Graveyards and Abandoned Hospitals.

Another roasting hot day was met with gusto as we headed out into the city centre.  We had arranged to meet up with two couchsurfers who were visiting Warsaw for a few days and were looking for good, vegan food. I recommended the brilliant Lovin’ Hut on Jana Pawla II, and they kindly invited us to join then for a spot of lunch.  The food has never disappointed me there, and it still hasn’t, though I did have to have a second choice because the first was sold out (quick tip, get there early if you want to a chance to sample something from the whole menu).  This time I had ‘Teriyaki Island”, and it was very very good as usual, the soy dressing is really well done, and their little rice piles perfect for the size of dish.  I would recommend this place to absolutely anyone, no matter what your diet or eating preference, even the strictest carnivore can’t fail to be impressed or satisfied here!

After lunch we went our separate ways and Marta and I headed to the Jewish Graveyard, to see it in the sunlight, and hopefully to cool down.  The place was really beautiful in the sunshine and the trees made the light dappled and beautiful, as well as making the temperature bearable.  The biggest problem however was the abundance of hungry mosquitos, baying for our blood.  But we just about survived, though the next day my legs looked like someone had filled them with pink ping pong balls!  (toothpaste and lemon seem to be doing the trick at keeping the itching down a bit though)

We jumped on a tram, intending to head straight home, but stopped off in the city centre and ended up inside the old children’s hospital on Jerozolimskie, ‘Szpital Omega’.  This is slowly being turned into artist’s studios and there is access to the building thanks to a tiny boutique that has opened up on the 3rd floor.  The whole building is pretty accessible if you don’t mind the piles of rubble lying around and we had a good old snoop throughout the place, which has got some creepy stuff still kicking about. The picture above is of the old oxygen cabinet, and there are some more photos below, which gives you a bit of an idea of how cool it is to explore this place, before it all gets neatened up.

Tired and sleepy we headed back home to enjoy the cool flat and some nice cups of tea.  I have, at long last, got myself a bag of normal green Mate, which is very very welcome at all times of the day and a good change from the roasted one that I have been drinking lately. I do wish I had brought my Bombilla from home though, the ones in Warsaw are all rather expensive. That’s exoticism in Poland for you!

A really amazing tombstone, possibly my favorite!

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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?


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!


Day 117 – 119, Cologne & Nijmegen, May 6th – 8th 2012

Tea 117, Ice Tea, Nijmegen

Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne

Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne

Day 117, Sunday.  Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands!  The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog.  We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut!  Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen.  The purpose of our trip?  To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River.  The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack.  Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick!  The gig was good fun.  The band played well.  Then we headed back to Cologne.

Day 118, Monday.  A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos.  I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT!  So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about.  Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein.  I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.

Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’.  They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant.  They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.

That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.

Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day.  A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least!  I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery.  I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part.  So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before.  We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too.  I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…

I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers)  I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike.  It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)

The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves!  I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…


Day 104 – 112, Berlin & Cologne, April 22nd – May 1st 2012

Tea 104, the ‘free sample’ tea from the department store mentioned in last post, ‘Silvery Pearl Mountain’.

22nd, A slow steady day, with just a little wander around the Warshauer Street / East Side Gallery area, enjoying the sunshine and relaxing.  Nothing much remarkable to talk about really.

23rd and 24th were spent working on a few projects and things like that, not even a photo to show from these two days I’m afraid

25th, and just some more walking around, back to Gorlitzer park and around that area.  Still relaxed and nothing new to report.

26th, Today I decided to head to Treptower park.  I had read at the Russian monument a week or so before about the graves and memorial that had been built there in memory of the lost Russian soldiers, as well as housing mass graves of over 7000 soldiers.  The walk there was along the canal and was very pretty and sunny.  The park is huge, a big open space of grass then you wander around or through this and ‘come across’ the memorial.  I say ‘come across’, you do sort of find it, as it is surrounded by tall trees and in some ways hidden.  But the place is absolutely huge.  A massive area of almost perfect symmetry.  At one end is a statue of ‘Mother Russia’, where you enter the memorial from.  Then you come across two pylons designed to look like lowered flags, with two kneeling soldiers, one on each flag.  Then you enter the burial area properly, with 5 areas of grass, beneath which lie the graves.  On either side are 8 white plinths with varying images of war carved into them and quotes of Stalin written on them, Russian versions on one side, German translations on the other.  Then at the far end is the main piece.  A huge structure of a man holding a child and a huge sword, standing over a destroyed swastika.  The sculpture is amazing, it is so huge, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tall modern statue!  You can walk up the staircase to the feet of the sculpture and, although there is a locked gate, inside there is a small circular room with a mosaic mural to the soldiers.

