Graveyards and Abandoned Hospitals.

Another roasting hot day was met with gusto as we headed out into the city centre.  We had arranged to meet up with two couchsurfers who were visiting Warsaw for a few days and were looking for good, vegan food. I recommended the brilliant Lovin’ Hut on Jana Pawla II, and they kindly invited us to join then for a spot of lunch.  The food has never disappointed me there, and it still hasn’t, though I did have to have a second choice because the first was sold out (quick tip, get there early if you want to a chance to sample something from the whole menu).  This time I had ‘Teriyaki Island”, and it was very very good as usual, the soy dressing is really well done, and their little rice piles perfect for the size of dish.  I would recommend this place to absolutely anyone, no matter what your diet or eating preference, even the strictest carnivore can’t fail to be impressed or satisfied here!

After lunch we went our separate ways and Marta and I headed to the Jewish Graveyard, to see it in the sunlight, and hopefully to cool down.  The place was really beautiful in the sunshine and the trees made the light dappled and beautiful, as well as making the temperature bearable.  The biggest problem however was the abundance of hungry mosquitos, baying for our blood.  But we just about survived, though the next day my legs looked like someone had filled them with pink ping pong balls!  (toothpaste and lemon seem to be doing the trick at keeping the itching down a bit though)

We jumped on a tram, intending to head straight home, but stopped off in the city centre and ended up inside the old children’s hospital on Jerozolimskie, ‘Szpital Omega’.  This is slowly being turned into artist’s studios and there is access to the building thanks to a tiny boutique that has opened up on the 3rd floor.  The whole building is pretty accessible if you don’t mind the piles of rubble lying around and we had a good old snoop throughout the place, which has got some creepy stuff still kicking about. The picture above is of the old oxygen cabinet, and there are some more photos below, which gives you a bit of an idea of how cool it is to explore this place, before it all gets neatened up.

Tired and sleepy we headed back home to enjoy the cool flat and some nice cups of tea.  I have, at long last, got myself a bag of normal green Mate, which is very very welcome at all times of the day and a good change from the roasted one that I have been drinking lately. I do wish I had brought my Bombilla from home though, the ones in Warsaw are all rather expensive. That’s exoticism in Poland for you!

A really amazing tombstone, possibly my favorite!

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Day 29, Tartu, February 7th 2012

Tea 29: Cactus-Fig Green Tea, a cafe, Tartu.

So, a belated post once more.  Had a night out last night, which seems to be becoming a theme with the day before I leave a place, and  I’m quite enjoying that.

Yesterday I met up with Emily, another couch surfer who is currently taking a similar route to me, though with a one or two day time difference.  I met her first at a meal and couch surfing event in Tallinn, and then said I would give her a little guided tour of Tartu, because, after two days here, I’m pretty much an expert…(of the town centre anyway).  We met in the town square at mid-day then went to Tartu’s main church to have a look around and because Emily had heard there was some music being played there.  It turned out to be a short organ rehearsal / recital.  The church is quite interesting, mostly for it’s sparseness.  It’s gone through a lot in it’s time.  Left to go to rack and ruin, burning down, all the usual.  It has only really recently been restored, and it looks as though they still have work to do.  I think it is the 2000 or so terracotta heads and sculptures that are getting the most attention.  They have all been hand sculpted and fired.  Many of the figures are unknown, and are thought to be representations of the residents of Tartu at the time of the church’s building.

After that we went back to the apartment where Emily dropped her stuff and then we sat for a while to warm up and have a cup of tea.  Then it was back into town.  We went around the newer end of town for a while, visiting various food markets that we had hoped would be vibrant and colourful and exciting, but they are all pretty simple and normal.  Local markets for local people! By the time we had done that it was about 2pm and I was getting hungry, so we went back into the old town and visited a simple, inexpensive cafe for soup, and then tea and some chocolate…. of course.  The tea was another variety of Cactus tea, this time Cactus-Fig Green Tea.  It was nicer than the last Cactus tea I tried, a bit more delicate and smooth.

