Day 54, Radom, March 3rd 2012

Tea 54, Green tea with prickly pear and lemon, including Krupnik, Marta’s Mum’s House, Radom

Today was a beautiful day, glorious sunshine beaming down, with real warmth in it.  The shadows were still cold though, and there was the occasional gust of a chilly wind.  We just walked around Radom today, seeing the old town, which is unfortunately in a bit of a state in places, wooden beams literally stopping many buildings from collapsing.  I am told that the old town is going to be renovated and repaired this year though, so hopefully that will happen because it is already charming, and with a bit of TLC could be very beautiful.

We first wandered through a little park, with a sculpture of Chopin and a funny little castle that is now a public toilet in the middle of it.  Next to it is a bizarre little sight, rather than a play ground for kids they have an exercise ground, with a cross trainer / stepper type thing, a bench and chest press thing, all sorts of stuff, including a table tennis table.  It’s quite nice because the kids still have fun playing around and climbing all ovet the stuff, whilst the adults can probably have a good time too, if they aren’t too shy to exercise in front of the whole town, which is small enough for everyone to probably know everyone… There is also a rather large and unusually sculpture of a guy called Kochanowski, I can’t remember exactly what he is famous for, but I think he was a poet, and has a bit of a sad history concerning his daughter, who was apparently some sort of child prodigy but died very young.  The sculpture is good, but the figure is adopting the most bizarre pose I think I’ve ever seen!

Out of the park and down the high street, looking at the people, the entrance ways and arches to some of the old buildings.  We accidently locked ourselves into one of the little courtyards but were rescued a little while later when a lady wanted to come in at the time we were trying to get out!  More explorations found us a little old building that was once a printers shop.  This old brick building had a thing over the door stating 1818, which I presume to be it’s original building date, and it looks it.  It is in semi ruins now, but is a very interesting building and I hope it gets saved by someone.

In to the old town, we wandered into the grounds of a Benedictine church, a few brown robed monks milling about, the sun shining down on the well kept lawn and shrubs.  More meandering brought us past another church, the original church of the old town, and then into the old town square, a vast, empty space, in need of a bit of life and improvement, which will undoubtedly arrive at some point.  At the moment it is a minimalist’s dream.

We then wandered out of the old town, to the Galeria (shopping centre) which has pretty much singlehandedly brought the blight that the town centre is suffering into being.  Despite this we were on a hunt for a gift for Marta’s Mum, for her birthday, which is on Sunday.  We found what she was after, or had been instructed to get by her sister and brother and then wandered back in the sunshine towards home.

We had intended to pop home and then go out again, but when we got back Marta’s Mum had prepared a huge spread of salad and soup and chicken and her Dad had made a wild boar goulash!  He is a hunter, and despite my reservations to this fact and my preference to veg over meat, the goulash was very good.  Mashed Potatoes with Dill, Carrot and Sauerkraut.  It was a proper feast, and for this reason we did not make it back out into the town, the food was so non-stop that we spent the whole afternoon eating and drinking!  The drinking went a fair way, starting with a local (ish) beer and then wine and then onto the spirits…!  Krupnik is a honey liquor, pretty strong and fragrant, but good.  There was also a vodka that Marta’s Dad had infused with quince.  Basically there was A LOT!  To freshen up a little Marta and I took her dog Etna for a walk around the park, then we came home and watched a film, one of my favourites ‘True Romance’, with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.

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Day 48, Warsaw, February 27th 2012

Tea 48: Mate Palona, Gander’s Tea House, Warsaw.

Marta and I left the flat and headed into the city centre, we jumped on the tram to centrum and got off.  We were both feeling a bit drowsy, despite everyone in the flat sleeping really well we seemed to all have a heavy headedness.  It has started to snow again a bit today so we think it might be the change in air pressure or something like that.  Marta had promised to show me the sculpture at the Palace of Science and Culture of the guy holding a book bearing Lenin‘s name.  After a bit of a hunt we managed to find it, on the Emilii Platter side of the building, standing up the guy holds a book bearing not just Lenin’s name, but also those of Marx and Engels.  It seems that it has never been attempted to be removed or altered in anyway.  A proper throw back to the historical period that built this huge building.