27th, A day before the deadline to the residency program so I just worked and a little walking around.  Not much to talk about, just food shopping etc etc.

 28th, The sunshine was so hot and wonderful today.  I decided to walk back to Karl Marx Allee and to the fountain, which is basically a roundabout.  I sat on the edge of the fountain for a while soaking up some sunshine and dipping my feet in the water, which was surprisingly cold!  But very refreshing on my well walked and tired feet!  That evening I went out for a walk in the hot night air.  It was so warm even in the dark and there were people out and about everywhere!  I took some photos, one of which made a petrol station look like something from the film TRON (one of my favourites), complete accident but I like it!

 29th, Today, my penultimate day in Berlin, I decided I wanted to go and find the graveyard that contains the lying places of the Grimm brothers.  This is called the St. Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery, in Schoneberg.  It is quite an impressive place, with some old, and some very rich people buried there.  The graves of the Grimm brothers (there are four there altogether, though the ones of the fairy tales are Jacob and Wilhelm) are actually very subtle and not as in your face and imposing as you might imagine they could be.  I was pleasantly surprised by this.  I wandered around and sat in the peace and quite there for a while, it was a Sunday and there were quite a few people there tending to the graves and making them neat and tidy, it seems to be something that is taken quite seriously, after visiting a couple of other cemetery’s in Berlin, which all seem to be very well looked after.

 After that I walked back to the flat and had a late lunch before heading back out to Hasenheide Volkspark.  I’d been here before and decided to pop back in order to take pictures of the animals they have in this petting / rescued animal area.  There are camels, llamas, emus, storks, deer.  All sorts.  Many of them look a bit shabby and there’s a pair of Australian Black Swans that look terribly sad, but I think, I hope, they are rescued and basically have to be there.  One of the camels looks like it has a bad case of mange!

 30th, The day arrived to move out of the apartment I had rented for the last two weeks.  So I spent the day making sure it was all clean and tidy, taking the rubbish out etc etc.  Then I just went and sat by the river, to write and wait for the guy to arrive back so we could swap keys and deposits.  That all went off without a hitch, the guy even gave me some Bulgarian tea to add to my collection!  Excellent!  Shame to leave such a great little flat, but it is definitely time to move on.

 1st and a delightful 5:30am wake up followed by a trip across town to get to the bus station, to get my 7:30am bus to Cologne!  The bus trip itself was totally fine, and actually arrived a bit early which was great.  And by the time we had made all the stops there were only two of us left on the entire coach!  Like a huge limousine!  I met Regina at the bus station and we headed to her apartment, had a drink then went for a walk in the evening sunshine with the dog!  The sun was warm and the city feels peaceful and calm, a stark contrast to Berlin, and a welcome one!  We went for some Thai food that evening and had a cocktail then headed home and baked scones at midnight, as Regina returns to work after her sabbatical tomorrow, so needs to take exciting cakes!  They are vegan orange scones and they taste great!  Scones are amazing!!!

 That’s it, I am finally, and at long last up to date!!  I do apologise again for the huge break in posting, but the distinct lack of internet in Berlin, as well as trying to work towards the summer project has been a big issue in terms of updating.


Day 44, Warsaw, February 22nd 2012

Tea 44: Dark Hot Chocolate, Wedel Cafe, Warsaw.

Ok, Ok!  Sorry, but Hot Chocolate over takes tea today, even though I promised you all a review of the Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  Apologies… Not really, never apologise about hot chocolate!