After a while chatting and sitting about, a bit of people watching too, we went for a walk.  I finally managed to find the sacrificial stone and we wandered mostly around bits I’ve seen in the past few days. One new thing was the Handicrafts guild building, basically a building with studios for glass making, pottery, hat making, dolls.  All sorts of little things.  In the summer time this place is much more vibrant I am told, with street stalls and activities in the pretty courtyard at the rear of the building.  After cooling down considerably yet again, we went to Werner cafe, my second visit.  We sat there for a couple of hours until around 6 when we were meant to meet up with a couple of other people active in the couch surfing community here.  Unfortunately they were both running a little late, so we decided to go BACK to Werner cafe once again and wait for them there, and also to buy some food.  I went for a lovely seafood ristotto, just the right size portion and a good mix of seafoods.  Tasty.  When the two others had arrived we sat a chatted for a while, before moving on to a bar.  I don’t know the name of the place, but it was a shot bar, and we arrived in time for the happy hour, 25% off all shots.  So we got a few different cocktail mixed shots and the night began.  After happy hour was over we moved on to another bar, Möku.  This is the smallest bar in Tartu, down in a small basement space, it had a good atmosphere and some nice beers on sale.  I went for a good Estonian Chocolate Porter.  It was very good, though not to the liking of the others it seemed.  After that we then headed to THE bar in Tartu, according to one of our group.  This seems to be the sort of student bar, with various deals on beers and, usually a pretty buzzing atmosphere.  Unfortunately this was a Tuesday night, in the winter, and still before midnight.  But it was a good laugh none-the-less and we sat over one last beer chatting and laughing until we all decided that it was getting late, more travel for me today, work for one and Uni for the other.  It was a good night though, and good to meet some more new people.


Day 16, Helsinki, January 25th 2012

Tea 16: Flunssan Nujertaja (The Cold Cruncher), Cafe Java, Helsinki.

Today was another snowy day and my earliest start so far.  I was in town for around 11a.m, though I did experience my first snow related train delay today. A few minutes only, pretty impressive considering the amount of snow and the rather balmy -7’C….  I was meeting up with a person I met on Couchsurfing who had offered to show me around a bit of the city.  I met her in the train station and we went for a little bit of lunch in the university cafeteria.  I had a satisfying portion of Elk medallions.  They were pleasant, a lot milder in flavour than I had expected.  But the portion was good and set me up well for the rest of the day.  We then took the Metro to Kaapeli (The Cable Factory), where I had been the night before.  We visited the photography museum there, which was unfortunately half shut, but that did mean we got into what was open for free, my favourite price!  There was an interesting exhibtion of self portraits from various groups there, as well as a small exhibition that was mostly about the development of human rights.  We then browsed around the small bookshop and headed back out into the cold air.  We took a tram towards the old town and wandered along Kalevankatu and stopped off in a small Greek cafe called Cafe Delicato where we both had a lovely hot chocolate, and Ella had a slice of expensive but tasty looking blueberry cheesecake.  We sat and chatted for a good long while about life, learning, traveling, mono-brow parties and boob inspired pizza before braving it out into the cold weather once more.

We wandered around the old town a little more, occasionally lifting our heads from the inside of our jacket to take in views of the rather beautiful architecture around this area. Yellow townhouses line the streets with sweet windows and pointy rooftops.  The weather seemed to have gotten even colder though so we didn’t stay outside for long, but got onto another tram back into the city centre.  We headed for Cafe Java, which my guide for the day had assured me did a lovely tea, the Cold Cruncher.  And she was right.  The tea was just the ticket, warm and soothing with lemon, honey, ginger and a spiced Rooibos tea all in perfect balance.  It was the perfect answer to such cold weather.  I was made even better with the addition of a good slice of apple strudel cake on the side.  Today was definitely one of those made for sitting in cafes watching the world go by, and observing all the cold people outside rather than being one of them.  My guide, Ella, was an interesting and funny character with a smiling face and plenty of good stories.  She seems to have lived, visited or travelled through pretty much every country in Europe.  Another boost to the confidence levels for the continuation of my travels!