My curiosity at long last satisfied we got onto another tram that took us to the other side of the river, to Saska Kępa, the more beaten up, but slowly reviving area of the city.  We got off just after the bridge, which seems to go on forever, taking us across the wide river then past the new football stadium, still waiting for the christening of the Euro 2012 competition.  We walked down Francuska street, past some old shops and buildings being taken over by modern eateries and bars, then past the sculpture of the famous poet and writer Agnieszka Osiecka, sitting outside of the Rue de Paris cafe.  Across the street at number 12 Francuska is Gander’s tea house.  This is the best tea house I have found in Warsaw so far, in terms of atmosphere, tea selection, tea quality and quirkyness.  It is a bit like going to your posh grand-relatives house.  Old wooden furniture upholstered with texture floral patterns, doily table cloths, slightly tarnished silverware.  And for the first time the background music was more suitable!  We sat and read through the bible of teas they have on offer, loads of varieties of all colours of teas as well as a few traditional Polish mixes, Ayurvedic teas and so on.  I decided to go for Mate Palona, this was a great choice, the first PROPER Mate I have had in ages.  It is made with toasted mate leaves, almond pieces, cocoa husks, sunflower and cornflower petals.  The tea is really smooth and, for a Mate, delicate.  You can chose whether to have it in the traditional way, with a gourd (as above) or I presume as a simple infusion.  It was so good to be able to have it the proper way for a change, carrying a gourd and bombilla around in a backpack is not much of an option for the travels, though I might try to get hold of a bombilla at least, I left mine at home.

The Mate shook off the heavy headedness pretty effectively, and after a couple of hours sitting there we left and walked north, into a little park called Skaryszewski, its grass covered in hundreds of mole hills, probably from the poor things almost drowning from all the melting snow.  There is also an old soviet sculpture, dedicated to the Red Army who fought against the Nazi’s during the Second World War, still with its five-pointed star, but bearing the scars of having it’s hammer and sickle removed.  Red paint is spattered all over it too, though whether this is through protest or support I couldn’t say.

We continued through the park and then into Praga, the more populated and central bit of this side of the river.  We wandered up and down the old, decaying streets as the darkness began to fall and the snow with it.  The streets here are quite a stark contrast to each other, half of the buildings are new, others are renovated and the rest are still waiting for something to happen.  There are still big old wooden gates to the entrances to most of the buildings, the balconies and plasterwork look as though they could fall on your head at any minute!  We then went in search of another sculpture, one of a street band.  We didn’t find this straight away, but then went for a look at a couple of churches, lit up resplendently in the night air.  At the rear of one red bricked church we found the sculpture.  This was made as a sort of dedication to this part of the town where many folk and street bands can often be found busking and celebrating their art.

We then decided we were far too cold and we went to get the tram back into town.  This went back across a different bridge than before, one that leads to the old town.  We jumped off after a couple of stops and found the tram that would take us back to the centre.  We were both hungry and had decided to search out a little place.  We found it but it was shut, doesn’t open at all on the weekends, but close by is U Szwejka, a vibrant Hungarian place, that looks from the outside like the British Harvester of Beefeater chain type places, but it is actually very nice, a great atmosphere and some lovely food.  We both had a Goulash soup, a bargain at less that 8Zlotys, and then we shared a plate of Pancakes filled with Spinach and Cheese and Chicken.  I seemed to devour most of them myself though!

Fed and satisfied we headed back out into the dark, cold and snowy night air.  Walking down to another tram stop, throwing snowballs at each other and at other stuff (until I hit Marta in the mouth….oops….).  We got on the tram home, watched a film and now it’s time to sleep, again!  Days are going fast!