A wee jaunt to dusty sneezy Katowice

This post is pretty picture heavy, which is kind of a surprise because, in reality, it seemed to me that there was really very little to see or do in poor old Katowice.  The city is pretty shabby and is all over the place, something which is not helped by the rebuilding of the railway station and some of the tram lines in the ‘city centre’ (in inverted commas because it is actually quite hard to tell exactly where the city centre is…)

We stayed at a friend of Marta’s.  An old flat that she had inherited and has sat mostly empty for the past six years, meaning it is full of dust and causing some major allergic nasal floods the whole time we were there.  I spent most of Saturday and Sunday wandering around the city in the sweltering heat, it was a rather exotic 34’C!  Thank goodness for Biedronka and giant cartons of Ice Tea, and their delightful portions of chocolate halva (extremely dangerous)!!

The city isn’t a complete bore though, there are some interesting buildings, from every era, starting with the old German-Bavarian mansions, to the huge UFO of a concert hall from the 1970’s right up to the library building, which seems to be carrying on the tradition of being plonked right in the middle of where you would least expect it to be.

The city is, on the whole a rather poor place, and there are plenty of rather dodgy looking characters unafraid to eye-up your camera and back pockets, but it does definitely have it’s interesting bits that are worth visiting, though try and avoid the hottest days of the year!

Oh, and the trams are a bit like being on a scary rollercoaster (scary because you could fall off the tracks at any point…)

Hot-Dog?  Bon Appetit!

Close Encounters?

The library building

Beware of fire-tailed Goats?


Day 58, Krakow, March 7th 2012

Tea 58: Lemo Mate, the Apartment, Krakow.

The sun and it’s warmth came back today, gladly (though I hear it’s not to last, again).  I left the apartment and walked in the sunshine to the river, the Wisla.  I walked past the big helium balloon and crossed the bridge.  I then turned south, towards the sun and following the rivers edge.  As i walked the bells of three churches all began to ring for 12 o’clock.  Though it would seem they are all have about 20 – 30 seconds of difference between them.  Maybe this is on purpose so that they can all get a fair share of the attention.  The big white church next to me was  the last to chime, it’s big bells clanging about with great passion.

I continued along the river, then crossed the blue arched bridge to a part of town that could still be part of Kazimierz district, or it could be part of Podgorze district… There I wandered up a staircase to a small park dedicated to Wojciech Bednarski, a polish educator, councillor and activist from the 19th – 20th Century.  The park is small but has a nice feel, with lots of trees and a large cliff at the far side, which has a wall built on the top of it that looks to be a fort of some kind.  I sat there in the sunshine for a while, then left out of another entrance / exit. There was this huge old house at opposite the entrance which looked like something out of a fairytale, with a great roof and cornicing and a turret.  I then walked back down the hill and onto a town square which has a large intricately decorated church at one end, that basically backs onto the little park I was in.  I wandered down the main street, with its old buildings and their great old signs and facias.

After a while of weaving in and out of the streets, trying to keep in the warm sunshine, I made it back across the water and into Kazimierz proper.  I wandered around a little more, walked up Mostowa Street and onto another little square, then along Jozefa street, where there is a tea house I have read about, I didn’t visit it today, but have found it so I know where it is when I am ready (probably tomorrow)!  I then continued east, went under a tiny little bridge with the railway going over the top and found myself outside the large Jewish cemetery called Nowy Cmentarz Zydowski.  I went in, began to walk amongst the hundreds and thousands of gravestones that fill this place.  There is such a concentration of graves in this place, like I have never seen before.  There are even tombs lining the pathways and they are so tightly packed that you can see where paths used to be, but which are now totally taken over by graves.  The place is in quite bad disrepair, which is a shame, some of the stones were once very beautiful but have suffered terribly, probably largely due to the various wars.  After a while amongst the stones I left, walked north and found myself in another food market, with people milling about getting their fruit and veg. Walking out of the market I found myself at a large old bridge, built in the middle of the 19th Century, which marks the start of Dietla street.  Walking down, still in the beautifully warm sunshine (though I still needed a hat and gloves) I then went back into Kazimierz, and found this little cafe I had walked past a little while earlier, called Mostowa artcafe, named after the street it is on and the art on the walls.  I ordered a coffee (I needed the caffeine, the cold is still keeping me under it’s influence), and some olives and sat for a good hour or so writing and just staring out of the window onto the street outside.

After that I left, and walked back to the little square called Plac Wolnica, with the Krakow Ethnography Museum on one side.  I decided I hadn’t been in a museum for a while now and that I would visit this one.  It’s fairly simple, with examples of old tools, traditional costume and reconstructions of houses and rooms.  The usual stuff you find in such a museum.  The best thing about this place was the photographs.  There are loads and loads of old photographs (all reproductions) that are really great, so many faces and characters that say so much more than an outfit or old hammer in a glass case.

