Day 120 -125, Cologne & Laacher See, May 9th – 14th 2012

Tea 121: THE MYSTERY PU ERH TEA all the way from Tallinn!, drunk in Cologne.

Tea 125: Fruit Tea, Bockhaus Laacher See, Laacher Sea, Eifel

The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really.  My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before.  There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin.  Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal.  The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard.  I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before.  There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being  tourist in such a situation.  This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper.  There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit.  There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.

Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed!  I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure.  The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day.  I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…

The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey.  I wonder if they will ever try to clean it?  I hope not.

After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while.  There I discovered a chocolate museum.  Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead.  The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne.  For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark!  Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.

A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘.  Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate.  It was great!  I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.

That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia.  The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.

The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!

The 12th.  Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday.  So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday.  When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux.  The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door.  So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite.  This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere.  I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time!  After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat.  On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!

The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday!  We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque.  I was on vegetable parcels.  Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas.  We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3.  The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday.  We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm.  The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.

Day 125, Monday.  Regina had to wake up early again!  She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out.  She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside.  We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz.  The weather was still perfect.  When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch.  I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii.  Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese.  It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese).  After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline.  After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money!  In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back.  That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing.  It looked and smelt amazing!  But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!

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Day 87 – 89, Berlin, April 5th -7th 2012

Tea 88, Fresh Mint Tea, Ankerklause, Berlin

Day 87, Thursday.  Today I spent the day wandering around for ages, Abigail had gone to her studio so I decided to explore the city centre.  It was one of those days of loads of inadvertent walking.  I walked back to Alexanderplatz in an, ultimately futile, attempt to find a tourist information, god knows where it is!  I should probably check the internet, but I keep on forgetting before it’s too late.  I did by a little notebook with a map in it though, so that is helpful to me.  It also makes checking maps in a more incognito fashion easier!  From Alexanderplatz I walked West and past a large area of museums and tourists.  I eventually, accidentally, made it to Checkpoint Charlie, the place was heaving with tourists carrying cameras and beggars carrying cardboard begging scripts.  I didn’t really hang around here for any time at all, the crowds of people putting me off.  There are two men standing in American Army uniform pretending to guard the checkpoint, which was one of the most tense and symbolic border crossings between East and West.

I escaped up a quieter street, which was a bit of a relief, walking past a car museum / rental place called Trabi world, the Trabi (or Trabant) was the most common car driven and produced in Eastern Germany.  This little place is filled with cars that you can hire and drive around the city.  Very old school…

A bit more of a wander, I thought I was on my way towards the Brandenberger Tor, although I never actually made it in the end, I think I did manage to walk all the way around it though!  Much more walking around in a large loop around the city before I made it back home.

That evening Sergej and I went out for some more drinks, where some of his workmates and an old friend were hanging out.  The place was so so smokey!  By the time we got home I totally stank and had to have a cold shower to get the stench of smoke out of my hair and skin.  It still surprises me that most places allow smoking anywhere in Berlin.  And it is kind of weird to see advertising for cigarettes, especially that still promote them in a life giving kind of way!

Day 88, Friday.  Today was a slow morning, Abigail and Sergej have gone away for the weekend, sort of for her birthday, which is next week.  Eventually I got up and started some work on my website, which is part of the reason for these belated, bunched up posts.  All the shops were closed today, it was Good Friday, though not the cafes and restaurants.  I met up with one of Abigail’s friends, Ulijona, and we went for a cup of tea at a cafe called Ankerklause.  This place is quite popular, and I am told, a good place for celebrity spotting (it’s apparently one of Quentin Tarantino‘s favourite places). The sun was mostly out, so we sat outside and I had a nice Fresh Mint tea and we chatted for a while about clubbing, Berlin, art, etc.  Then we both decided that we were hungry so Ulijona took me to the place she considered to have the best Falafel (I imagine there is a lot of opinions for a lot of different places!)  But it was good, I had Falafel with Halloumi and it was pretty good, and possibly better than the first place I went to, though mostly because the Halloumi had been cooked properly here.  After that Ulijona went home and I walked around trying to soak up as much sunshine as possible, though it was a little cold in the wind.  I got home and did a bit more work on my website and some more pondering about the future, which seems to be dominating a lot of my thoughts right now.

