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 71: Yunnan Green Superior, the apartment, Warsaw.
So, more delayed postings…
Monday, today the majority of my day was spent organising stuff for the Artist’s Residency that the Hello Collective will be running in the summer. We are trying to get some funding together to make the program more open and affordable to the artists that we will invite to the space. If anyone here who is reading this doesn’t mind this shameless bit of promotion then I would ask, indeed beg and plead with you to check out our campaign page, watch our short video and if you can, then please please donate a little to our project! Every little will be really really appreciated! Like you would NEVER believe! To check it out please visit our campaign page by CLICKING HERE!
We would be eternally grateful!
Anyway, after all of that stuff was sorted out, which took most of the day believe it or not, form filling, spell checking, mail outs, I then went for a walk in the early evening, as the sun was beginning to set. I went back to Park Arcadia and took a few long exposure photo graphs of the ponds there. I also fed the ducks, which was fun as it is some thing I’ve not done since I was a kid. This little Moorhen even plucked up the courage to eat a bit of bread from my hands. They have the funniest little feat, as if each toe is made of one individual feather. Strange. I then tried to find this old fort I had seen on a map, but it was all shut off and it looked pretty scary in the dark so I decided to head back the way I had came. I found myself at another viewpoint out over the twinkling city, right next to what seemed to be the american ambassador residence or something like that, they must have a really great view from there. A few more photos of the city and I started to get cold and hungry so I went back home. A short day in terms of sight seeing, but I did see some good things.
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.
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!
Tea 50: Yunnan Green Oolong, the Apartment, Warsaw.
50 days! A half centrury and what happens….
Winter returned today! The snow was falling fast and fairly heavy, giving a good coating to all the freshly ice free paths and roads. It was almost as though the first lot of snow had not disappeared at all! I wrapped up warm and left the apartment. The chill was back in the air, making me fear the worst for the next couple of weeks. I hope that the winter is not coming back and that that was just winter’s last laugh before spring kicks in. I took the tram again today, heading for Jana Pawla II street once more, in search of this vegan restaurant I had seen the other day.
Making it there I wandered up Jana Pawla for a while to work up a bit of an appetite, then wandered back down to the restaurant. The place is called the Loving Hut, an asian food spot, with all sorts of exciting looking things on the menu. I went for the soup that you can see below, though I have forgotten what it is called. But it was great, filled with Tofu, Broccoli, Beans, Celery, Lemon Grass, a fake prawn, noodles, loads of things. It was spicy and coconutty, rich and lovely. I sat and ate it up, flicking bits of soup all over the table, it was really good, especially with the cold wintry weather going on out of the window. I also learned that Natalie Portman, Moby, Tobey Macguire and Bryan Adams are all vegan!
Food eaten, which took me quite a while as the portion was hugely generous, I wrapped up again and went out into the wind blustered snow. I walked down Jana Pawla II then turned left onto Solidarnosci and walked to this little area just on the outskirts of the old town, wandering around a little park, that used to be part of the grounds to a grand old mansion, which still sits at the opposite end of the park. Ducks were desperately looking for unfrozen water to wash in, crows were diving about in the snow playing with sticks and rocks, for what purpose I don’t know, but I do think they were just playing in the snow, one kept diving into it and rolling around!
More wandering, more looking in bike shops and I decided I was getting far too cold, so I went back into the centre, bought some food to cook for dinner and then headed home. Back home I cooked a Beetroot soup and some Pierogi for Ania and I, Marta was at Yoga class. We sat and ate and chatted for a while, then watched an awful film, then went to sleep. A short, snowy day today.
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.
So, a belated post! Went out last night and didn’t get chance to write this until this morning. Yesterday was yet another freezing cold day, and I think today is going to be even worse! But the sun still shines and that makes me happy, and I will be heading for Tartu later, hopefully on a warm bus! I headed out around mid day again, this time I wanted to go back to the sea so I went down by the big old concrete Soviet Concert Hall ‘Linnahall‘ and looked out into the mist. The sea is covered by this low lying but dense mist, this is apparently caused when the sea temperature is warmer than the air temperature, and you get this spooky, slow moving mist about 5 feet tall and dense as a cloud. After I totally froze out next to the sea, my hands aching, even my toes through my big boots suffering a bit, AND my scarf freezing to my face!, I more or less ran back into the old town in search of a cup of tea and some warm sanctuary. I went to this cafe called Majasmokk, a fairly old school, traditonal looking cafe selling various cakes and pastries and lots of Kalev chocolate goods (which I actually managed to resist). I had a mushroom and pepper flakey pastry thing, and a cup of China White Monkey tea. This tea is very interesting, quite a strong, nutty flavour comes out from the delicate green leaves. They don’t seem to colour the water much, and so I was expecting a tea more like your standard White tea, but, as I said, it is surprisingly stronger and not like most white teas at all. I thought for a while I was drinking a different tea, or that the filter had another flavour stuck in it, but after a bit of research it seems that is how it should be.