A while was spent in there, keeping warm, the temperature had begun to drop when I left the cafe.  Then back out, the sun had begun to set and I wandered back to the river, via a supermarket, and this time instead of crossing straight over I decided to walk north, towards the Jubilat shopping centre, with it’s red neon sign reflecting in the water.  The sky was turning a wonderful orange colour as the sun got lower and fuller.  People were milling about on the rivers edge, rollerblading, cycling, taking photographs and being romantic, even a man walking his horse!  I made it around to the next bridge and walked over it and then weaved through the streets of Debniki district until I found myself home again.  Attempting to get into the building by asking the concierge to let me through the door descended into humorous chaos as I attempted a tiny bit of Polish and then got my tongue all twisted, but eventually we managed to communicate and I got back into the building.


Day 55, Radom, March 4th 2012

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!


Day 54, Radom, March 3rd 2012

Tea 54, Green tea with prickly pear and lemon, including Krupnik, Marta’s Mum’s House, Radom

Today was a beautiful day, glorious sunshine beaming down, with real warmth in it.  The shadows were still cold though, and there was the occasional gust of a chilly wind.  We just walked around Radom today, seeing the old town, which is unfortunately in a bit of a state in places, wooden beams literally stopping many buildings from collapsing.  I am told that the old town is going to be renovated and repaired this year though, so hopefully that will happen because it is already charming, and with a bit of TLC could be very beautiful.

We first wandered through a little park, with a sculpture of Chopin and a funny little castle that is now a public toilet in the middle of it.  Next to it is a bizarre little sight, rather than a play ground for kids they have an exercise ground, with a cross trainer / stepper type thing, a bench and chest press thing, all sorts of stuff, including a table tennis table.  It’s quite nice because the kids still have fun playing around and climbing all ovet the stuff, whilst the adults can probably have a good time too, if they aren’t too shy to exercise in front of the whole town, which is small enough for everyone to probably know everyone… There is also a rather large and unusually sculpture of a guy called Kochanowski, I can’t remember exactly what he is famous for, but I think he was a poet, and has a bit of a sad history concerning his daughter, who was apparently some sort of child prodigy but died very young.  The sculpture is good, but the figure is adopting the most bizarre pose I think I’ve ever seen!

Out of the park and down the high street, looking at the people, the entrance ways and arches to some of the old buildings.  We accidently locked ourselves into one of the little courtyards but were rescued a little while later when a lady wanted to come in at the time we were trying to get out!  More explorations found us a little old building that was once a printers shop.  This old brick building had a thing over the door stating 1818, which I presume to be it’s original building date, and it looks it.  It is in semi ruins now, but is a very interesting building and I hope it gets saved by someone.

In to the old town, we wandered into the grounds of a Benedictine church, a few brown robed monks milling about, the sun shining down on the well kept lawn and shrubs.  More meandering brought us past another church, the original church of the old town, and then into the old town square, a vast, empty space, in need of a bit of life and improvement, which will undoubtedly arrive at some point.  At the moment it is a minimalist’s dream.

We then wandered out of the old town, to the Galeria (shopping centre) which has pretty much singlehandedly brought the blight that the town centre is suffering into being.  Despite this we were on a hunt for a gift for Marta’s Mum, for her birthday, which is on Sunday.  We found what she was after, or had been instructed to get by her sister and brother and then wandered back in the sunshine towards home.

We had intended to pop home and then go out again, but when we got back Marta’s Mum had prepared a huge spread of salad and soup and chicken and her Dad had made a wild boar goulash!  He is a hunter, and despite my reservations to this fact and my preference to veg over meat, the goulash was very good.  Mashed Potatoes with Dill, Carrot and Sauerkraut.  It was a proper feast, and for this reason we did not make it back out into the town, the food was so non-stop that we spent the whole afternoon eating and drinking!  The drinking went a fair way, starting with a local (ish) beer and then wine and then onto the spirits…!  Krupnik is a honey liquor, pretty strong and fragrant, but good.  There was also a vodka that Marta’s Dad had infused with quince.  Basically there was A LOT!  To freshen up a little Marta and I took her dog Etna for a walk around the park, then we came home and watched a film, one of my favourites ‘True Romance’, with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.


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 51, Warsaw, February 29th 2012

Tea 51:  Green Sencha with Prickly Pear, Orange Peel & Lemongrass, Ogrody, Old Town Warsaw

What a difference a day makes!  Today was the most gloriously sunny and beautiful day, all of yesterday’s snow had melted away and it was genuinely warm!  Today was a day filled with cafes.

The day started with a little trip around town with Ania, for her to do some errands and things like that.  We went into the old town, where Ania needed to do some photocopying for her teaching job.  whist she did that I explored the little cobbled streets and old buildings and this pretty park with the sun shining down, the back of a grand looking church towering over from the top of the hill.  After about 20minutes Ania returned and we decided to go to this cafe called Ogrody, meaning garden in Polish apparently.  The cafe is clean and modern with a nice chilled out atmosphere, in the summer time they apparently have tables and chairs out on the little square on which the cafe sits.  I had a really tasty salad and a pot of Green Sencha tea with Prickly Pear and Orange Peel and Lemongrass.  It was very good, fresh leaves in the pot smelt sweet and fruity whilst the tea itself was delicate and smooth.  After a while sitting there enjoying the sunshine we headed back into the old town, then Ania decided we should go back into the city centre to find another place that she enjoys.

