We were late leaving the flat today, as Marta decided to have a bit of a spring clean. When we did leave it was time for a late lunch, so we headed out, into the freezing cold, and SNOWING (!) air, we jumped on the metro to central and headed for Kebab King. I had a huge craving for Falafel! So we went to the large branch of Kebab King on Jerozolimpskie and basically stuffed our faces, I had Falafel, Chips and then we both shared some Baklava for dessert! (One Pistachio and one Coconut sweet treats)
We got totally stuffed and then headed back outside. Whilst we had been inside eating the sun had been out, shining through the window, but, as sod’s law so often dictates, as soon as we left the rain and hail began beating down on us. We ran around the corner, cut through Empik and then waited for a bus from Foksal. We took the bus to the stop nearest to Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, the centre for contemporary art in Warsaw. We walked briskly here, the snowy hail was pouring down on us.
The main show that is on there at the minute is a semi-retrospective / archival project about the AKADEMIA RUCHU. entitled AKADEMIA RUCHU. CITY. The FIELD of ACTION. This charts the history of one of Poland’s most prolific and active arts collectives. They began life in the mid 70’s and have created numerous performative installations in public spaces ever since. The show charts pretty much every project they have ever conducted, through photography, film and text. It was really great to discover this group, who have made, and strive to make important, thought-provoking and enlightening work for their whole existence. This section of work on show at the centre took us quite a long while to tour around, so if you plan to go, definitely give yourselves time. The show ends in a small basement space where some more of their video documentation is shown and they are running a little tea stand, with free tea or coffee and a lucky dice roll to try and win a glass of wine (sadly me, nor Marta managed to roll the correct amounts to get any wine)… We did have a cup of tea and coffee though and sat and watched some more of the videos, and spoke to the guy serving the tea, who is a member of the Akademia Ruchu. There are apparently only 5 of them left now, there were 22 originally. It seemed a little odd to discover that, as I had walked around the show thinking that Akademia Ruchu was more organic than that and that maybe they had a membership that was constantly evolving across the years. It seems a shame that one day it will cease to exist…
The other parts of the building house two more exhibitions, one part is showing POSTDOCUMENT (they seem to enjoy capital letters here…) This is a show of photographs charting the Polish Transformation following the fall of the Soviet Empire from 1989. There are some really great photographs in this show, and some really interesting works and perspectives. Really worth seeing. We could have spent much longer in the show, walking around seeing everything in more detail, but we had spent so long in the first part that we were running out of time. The next part isn’t so interesting, a collection of Cognitive artworks from the CCA collection. There are some works from Yoko Ono and a work by Magdalena Abakanowicz.
After the shows we were both ready for home, so we walked in the cold air back to the Metro, Politechnika this time, via a shop to buy some juice. Then we hopped on the train home. Back home and we just chilled out basically, drinking some more tea via Marta’s wonderful new teapot and then headed to bed.
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!
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.
Tea 44: Dark Hot Chocolate, Wedel Cafe, Warsaw.
Today was a huge day of walking, I’ve no idea of how far I walked, but it was FAR! I left the flat, which is in the south of the city and wanted to head to this graveyard I had read about, and Evangelical place, in the North West of the city. This walk took me about an hour or so I think. Walking along the wide Woloska Street. Glass fronted buildings mixed in with unfinished constructions, mechanics, petrol stations. Trams buzzing up and down and cars hurtling past, the gentle rain fall melting the piles of snow into huge puddles, forcing you to walk in a zigzag up the street. I eventually reached a little park ‘Pole Mokotowskie‘, wandered around the icy patches and the puddles, a few people were walking their dogs, some taking their lives in their hands cycling over the ice. I walked through and found myself by a huge main road. Cars rushing past and the spray from the rain and melting snow going everywhere. I crossed the road and went through a little area of houses and woodland, a bit like some bits of Brighton in some way. The area is called Filtry and seems quite pretty and a bit artsy in places. finding my way through the small streets I got back onto another main road, Towarowa, this was a long long road, with loads of traffic and more mixed up buildings of various ages and uses. The low clouds obscuring the tops of various sky scrapers that dominate the sky line, the hazy rain fall softening the traffic noise and making everything seem grey and dark.
