After a day spent indoors avoiding the extreme 35’C heat we headed out in the evening, when the sun was getting low and the temperature a bit more reasonable. Most days all you have to do is walk out of the door and you are soaking in sweat, sorry to be so graphic! This evening, the same one as the Tram evening in the previous post, we headed vaguely North West out of the flat, past the Tram depot and some lovely allotment gardens, then ended up alongside the train track and eventually stumbled upon what must have been allotments in the past. We discovered beautiful pink Sweet Pea flowers growing wild as well as a few old cherry trees that were offering up some lovely ripe fruits, which we gobbled with smiles on our faces. They were juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of sourness in them. We walked a little more, then the Mosquitoes woke up and seemed hungry, so we did an about turn and headed home.
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.
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!