We took a bus and then waited for a tram from Centrum which took us to the pretty little roundabout with the white church.  There we found another cafe that Ania really likes.  Called Charlotte it is another fairly modern place, full of young professionals and mothers-to-be.  The staff are all about 12 years old with surfer-waxed hair or bohemian looks in their eyes.  The place is very nice though, the bread is all baked fresh, you can see the bakers working away behind the counter, flour filling the air, sun rays pouring through it from the huge windows.  We sat in one of the windows, on some bar stools and watched as traffic and people milled about outside, people sitting on the terrace in the sunshine with their coffee and cigarettes.  The cafe has all of those classic cafe sounds, spoons clinking the edge of the cups as the sugar is poured in, people chatting and laughing, tearing their bread or crunching their croissant.  The sun was warm on our faces, the disbelief at the gloriousness of the day compared to yesterday still the main topic of conversation.  We sat there for a while, also stirring our coffee or crunching our croissant.  I took some photos of people through the window, of the zebra-crossing which was empty one second and the next being jam packed with people trying to cross the road.

After a while Ania had to head home so I took her to the tram stop and saw her off, then I went to wander around in the sunshine before I met up with Marta.  It is mad how much more stuff you notice when you aren’t hunched over yourself trying to keep warm.  A straight back means you can look up at all the amazing sculptures that sit atop of all the buildings, staring down at all of the people below.  I literally just walked up and down the streets, enjoying the sunshine and noticing things that I hadn’t before.  Then it was time to go and meet Marta, she resigned from her job today so wanted to go for a drink after work.

We met at her office and then walked into the centre, taking an elongated route, along Kruzca for a bit, then down onto Mokotowska and along for a while, staring in shop windows and some beautiful entrance halls to tenement apartments.  We then got onto Nowy Swiat, walked along a bit and turned off, behind the street is a little area of bars and a few boutique shops.  Mostly bars though, all decorated in different styles but more or less doing the same thing.  We picked one filled with a mix-match of old furniture and dark decor.  We ordered a pitcher of beer for a bargain happy-hour price of 15Zloty, about £3!  We sat, drank, chatted for a couple of hours or so and then we left, walked along past the Sheraton Hotel, Parliament buildings, the embassy buildings, and that area of town then I dropped Marta off at her friends apartment, where she was heading for more drinks, and I took the tram home, ate a good helping of the leftovers from yesterdays soup and some Pierogi, then sat for a while doing worky things and went to bed!


Day 47, Warsaw, February 26th 2012

Tea 47: Mad Hatter‘s Tea, Herbaciarnia Dziela Zebrane, Warsaw

Today was another major work day, the residency I am running in the summer, Hello Collective Summer Studio, went open to applications today, so 6 hours was spent on Skype getting all the posts sorted out and started to be advertised.  Anyone interested? Click here.

By the early evening I was finished and so Marta and I went out for a couple of hours into the city centre.  We made it to the tram stop fine, but a couple of stops later the rain began to fall.  Luckily enough I had managed to remember the umbrella so by the time we got off, at Nowolipki, with the rain still falling we had a little shelter as we seeked out the tea house we were heading for.  Herbaciarnia is situated in the arches below the church on Nowolipki street.  It is only open at the weekends and only from 6:30pm – 11pm.  The space is cozy and dark.  Red bricks with Toulouse-Lautrec and Mucha prints dotted over the place, old furniture and TVs from the 50’s and 60’s.  We found a little recess with a sofa and a low table and looked through the teas.  They have lots of options, many of them mixes of floral and fruity stuff, and also a list of core ingredients for you to create your own bespoke tea experience.  We ordered a couple of teas, initially Wisniowy Sad and Miraze Robinsona, all the teas are named after famous books.  The first was with cherries and raisins and rum flavouring, the second was with mango, orange, sunflower petals and strawberry.  The guy took our order, although seemed to laugh at our indecision over cake and pie… We went back to our sofa and a little while later the guy came over and suggested we would like to try a different tea, to swap the Wisniowy Sad for a tea called something like ‘Herbata u Kapelusznika’, basically Mad Hatter’s Tea.  This had Hibiscus, cherry, raisins, rum, apple in it at least.  It was good and the hibiscus gave it a lovely sweetness, I’ve not had hibiscus tea to aaaaages so it was nice to have it again.  We stayed in there for hours, the tea pots were HUGE and we must have got through about 2 liters of tea.  They were reasonably priced too, and if you don’t want a whole pot you can order it by the cup instead.

Leaving the cafe after our long stay the church must have been holding mass or something, as we had arrived we could hear singing, and as we left everyone else was leaving too.  We walked in the rain for a while, taking shelter under the buildings that line Jana Pawla II street.  Then we decided we were a little hungry so we went into a little turkish kebab place with interesting decor (see panoramic photo).  I had this tasty Courgette patty in a wrap with salad and spicy sauce, and Marta had a classic mixed meat wrap thing.  They were tasty and very satisfying, especially with the rain pouring down outside and the car lights reflecting through the spray from the road.

We ate up, got on the tram and came back home.