So, Marta had never had Macarons/Macaroons before, and we came across this little stall in a shopping centre that was selling them, so I decided to get some as a little treat. Previously she thought they were some sort of wafer with a flavoured centre, but despite my attempts to explain them I couldn’t quite describe them properly. I guess you really do just need to taste them to find out. These ones from the company Le Roy & Louis (maybe an attempt at ‘poshing up’ the name Leroy?!?!) were pretty good, nice amount of crunch on the outside with a good squidgy centre. The Pistachio and the Chocolate were the best, the other two (Raspberry and Blackcurrant) were also good, but I think the Pistachio and Chocolate are a bit more classic. We munched them down with gusto when we got home, alongside a nice cup of Sencha Sakura tea.
That night there was the most spectacular thunderstorm, I have literally never seen or heard anything like it before. The amount of lightning strikes was just amazing, the whole sky was lighting up like a strobe in a smokey nightclub. It was just amazing. We went to the top floor of the apartment block, 10 stories up and watched the three storm formations circle around us. Despite the number (literally hundreds) of strikes it is surprisingly hard to take a photograph of the lightning. It took me the best part of 700 photos to get just three shots of the lightning, and only one of those was really something special. They are all below.
So, those of you who have followed me from the very beginning will know that this blog all started with a tea everyday, and usually a little something was said about the teas. This hasn’t really been happening in a while, but I just want you to know that I have not abandoned tea, far from it in fact. This is a little round up, a tea-cap if you will, of all the teas currently doing the rounds in my cup. Some have been with me a long time, some are much newer, some are good, some less so. But here you go!
The Golden Chariot tea above is not very good quality tea at all, hence it costing so little, but I bought it because I really love the packaging!
I bought this Mate in Berlin for 1Euro. It is a roasted variety and is quite pleasant, being much smoother and less bitter on the palate than a normal Mate, but it lacks the magic punch and stimulation of the unroasted variety.
This tea, which is not strictly ‘mine’, is delicate and sweet, with the smoothness of the Sencha balanced well with flower blossoms.
Definitely just for night-time!
I’ve not tried this yet, and it is again not strictly mine, but I will let you know when / if I get my hands on it!
This is probably my most coveted tea, from Estonia I have been carrying this around since February. It is excellent, you can steep the leaves several times and it is delicate yet nourishing. If you happen to leave it a little long the Ginseng, in which the Oolong has been rolled, will start to create an odd, but not unpleasant, sweetness.
I love Mate, ever since I found it tucked away in a little farm shop in the middle of nowhere in England when i was about 16. This one is good, actually quite delicate in flavour, but it definitely does the job!
Last, but by no means least, is my Yunnan Green Oolong. I brought this with me when I started my trip and it has been perfect every time. I am running extremely low on it now so will only drink it occasionally. It is perfect for lifting the spirits and refreshing the soul. This tea is a life saver!
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!
I’m sorry! I’m sorry! TEN whole days without a posting! That is awful! And now I’m even going to role those ten days into one post! even more awful! As you can probably tell, internet availability has been somewhat lacking. Hoping between wifi cafes has not been ideal for posting up stuff. But I will try to be more active now that I have got a little more stable internet back again. It even made me miss Mother’s Day it would seem, so here is a public apology to my mum for that! I am sorry!
So, what have I done since being back in Warsaw. Well, hmm, mostly tried to find internet it would seem! One major occurrence was the haircut I gave myself! At long last I now have short hair again! It had got to that point when the hair on the sides starts to curl upwards and I look like I am sporting a nice set of wings like Hermes or Mercury! So, yes, a good chop with a pair of kitchen scissors and I felt positively refreshed!
The first thing I did on my first day back, a Sunday, was to return to Maharaja, the indian restaurant. I took Marta, who is kindly looking after me again, on the hope that the Thali lunch was still on. Unfortunately it is not on over the weekend, but we stayed anyway and I ate a really great sweet and sour fish dish with a Vegetable stuffed naan. It was really really good! So much food, too much really and I should of taken some of it home, but I ate it all instead! We then walked around the city in the cold sunshine and took some photos, Marta had taken her holga with her, the new love of he life. We found a small statue of Jesus that was in a rather strange position, in the little courtyard of an old tenement block. The building is one of the ones that has survived the war, but it still bares a lot of the scars. We managed to get inside, the doors were open and went up the staircase to the top and got a good view of a few rooftops. The inside looks like it hasn’t changed much since the war either! A great building, but it needs some work doing to it if it is to survive much longer!