Eventually I made it to the graveyard. Although the first few gates I tried were locked, I almost gave up, thinking I had wasted my time walking all that way, but then I found the proper main entrance. The graves and tombs in this place are really crazy, so many of them squeezed into such a small place, but so many of them being huge structures. The amount of money and design that must have been poured into these things is totally unimaginable, it made me think that maybe whoever got buried there must of just left their fortune to their own grave! One tomb, which was just for one person, not even a family tomb like many, could have easily house a family of four! There is a great mixture though, some being very dour and sad with skulls and crossbones or weeping angels, others more unique and celebratory, a stone carved loosely into the image of a man and woman kissing, a great blue wave and a simple dry stone cave. I wandered for another 45 minutes or so; weaving in and out of the graves, gawking at the sheer expenditure in the place, something I find pretty incomprehensible: except the case for the potential of it all being the dead party’s last laugh.
Walking back East towards the town centre, along Zyntia and Nowolipie, then South onto Al. Jana Pawła II, I found a largish food market called Hala Mirowska. Fruit, veg, chicken, sausage, cake, all you could ever really want I suppose, if you looked hard enough. There were some great characters in there, dour faced women hunched over cauliflowers, merry butchers whistling and having a little dance whilst wielding their hatchet over chunks of meat.
Back onto Al. Jana Pawła II and I came across a small gallery called Galleria XX1. It was nice to be a little independent art space again, it feels like a while since I have seen something fresh and new. The show has various red and black constructions floating about in the space, one wall is covered by a huge black and white print of an old fighter plane wing, with more of the strange objects superimposed onto the image. There is another small space in the back of the gallery, which had an object installation, tall, human-scale grey structures. Looking something like a small, metallic henge. I couldn’t really figure out what they were made of, but metal and construction foam seemed to be involved. Back out onto the street again I decided I wanted to warm up a bit with a drink. So I headed to the Wedel cafe in the dreaded shopping centre. One more thing to add to the good reasons for their existence, the other being free use of the toilets…
I ordered the dark hot chocolate, Gorzka (meaning exactly that). The chocolate was rich and bitter, really great. You have to drink it using the little spoon provided unless you want to get you face covered in rapidly solidifying chocolate… It was pretty good, not too cheap, but worth it! Warmed up and a small chocolate high beginning in my cheeks I wandered around a little more. Then I walked back to Mokotowska, the area Marta works and met her after she had finished work.
We went for some food in a ‘Milk bar’, the place most Polish will go to eat, traditionally frequented by the poor or homeless these places are dotted throughout the city and are going through something of a renaissance. Called Bambino Bar, on Krucza Street, the food is good value, satisfying and traditional. We ordered from a little man behind a screen who handed us our receipt which we then handed to a woman through a kitchen hatch, who takes it and a little while later passes our food to us through the same hatch. We sat with our food and ate it up. I had barley ‘grits’, what the British would call ‘Pearls’ (to make it sound more appetizing and to charge more for it probably), a piece of broccoli (basically half of one ‘bulb[?]’), and some Pierogi Ruski (the Russian variety stuffed with cottage cheese and potato). These pierogi were MUCH better than the ones we had from the little touristy place in the old town. I would recommend going to a Milk Bar over that place any day.
We left the bar and then got on a old tram from the 60’s back home. But first via the post office, Marta had finally tracked down her parcel, which turns out to be a Holga Camera, she is very excited about getting it up and running, but first she needs to get batteries for the flash to work! We were going to go back into town to see the city in the darkness, but I’ve totally tired myself out!
So today I totally forgot to get the name of the place where I got my tea! I blame it on the biting cold adn the aching fingers. The cold is also to blame for the steamed up image, the lens on my camera totally steamed up and I didn’t want to wait for it to clear up before taking the photo…..
So, yes, today I headed first for the Old Town. Wrapped up as warm as possible I left the apartment and soon discovered that as warm as possible was most definitely NOT warm enough! I think today’s high temperature was -10, but I am fairly certain this was optimistic. It was the coldest day so far I think, I had icicles all over my face! And leather / suede, thick lined gloves are totally ineffective it would seem! On positive factor was the sunshine though, and the, albeit psychological, warmth it brought was very welcome. There also seemed to be tiny bits of snow, which has now turned into proper snow, floating about in the sky glinting in the sunlight like glitter, despite a seemingly cloudless sky.
