A wee jaunt to dusty sneezy Katowice

This post is pretty picture heavy, which is kind of a surprise because, in reality, it seemed to me that there was really very little to see or do in poor old Katowice.  The city is pretty shabby and is all over the place, something which is not helped by the rebuilding of the railway station and some of the tram lines in the ‘city centre’ (in inverted commas because it is actually quite hard to tell exactly where the city centre is…)

We stayed at a friend of Marta’s.  An old flat that she had inherited and has sat mostly empty for the past six years, meaning it is full of dust and causing some major allergic nasal floods the whole time we were there.  I spent most of Saturday and Sunday wandering around the city in the sweltering heat, it was a rather exotic 34’C!  Thank goodness for Biedronka and giant cartons of Ice Tea, and their delightful portions of chocolate halva (extremely dangerous)!!

The city isn’t a complete bore though, there are some interesting buildings, from every era, starting with the old German-Bavarian mansions, to the huge UFO of a concert hall from the 1970’s right up to the library building, which seems to be carrying on the tradition of being plonked right in the middle of where you would least expect it to be.

The city is, on the whole a rather poor place, and there are plenty of rather dodgy looking characters unafraid to eye-up your camera and back pockets, but it does definitely have it’s interesting bits that are worth visiting, though try and avoid the hottest days of the year!

Oh, and the trams are a bit like being on a scary rollercoaster (scary because you could fall off the tracks at any point…)

Hot-Dog?  Bon Appetit!

Close Encounters?

The library building

Beware of fire-tailed Goats?

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Day 90 – 93, Berlin, April 8th – 11th 2012

Tea 90, Al-Otour, the apartment, Berlin.

Tea 92, Yunnan Green Superior.

also; Tea 91, Power Tea, , Tea 93, Japonska Wisnia.

Day 90, Sunday.  Today the sun was shining and it was almost warm, but i still felt the need for some gloves.  I left the flat reasonably early, around 10, in order to get to the Mauerpark Flea Market.  This is up to the north of the city centre in a district called Prenzlauer Berg.  There is everything you could imagine in this market, from a huge bric-a-brac stall, full of boxes of what is mostly junk and broken stuff, but with the occasional highlight, a few box-brownies for instance, to food stalls, bikes, camera’s.  Everything you could imagine (almost).  So I spent a while meandering up and down the aisles, all the time it was getting busier and busier.  I almost bought quite a few things, but actually came away with nothing, despite the efforts of quite a few people…  I then wandered in the sunshine, and relative peace to another market just a few streets away.  This one, Arkonaplatz, is much smaller and the quality of things they are selling is generally higher, and due to the popularity of Mauerpark this one is much gentler and more peaceful.  Some more browsing and yet again away with nothing I walked slowly in the sunshine back towards the apartment, but taking a few little side streets and a much deviated path back, ending up by the TV tower and then back onto my main route back to the apartment.  This seems like a short day now that I type it, but I had spent a long time getting to and then around and back from the markets.  The weather turned a little bit cold by the afternoon too.  Also, due to it being Easter Sunday, almost literally nowhere was open!

Day 91, again today, very little was open.  But I made the most of my day by embracing tourism once again and heading out to the Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor.  The walk there was very pleasant, in the sunshine most of the time, when I stayed on the right side of the street.  It’s quite a simple walk from Kreuzberg there too.  It also takes you past the section of the Berlin wall still standing.  I’ve walked past this before, but today was the first day I took a photograph of it.  Then I carried on towards the Gate.  In the area of the gate, which sort of acts, or acted like an entrance to the Tiergarten, is also the Holocaust Memorial, or as it is really called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  I spent some time wandering amongst the huge concrete blocks.  It’s an interesting place, with lots of children playing and smiles and laughter happening amongst the stones.  This seemed somewhat strange to me, considering the context of the thing, but there was actually something strangely refreshing about this kind of atmosphere in such a place if I’m honest.

I then walked to the Brandenburg Gate itself.  This is a big disappointment, not with regard to the gate itself.  But they may as well charge entry and called it ‘Das Disney Welt’ if you ask me.  There’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a big Teddy Bear, breakdancers, a sexy soldier girl with a flag, and Darth Vader!  I can totally understand why the performers are there, they need to make money, but why on earth people would want to see these things here is another thing entirely!  I soon made my escape from the circus and took some peace and sunshine from the Tiergarten.  I sat by a little pond, people buzzing past on bikes and with their cameras.  I saw what was only my second red squirrel ever!  I sat for a while and wrote some of my thoughts down before heading back towards the river and past the Berlin Philharmonic hall and a few of the larger galleries, one was shut, the other open, but rammed with people so I decided to avoid it.  I don’t know why but ever since arriving in Berlin I’ve actually lost my appetite for looking at art!

Onto day 92, Tuesday.  Shops are open again!  This lead to a celebratory visit to Lidl to buy chocolate!  Then, with the first day for a few that can actually be described as warm I ventured back into the city centre, with no real aim other than to enjoy the sunshine.  Today was Abigails birthday, so we had spent the morning chilling out and eating the chocolate before she went to see Sergej who had unfortunately had to go and work on a pitch for the next day.  So I took myself out into the sunshine and just people watched.  I did visit Berlin Carre, a funny little shopping centre with only a few shops on the inside (most actually face the street, but head inside if you want what I imagine is a reasonably authentic East Berlin experience!)  I bought a snack in the supermarket and then went back outside.

There was a tiny protest happening at the Neptune Statue next to the Rathaus and the TV tower.  It seemed to be about banking and they had a lot of colourful umbrellas all painted with slogans.  There were less than ten of them, but still had the beady eye of the police on them constantly.  It was a strange protest with no chanting or marching around or anything, they just seemed to make little structures from the umbrellas, which the police then told them they had to keep behind a certain line that he drew with chalk.  Very odd.  Anyway, I let that play out for a while before wandering a bit more, visiting a huge second-hand clothes store, then I bought myself a new pair of sunglasses and went back to the apartment.

Day 93, and I’m sorry to say no photos of today.  Abigail and I had to put our heads down good and proper for the day, working on the Hello Collective, getting the plan of action down ready for the summer residency / studio program.  And also trying to figure out what will happen if we don’t reach our sponsorship target.  But hopefully we will.  http://kck.st/GD326Q  Click the link if you are interested in the project and can maybe help by pledging a little.  If you let me know that it’s through my blog that you have donated I’ll send you some tea as a thank you!


Day 23, Tallinn, February 1st 2012

Tea 23:  Black Tea with Red Berries, A deli in the old town, Tallinn

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!