After warming up, and then psyching myself up, I ventured back outside. After walking a little way the mobile phone Ingrid had lent me rang and she was on the other end, she had finished work early and was coming to meet up with me in town. I escaped the cold and went into a shopping mall while I waited. Looking through books and windows and pretending to be shopping. I met Ingrid and we went straight to another cafe, this time the chocolate cafe, Pierre Chocolaterie, tucked away down a little side road in the old town. We both had the same, a rum and raisin hot chocolate! It was very good, warming and tasty, with raisins in the bottom and a decent hit of rum. The cafe itself is nice and cozy, full of cushions and wooden furniture, soft lighting and dark walls. A lovely little place, but for treats only as it is a little expensive.
We then headed back for home, though via the supermarket to buy some food. Another couch surfer and one of Ingrid’s friends were coming for dinner before we all went out to a couch surfing meet. I cooked, the request from Ingrid was a Shepherd’s Pie, but it would seem that it is basically impossible to find any kind of lamb in Estonia, it had to be Cottage Pie. I was quite pleased with the outcome, a nice tasty filling and I did my favourite thing, to put leeks in the mash potato topping, makes a big, yummy, difference! Food eaten, and all of it was, we all hopped in a taxi and went to the Red Emperor, a bar somewhere in Tallinn, it was dark and I was in a car so exactly where it is I could not say. We hung out there for a while, playing giant jenga, and watching people play pool, also laughing at the guy who was asleep on the sofa when we arrived (at about 10) and still there when we left at around midnight! Poor guy! We then went to a club, somewhere nearby the Linnahall again, danced for a few hours, to music that I’m more used to hearing in adverts and in my imaginations of bad mid-nineties clubs, than in today’s clubs. There were a little too many people for what was a very small space, but the little group of us that had gone managed to keep our dancing circle going and the music began to improve eventually. We left at around 3:30 and got in another taxi home.
Today I am traveling to Tartu, hopefully some point soon, though I have to pack, but will try to fill you in later!
Today was such a beautiful sunny day, the sunniest of my time in Finland so far. I took the train into town for the last of my travel card trips. The sun was shining down and glinting off of the soft white banks of snow as I day dreamed out of the window. Once I arrived at Rautatieasema (Helsinki Central Station) I headed north-west, up past Kiasma and the parliament and congress buildings, the sun behind me, actually managing to feel a little warm on my back at points. I was heading back towards Seurasaari, to visit the art museum Meilahti again, mostly to pick up the pack of cards I had seen there but been unable to buy a few days previous. It was great to be in proper sunshine again, you don’t realise how much you miss it until it comes back. And with the snow all around reflecting it all it felt like I was bathing in it. I wandered through patches of woodland that line the coast, the snow deep and crunchy beneath my feet. I made it to the museum and had another wander around the exhibits, taking in the ones I had not spent so much time with at my last visit a little more. After that I headed back towards the city centre. Following the coastline a little longer this time, I passed another park and gave it a short look, an interesting sculpture dedicated to Sibelius, ‘the most famous composer Finland has ever produced’, according to Eeero, though his wife is ‘the best composer, Sibelius is just the most famous’. It’s a beautiful piece of sculpture, n doubt helped by the sun glinting off of the pipes.
By the time I had made it into town I was starving hungry, so I decided to pig-out and go to the chinese buffet that had rescued my stomach on the first day. It took me ages to find it though, after stumbling on it by accident knowing nothing about the city on my first day, learning more about the city and getting my bearings had totally erased it’s location from my mind. After a good 20 minutes searching I finally found it. I ate and filled myself up basically completely, pretty sure I over did it just a bit. But it was good and got the cold out of my bones at least. After that I went to meet Ella, the couchsurfing girl again. We met in central station and headed to a cinema to check the schedule. At the minute in Helsinki is a documentary film festival, called DocPoint. We looked through the timetable and decided on an intriguing and slightly disturbing sounding film about a cathedral built from 12,000 white dresses, with the addition of some menstrual blood for good measure. The film is called Water Children, and it was being screened at the Maxim Cinema. The film is actually extremely beautiful, not at all what either of us expected. The cinematography is wonderful and the perspective on the idea of menstrual blood completely different from what either of us expected. The artist, Tomoko Mukaiyama, a Japanese Pianist, early on describes the blood as ‘the only blood that isn’t negative or aggressive.’ The film is beautiful, heart wrenching and funny. It is a really wonderful film, directed by Aliona van der Horst, I urge anyone with the chance to go and see it, to go and see it.