Day 89, Saturday.  So, finally!  A post that happens on the day it happened!  Today I woke up and had breakfast and then left fairly quickly, compared to usual.  However, as I got to the door and opened it, I was greeted by sleety, snowy freezing rainfall.  I decided to leave anyway, although changed my original plan (which was a walk through the Tiergarten!) and went back towards town and browsed in bookshops and found the Lomography shop which I had a little look around (Marta’s experience with the Holga has still inspired me to look for something of my own to use)  I basically did a big loop and wandered around some of the smaller streets, filled with high class galleries, and expensive shops.  Then I got back home, via the Chinese market where I bought some rice crackers and a can of Aloe Vera juice.  I sat and rested my legs for a while.  Then the sun peeped it’s head out so I went out again to try to catch it, I wandered around the remnants of a little market next to the cafe I visited yesterday, most of it had been packed away, but there were still a few stalls left.  I walked some more whilst the sun stayed up and then came back home, via the supermarket where I treated myself to some over priced Peanut butter, it was far too expensive, but I have been craving it for long enough to make it seem worth it!

Time for more work on the website.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter Campaign, if you don’t mind.

<CLICK HERE>


Day 84 – 86, Berlin, April 2nd – 4th 2012

Tea 86, Green Tea, Betahaus, Berlin

So, day 84 was spent travelling from Warsaw to Berlin by train.  It was about a 5.5 hour journey which was reasonably comfortable, there was only one incident of an altercation with a woman and an incorrect seat choice.  But it was fine, though she seemed very angry for a woman who then started to read an esoteric book about Auras!

I made it to Berlin at around 3:30pm and met Abigail, the woman I run the Hello Collective with.  We took a few trains to get to her place, in Kreuzberg district, the current hub of the creative world in Berlin, apparently.  Also the heart of the Turkish community in Germany.  There must be more Falafel, Halloumi and Baklava shops per square meter than anywhere else in the world!  Including the middle east!  We got home and I dropped my stuff, finally met Sergej, Abigail’s boyfriend to whom I have only ever existed through Skype (and visa-versa)!  We sat a chatted for a while and then popped to a cafe around the corner for a coffee and Abigail had a pizza before she had to disappear off to a German lesson.  I went back to the flat and chilled out for a while.  When Sergej arrived back from his studio we started to cook a bit of food ready for Abigail’s return.  She didn’t get back until late (normal for her German lesson days) and we ate, then went out for a little drink.

Day 85, Tuesday.  We woke up and went out into the local area, a little market by the river, then I went to see Abigail’s studio and we carried on walking to the Neukolln area and visited a few art spaces and then ended up in a place called Agora, a cafe which is also home to a few artist’s studios.  We sat with a coffee for a while and chatted about our plans for the summer residency program and what needs organising, including the fundraising issues!  Another reminder about our Kickstarter campaign, please visit our page and if you can donate a little.  Some guy made 3.8million dollars for a computer game development, so SURELY we can make a modest $2500!  CLICK HERE!

We met up with Sergej for a bit of lunch, an aubergine Halloumi wrap, which was tasty, though very messy!  The rest of the day seems to be a bit of a blur… hmm… We basically explored the city a bit more, then Abigail had another German lesson and I went towards the city centre, making it to Alexanderplatz for a while then headed home.  After a while we decided to leave and wandered around a while longer then headed home.  Later that evening we met up with Sergej and his brother and went for a couple of drinks in a bar around the corner.

Day 86, Wednesday.  We spent the morning do more Hello Collective things, trying to get some more emails out to people to try and drum up a little more sponsorship and trying to investigate other avenues if we don’t manage to make it to our target.  Then in the afternoon Abigail took me on another little tour of the area, taking me to this amazing arts supplies store called Modular.  Everything you could probably imagine!  Quite cool, though maybe a bit ikea arts ish?

We then went for a tea in a place called Betahaus, a very cool space near to Modular.  It was very nice and chilled out in there though, and the green tea, though standard, was of very good quality.  We sat there and chatted for a while, and people watched.  A funny situation developed when a woman arrived, put her things down and went to get a coffee, whilst she was away from the table another gentleman arrived and sat at the same table.  When the woman got back from ordering her coffee she approached with a rather confused expression and went to the table.  The man had obviously not noticed her stuff on the seat and there was a funny looking (though unheard) conversation that took place before the man got up and went to another place.