Today was a huge day of walking, I’ve no idea of how far I walked, but it was FAR!  I left the flat, which is in the south of the city and wanted to head to this graveyard I had read about, and Evangelical place, in the North West of the city.  This walk took me about an hour or so I think.  Walking along the wide Woloska Street.  Glass fronted buildings mixed in with unfinished constructions, mechanics, petrol stations.  Trams buzzing up and down and cars hurtling past, the gentle rain fall melting the piles of snow into huge puddles, forcing you to walk in a zigzag up the street.  I eventually reached a little park ‘Pole Mokotowskie‘, wandered around the icy patches and the puddles, a few people were walking their dogs, some taking their lives in their hands cycling over the ice.  I walked through and found myself by a huge main road.  Cars rushing past and the spray from the rain and melting snow going everywhere.  I crossed the road and went through a little area of houses and woodland, a bit like some bits of Brighton in some way.  The area is called Filtry and seems quite pretty and a bit artsy in places.  finding my way through the small streets I got back onto another main road, Towarowa, this was a long long road, with loads of traffic and more mixed up buildings of various ages and uses.  The low clouds obscuring the tops of various sky scrapers that dominate the sky line, the hazy rain fall softening the traffic noise and making everything seem grey and dark.

Eventually I made it to the graveyard.  Although the first few gates I tried were locked, I almost gave up, thinking I had wasted my time walking all that way, but then I found the proper main entrance.  The graves and tombs in this place are really crazy, so many of them squeezed into such a small place, but so many of them being huge structures.  The amount of money and design that must have been poured into these things is totally unimaginable, it made me think that maybe whoever got buried there must of just left their fortune to their own grave!  One tomb, which was just for one person, not even a family tomb like many, could have easily house a family of four!  There is a great mixture though, some being very dour and sad with skulls and crossbones or weeping angels, others more unique and celebratory, a stone carved loosely into the image of a man and woman kissing, a great blue wave and a simple dry stone cave.  I wandered for another 45 minutes or so; weaving in and out of the graves, gawking at the sheer expenditure in the place, something I find pretty incomprehensible: except the case for the potential of it all being the dead party’s last laugh.

Walking back East towards the town centre, along Zyntia and Nowolipie, then South onto Al. Jana Pawła II, I found a largish food market called Hala Mirowska.  Fruit, veg, chicken, sausage, cake, all you could ever really want I suppose, if you looked hard enough.  There were some great characters in there, dour faced women hunched over cauliflowers, merry butchers whistling and having a little dance whilst wielding their hatchet over chunks of meat.

Back onto Al. Jana Pawła II and I came across a small gallery called Galleria XX1.  It was nice to be a little independent art space again, it feels like a while since I have seen something fresh and new.  The show has various red and black constructions floating about in the space, one wall is covered by a huge black and white print of an old fighter plane wing, with more of the strange objects superimposed onto the image.  There is another small space in the back of the gallery, which had an object installation, tall, human-scale grey structures.  Looking something like a small, metallic henge.  I couldn’t really figure out what they were made of, but metal and construction foam seemed to be involved.  Back out onto the street again I decided I wanted to warm up a bit with a drink.  So I headed to the Wedel cafe in the dreaded shopping centre.  One more thing to add to the good reasons for their existence, the other being free use of the toilets…

I ordered the dark hot chocolate, Gorzka (meaning exactly that).  The chocolate was rich and bitter, really great.  You have to drink it using the little spoon provided unless you want to get you face covered in rapidly solidifying chocolate… It was pretty good, not too cheap, but worth it!  Warmed up and a small chocolate high beginning in my cheeks I wandered around a little more.  Then I walked back to Mokotowska, the area Marta works and met her after she had finished work.

We went for some food in a ‘Milk bar’, the place most Polish will go to eat, traditionally frequented by the poor or homeless these places are dotted throughout the city and are going through something of a renaissance.  Called Bambino Bar, on Krucza Street, the food is good value, satisfying and traditional.  We ordered from a little man behind a screen who handed us our receipt which we then handed to a woman through a kitchen hatch, who takes it and a little while later passes our food to us through the same hatch.  We sat with our food and ate it up.  I had barley ‘grits’, what the British would call ‘Pearls’ (to make it sound more appetizing and to charge more for it probably), a piece of broccoli (basically half of one ‘bulb[?]’), and some Pierogi Ruski (the Russian variety stuffed with cottage cheese and potato).  These pierogi were MUCH better than the ones we had from the little touristy place in the old town.  I would recommend going to a Milk Bar over that place any day.

We left the bar and then got on a old tram from the 60’s back home.  But first via the post office, Marta had finally tracked down her parcel, which turns out to be a Holga Camera, she is very excited about getting it up and running, but first she needs to get batteries for the flash to work!  We were going to go back into town to see the city in the darkness, but I’ve totally tired myself out!