of walking and sightseeing.  I took the Metro two stops past Centrum to Ratusz Arsenal.  This is the nearest stop to the old town (I think).  I left the station and took yet another guess at what direction to go, used the sun as a reference to what way was east and west.  I made it successfully to the Old Town and hunted out a Tourist Information to raid the free maps.  The one that Marta had bought the other day is good, but is massive and really conspicuous to carry around, I much prefer one you can slip in and out of your back pocket.  I wandered to the old town square where a good tourist information is, with a good selection of maps and guides in every language imaginable, and maps and guides in hand I went back out of the old town to the tomb of the unknown soldier.  This is a ceremonial heart of memorial for all the lost soldiers in the wars and is guarded constantly by two soldiers, guns in hand, a fire burning to keep them from freezing to death.  There is a small park behind the tomb with an impressive switched off fountain and various sculptures of goddesses, Venus, Art, Justice etc etc, there are a few without titles which I found a little odd, and tried to figure out what they were but failed.  The ice was thick on the ground, still solid with no sign of it shifting any time soon.

I wandered around that part of town for a while, the huge Soviet ‘Sofitel’ hotel mirrored across the huge open, parade type, square by the more modern glass fronted building, that looks to be offices.  I headed towards the hotel to the front of another building, which turned out to be the Zachęta National Gallery of Art.  I didn’t go inside as I am planning that for thursday when, hopefully, entry will be for free.  So I turned back and went to the Old Town side of the square, by the statue of Józef Klemens Piłsudski, which stares down on it’s audience with a dour and stern look on it’s face.

I then decided to go back to the tea house I had seen.  It is a Demmers Tea House, which turns out to be an Hungarian company.  I didn’t stay to drink inside, but instead chose to look through the teas smell a couple and make a purchase.  This I did, I picked Japonska Wisnia, a delicate green tea, Sencha I think, with cherry.  The smell of cherry is quite strong, but the flavour less so, which makes the tea very interesting and a good sensation to taste.  One of those teas where you can decide what to concentrate on, smell or taste, without either of them becoming the focus.  I also bought an intriguing sounding Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  This will be reviewed next I am pretty sure.  It smells great!  Purchases made using a good mix of broken English and Polish I decided to head towards the river.  I went down this looping road that is still directly in line with the tomb and the Piłsudski statue.

The road has got this great big yellow bridge over it, with two tunnels through it, traffic goes one way through one and the other through the next.  There is are big sculptures lining the bridge, a mermaid stands on top looking down onto the passers with a threatening look and wielding a sword.  Behind her a bearded man’s face looks out, I can’t totally giure out if it is meant to look like it has been chopped off of it’s body, but that is what it looks like to me…  the mermaid is the emblem of Warsaw and there are many of them dotted about over the city.  Walking beneath the bridge, a little shrine set up to something, I headed for the river.  Making it there I walked past this amazing green glass building, but one that is not brand-new.  It looks like a huge greenhouse, and I thought maybe it was a public building or museum, but I don’t think it is, I think it is just offices.  But an amazing building.  The street was lined with coaches, loads of them.  I think this is because a little further down is the Copernicus Science Centre, or Centrum Nauki Kopernik.  This is housed in a modern building, it’s facade covered by lots of bits of metal in various tones of reddish-brown.

Walking past the Science Centre and then to the corner of the street I made the decision not to cross the river today so I turned right instead, past a hodge-podge of old, middle-aged and new buildings.  One very old building still appearing to bear the scars of some battle, bullet holes peppering it’s front.  I have read that this isn’t such a rare thing to see in Warsaw, so I’m pretty sure they are relics from WW2.  I then turned left onto Dobra Street, meaning ‘Good’ Street.  In front of me was a great sight, two old grey arching bridges loomed over the road, one being seen through the arch of the other.  They both carry trains I think and are huge and heavy looking.  I walked beneath them, with a short diversion into a supermarket, and then I walked along the edge of the biggest of the two, arch after arch leading up to the city centre.  Part of the bridge looks like it was once going to be developed into something, bare concrete blocks making rooms and spaces, with concrete staircases leading between floors.  It has now been taken over by graffiti artists and skateboarders.  A strange construction, I can not imagine how it was intended to look and how it would of ever looked right sitting between the legs of the bridge.  A long, tall, covered and graffitied staircase leads back up to the main town.  At the top of the staircase is the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, or Polish War Museum, this is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the outside area is still open and you can freely wander amongst aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and missile launchers.  If that is your cup-of-tea.  Some of the stuff is pretty impressive and the size of some of the rocket launchers, and their rockets, is quite a scary thought…

I left the ‘war garden’ and went back to the centre of town.  I walked through Waszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) Train Station then back out and into the big new shopping centre.  The roof of this place is the most interesting part, made up of thousands of glass triangles the roof flows like the surface of an undulating sea.  The bluish glass reflecting the sky.  That’s about all I have to say about this place, it’s a shopping centre, we all know what they are like…

It was getting quite late now so i decided that I would head back to the apartment, so I got onto the Metro at Centrum and went back.  I rested my feet for a while, managed to get the internet to work on my laptop and then went out to buy some food, I had said I would cook tonight.  Successfully find a supermarket (though not the one I was looking for), I bought some pasta, Broccoli, Chorizo, Garlic and a couple of bottles of Zubr, a Polish beer.  Back home, Ania had got back to the flat whilst I had been away so we chatted a little and I began to make food for the evening, Marta was out until around 8:30pm.

Food eaten, Beer drunk, Marta and Ania decided to make a banana-chocolate cake.  No cinnamon in the house, Marta popped out to the shop and came back with that and a couple more beers, this time a honey beer Ciechan Miodowe, another Polish made one.  Sweet and tasty, I would definitely recommend it for those of you that enjoy honey.

Beer drunk, cake eaten, a quick cup of tea and it was time to sleep again!