That evening we had a night in and watched a film, the 80’s childhood classic, Flight of the Navigator!  I love that film!  Though it was maybe not Abigail’s cup of tea, for Sergej it seemed pretty nostalgic, one of the first American films he remembers seeing when Eastern Germany left communist rule.


Day 15, Helsinki, January 24th 2012

Tea 15: Lemo Mate, Eeero’s House, Vantaa.

Today I had a reasonably early start and got into Helsinki city centre at about midday. Today I didn’t really have a plan apart from meeting up with Eeero at around 5:30pm.  I headed west out of the station and had a wander around the parliament building, After all the excitement of the first round of Finland’s Presidential Election the town seems a little quieter.  I’m sure it will hot up over the next couple of weeks before the second round of voting.  The choice seems to be between a Conservative candidate and a Green League candidate.  I know who I’d pick given that choice!  I was hoping to find a decent amount of statues / sculptures in that area, but apart from a couple I think I should have walked further up Mannerheimintie, maybe another day.  I then ended up in the Culture Museum.  That was quite interesting, exhibits from all over the place, and a little bit of education on the origins of the Finnish and Estonian languages.  I pottered around there until it got a bit busy and I headed back into town.  I decided that as I felt at a little bit of a lose end I’d go to the ferry terminal and buy my ticket to Estonia.  Sorted that easily enough and got the tram back into town.

I got off at the stop nearest to Helsinki Cathedral, a huge white neo-classical structure designed by C. L. Engel, it looks as though he expected snow, it is really impressive in the snow, like the top of a huge iced cake.  Quite beautiful. It has many intricate and interesting carvings and pillars, including the Eye of Providence, or all-seeing-eye.  I decided to venture inside, it was quiet and peaceful.  The inside is remarkably minimal, the altar piece and a huge painting in front of me and a few scultures.  The chandeliers are pretty impressive too.  And so too is the huge organ.

 After a little while clicking away with the camera I went back out into the snow and wandered north, got myself some lunch (a freshly baked garlic bread, not the most gastronomic lunch, but it was warm and fresh and satisfying, and super cheap, only 99c!)  I got a little lost but found myself walking along the edge of the river I photographed on my first day here, but now its completely covered in snow, the murky brown ice is now a perfect sheet of uninterrupted snow.  There were some men further around doing a spot of ice-fishing, using huge screw things to cut through the ice, it looked to me as though the ice must be a good foot thick at least.  I meandered along the river some more, through a park and then headed into a bookshop to rest my legs and to wait for Eeero.  I read books about traveling and a TIME magazine publication about the most important historical places on earth.  Then I went and met Eeero.

We went for a bite to eat, I had a really satisfying Falafel in pitta with loads of salad.  After scoffing that down we headed for the Metro and to Kaapeli (The Cable Factory) for the performances we had decided to see.  These were in a part called ZODIAK, a contemporary theatre / performance space.  The event was called ‘The Greatest Love Songs‘ and featured 10 artists, performers and dancers.  The pretext was that the organiser, Maija Mustonen, had been reading peoples love stories and performance ideas whilst listening to love songs, and so she brought together ‘a colourful group of artists and styles’, from an open call, and asked them to design their own performances, based on lovesongs.  Some had written the songs themselves, whilst others chose songs, which included such classics as Whitney Houston’sI Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’, Sam Brown‘s ‘Stop’, and even Squarepusher’s ‘My Red Car’.  The performances were all brilliant.  From the first piece resulting in a cupping of the crotch (the performer Masi Tiitta’s own, not mine…), to the piece that will haunt me for a while:  The excellent Katri Kainulainen, who, wearing only knickers and a bra with extended straps, arms raised straight up above her head holding up the straps so the bar didn’t fall down, entered what was basically a staring contest with me, climbing over the crowd towards me.  I think she won the contest…. but I put up a good fight.  The organiser, Maija Mustonen, who studied at Trinity Laban, herself performed a piece to Maria Callas‘s ‘Casta Diva’, a beautiful and haunting performance, fitting to the song.  And the Jarkko Lehmus (who was with the Scottish Ballet from 2003-2009) performance to the Sam Brown hit was possibly the best piece of the night, performed and choreographed excellently.

Tea today is a new one for the travel tea collection!  Lemo Maté, bought from a lovely little eco-shop aptly named Ekolo.  It is nice and light, the maté leaves are substantial in size so the tea is not too ‘bitty’, for want of a better phrase.