After the film it was a short trip next door to Fazer, the Finnish Chocolatier cafe. Inside is sprawling with chocolates, cakes, every treat imaginable. I went for a wonderful Chocolate tea, tea leaves with added pieces of cocoa beans, it was rich and really tasty. I have had chocolate tea before, but this one was much better, no real bitterness, just smooth and elegant. Alongside it I treated myself to a bar of Fazer Milk Chocolate with Pistachio and Salt. A great combination, even if it was milk chocolate! Ella went for a lovely refreshing and clear Green Tea with Strawberry and Vanilla, alongside a fruit filled pastry, for some reason called a Weiner! After a good chatter and some more laughs we went our separate ways and I headed home for some dinner (yet more food!!!)
Apologies for the terrible photo, but my battery ran out straight after taking this one, so it’s the best you’re getting today! And yes, it’s not tea, but hot chocolate, but maybe that can become a theme too…..once a week maybe?
So today I had a lazy morning, and then headed into town for about 2p.m. I was going to visit a gallery I had picked up a flyer about, but when got there, luckily not too far from the station, it didn’t look all that appealing from the outside so I gave it a miss. Instead I headed back on myself then went back towards the old town. Today was a slightly warmer feeling day than yesterday, possibly due to having put my long-johns on today….. So I decided to visit the part of town I had gotten a fleeting glimpse of yesterday, the old town and then on down to the seaside. The buildings in old town are all very pretty, some looking quite medieval, whilst others have got an art deco feel to them. One even looked as though Charles Rennie Mackinstosh could have had a hand in it’s design. After pottering in and out of streets, window shopping in antique and shoe shops I headed further south to the sea.
The sea was a great sight, and it smelt like the sea too, which immediately made me happy. I think that is one of the things I will miss most on my journey down through the balkans. The icy tessellations were rippling up and down, rather mesmerizingly. I headed across a frozen wooden bridge that lead to a small island, the wood creaking and crackling beneath my feet, somewhat unnervingly. The tiny island was locked to the land by ice, and completely saturated by foot deep snow, making it tricky to navigate. But reaching a small crest the extent of the ice could be seen and beyond the sea lapped about happily, making the ice ripple and wave up and down even more. I stood and watched this rhythmic motion for ages, hypnotized by the movement. My hands began to ache with the cold, bringing me back to my senses. I wandered around this island a little longer, and across a sea defense barrier onto another tiny spot of land then headed back to the mainland. I wandered through two majestic snow covered parks, my boots sinking deep into the soft, perfectly white snow, trying to warm my hands back up with sheer will but to no real avail. I decided today was the day for visiting the chocolate shop I had seen a few days ago.
On my way back into the city centre I passed the Galleria Sculptor, on Eteläranta. I decided to pop in, and was greeted by a show by Peter Svedberg, entitled My Cut. He has created a number of mirror based scultures, sort of kaleidoscope type things and a fantastically simple, but perfectly executed illusion. The pieces, initially simple looking, were actually quite complex and intriguing. And, as I’ve said, executed extremely well.
I made it back to the small arcade of posh shops that constitute the KAMP Galleria shopping centre and headed for the chocolate shop, a Valrhona store. I browsed through the various bars of chocolate and was convinced by one bar in-particular, the words ‘Floral and Oaky‘ doing most of the work, so bought that and ordered a hot chocolate. I sat down and was brought a cup of delicious warm, velvety, rich hot chocolate. The kind of hot chocolate that makes your cheeks tingle and a smile come to your face instantly. There was no pomp, no cream, no fancy chocolate dribbles, just proper, excellent hot chocolate, smooth, with the perfect balance of sweetness and the edge of bitterness. And served with a smile and a little square of chocolate and a glass of water, perfection.
After this delicious break in the day I wandered around town, back to the bookshop I had visited yesterday, sneakily read a few bits and bobs, about Nothingness, Wabi-Sabi, and about tea. I then met Eeero at the station and we headed out to watch a performance at ‘Lanterna Magica’ called ‘Between Two Skies’, a collaborative performance and installation between Nanni Vapaavuori, Elina Lifländer and Leila Kourkia. The performance was intriguing and the space was fascinating, starting in what looked and felt like an ancient abandoned basement, and turning into a hugely comprehensive secondhand bookshop, filled to the rafters with what has to be one of the best ranges of reading material I have seen for a long time.
After the performance we went to get some food, we went to the basement of one of the many shopping arcades and ended up in a little area that was again, like the place in Stockholm, reminiscent of a small scale Singapore style Hawker centre. We got some food from Habibi, the Middle Eastern stall, though how middle eastern Goats Cheese on Chicken with chips is I do not know. But it was tasty and filling, and reasonably cheap. We ate and then jumped on the bus home, bumping off of snow piles on almost every corner we encountered, not to mention the roundabouts…..