It took me around 10-15 minutes to walk into the old town, through the pretty little Tammsaare Park and you are there. The ancient medieval gate towers at this entrance are very impressive. Then it’s up hill towards one of the three main churches that stand atop of the the hill. Winding cobbled streets weave a rabbit warren of multicoloured houses, cafes, restaurants and millions of souvenir shops. Make it to the top of the hill and you will probably arrive at the orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian built impressive and imposing looking building. I wandered inside to be quite shocked at just how small the place is. The inside space is tiny, magnificently decorated, but how they ever hold services in there I do not know. There were about four people in the place and it felt full! I only stayed in there a short while before heading back outside. I turned right out of the entrance and up a small street (ok, they’re all small) past what seemed to be a ballet school and a drama and music school then past another church and onto a viewing platform that looked out over the west of the city. Views of modern buildings mixed with modernist buildings mixed with the old, whilst factories billowed out smoke from chimneys into the clear blue sky.
I was now starting to get really cold, so I went in search of food. There are quite a few nice looking restaurants around the old town, and you can eat from many different country’s cuisines. After spending much too much time procrastinating, again the cold not helping brain function, I went into a deli whose shelves were filled with lovely looking things. I went for a Goats Cheese and Spinach lattice type thing and a cup of the above-mentioned tea. I sat down, took my gloves of and tried to move my fingers. They were so cold I could hardly hold my tea it felt so hot. Eventually they warmed up and I drank it up, it was nice a mellow, not too acidic with the fruit and the right flavours to warm the cockles! By the time I had finished my Spinach thing and was thinking about leaving the girl from behind the counter came out and started putting discount stickers on some of the cakes… So clearly I took that as a sign I should stay and have one. I treated myself to a Sacher (or Sachertorte as research has now found out), a traditional Austrian cake which basically consists of chocolate cake, apricot jam and then a layer of chocolate to cover it all up. It was delicious!!! The perfect thing to get me back into the frame of mind to face the outside.
I was now heading back east to KUMU, the art museum, to hang around there until 6, when a documentary about Olaffur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls project was being screened. The gallery is an amazing building. Shaped and lit really well. It basically goes chronologically through time showcasing numerous works by Estonian artists. Many of the pieces are really great and for the first time in a long time I am once again enjoying looking at classical painting. I think it may be down to the fact that most of these artists, if not all, are completely unknown to me, and also just their subject matter, and their motivations are different from the more western European styles, although they do clearly have the same influences and come from similar schools. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it is nice to be able to enjoy looking at these things again. The top floor is currently showcasing works by various contemporary Danish artists, some of which is really very good, other’s not so good. A noteworthy has to be Jacob Kirkegaard, whose video and sound installation is excellently executed, completely enthralling. I also enjoyed the work of Rolf Notowny and Marie Kølbæk Iversen. After a few hours spent wandering around in there, and only just realising I had missed a large space, though I wasn’t too keen on the work, so it wasn’t so bad, it was time for the film. The auditorium was packed, but i guess that’s what happens when you show a film by an artist like Eliasson. The film entitled ‘Olafur Eliasson: Space is Process’ was good, charting the ups and downs of his planning, developing and eventual execution of his project to change the new york city environment and to create ‘one more story for the city’. It was intriguing to see into the world, and to some extent, the life of such a well respected and prolific artist.
Ingrid and I then visited Kom Pot, a lovely little restaurant serving traditional but modern fayre, in a lovely space, filled with jars of their own compote (I’m assured a traditional Estonian foodstuff and pastime), light fittings made from graters and colanders, clocks from spoons and forks, and a feature sofa area dolled up like a Soviet 50’s household. The food was really good, I had a traditional Estonian meatball dish with Beetroot salad and sea-buckwheat sauce, whilst Ingrid had another dish consisting mostly of pork crackling and mash-potato, but it was very tasty despite how it sounds. For dessert I had a great compote dish with Kama Mousse. Kama is basically the Estonian equivalent to porridge I think, but as a mousse it was very tasty and the mixture of fruits in the compote was delightful!