Later that afternoon we met up with Carolina, one of Marta’s best friends and we were intending to visit cafe Vincent, the french bakery on Nowy Swiat, when we go there though the place was totally rammed with people (this was not a surprise), so we crossed the street and went to this little ice cream parlour directly opposite. This place is a little gem, mostly for people watching. We ordered some cake and I got a coffee and we sat and chatted whilst little old ladies snuck into the place, past us and then to the toilet. Some of them stayed for ice cream, some not. One really amazing lady seemed to be having the time of her life with her ice cream. Spoon after spoon disappeared into her mouth, the pace was incessant, and it seemed as though she had a never ending ice cream. I have never seen so much concentrated enjoyment on an adult face in my whole life! After this little place Carolina and Marta were still craving vincent, and something savoury. So we tried again, this time we managed to get a seat, and I ordered a tea whilst they both ordered a ciabatta and more tea.
We sat and drank tea and ate for a while, then decided it was getting late so we left. Eventually we decided to head to Carolina’s place for a while, so we got on a tram, or two, bought a bottle of wine, a rather unusual Moldavian variety, and went to her flat.
The next day was a rather quiet one for me, I left the flat late and went for a small wander around the town, I did buy a new tea, from the 5 o’clock tea shop in the basement of the horrible shopping mall in the city centre. It is a Yunnan Green Superior. I bought it mostly as an everyday tea, nothing special. It is good, but i think the leaves have been ripped up too small, it is lacking the smoothness that bigger leaves can give it. I also popped to the supermarket and bought some food for dinner. That night I made a Moussaka, and I have to say, it was the best one I have ever made in my life, and possibly the best I have ever tasted! (this probably means that it didn’t taste anything like a real Moussaka, but it was goooooood!)
Tuesday now…Again, I went into town late, I spent the morning working on a few things. But then went in to meet Marta, I had a little walk around the embassy district while I waited, the ponds in the little park there were still frozen despite the temperature being above zero for the past few weeks. I then met Marta and we went to Green Coffee for a drink and a bit of internet access, we checked emails and just did the little things that needed to be checked. That was about it for Tuesday I think.
Wednesday, Marta had the day off for a doctors appointment so she dragged me out with her to the shopping centre where her doctors is (yes INSIDE the shopping centre!). This place is called Blu City, and is just full of the usual shops, Saturn, Empik, McDonalds etc etc, and lacking in customers which is probably more normal now than we like to admit. After my wandering past and through a few of the shops Marta reappeared, we went back home, and I am now struggling to remember what we did for the rest of the day (see, this is exactly why I need to keep updating daily!)
Thursday, the same problem, exactly what I did during the day that wasn’t spent on working towards the residency I do not know. But in the evening Marta and Ania’s landlady came over, so I made myself scarce for a while and wandered to this park called Park Arkadia. This place has got a great view out across the East of the city, the sunlight was fading and the lights were beginning to twinkle from the flats and high rises. The park falls down a steep hill where there are a couple of ponds, which were still frozen, the ducks skidding about avoiding an enthusiastic chasing dog. A few people were there, wandering around or sitting on the benches with a bottle of beer or two. One guy with two girls on either side of him looking rather happy with himself… Then I went back to the flat, via a shop to buy loo roll.
The next day I spent most of the day working at Hello Collective stuff, but then in the late afternoon I met Marta and we went for a wander around the old town, we got on the tram for a couple of stops and got off near Metro Swietokrzyska. We wandered around in the low yellow sunlight for a while, before we decided it was too cold and it was time to head home again.
Ok, time for a new post…
Today (yesterday) was a lovely day. Lithuania is definitely a place I will need to go come back to. Unfortunately my time here is almost up and tomorrow (today) I will be leaving for Poland. My day started with another great breakfast, bread and cheese and then banana pancakes and yoghurt.
After this great start to the day I left the house and walked down the huge staircase (210 steps) to the town centre. First stop was the bus ticket office where I bought my ticket to Warsaw for another bargain price of 29litas, about 8.5 Euro. The lady in the ticket office was very friendly and helpful with everything, printed me off my ticket and then I headed into the town centre. I wandered down the long main high street Laisvės alėja, lined with trees and that leads all the way to the old town. The old town starts after you have traveled beneath the main road and come up the other side. Immediately recognisable as an Eastern European / Baltic Old Town, with the building styles and layouts. The first street is still the main street and leads directly to the town square. There are lovely little shops, a tea shop (though not cafe), which I popped in to have a look and a smell, but didn’t buy anything. Then I went to a little glass fronted photography gallery just off the town square. A nice space with some good work on show, though I have totally forgotten by who, and their website isn’t up to date yet. In the town square there were workmen taking down a huge christmas tree made from recycled green plastic bottles. I imagine it must have looked quite cool at night time. Apparently the tree is only just being taken down because some wise fellow decided that the weather had been much too cold for people to work outside at such a job and so it had been left until now, when the weather is reasonably milder. A very good idea! I wandered around and then decided to take a seat next to a sculpture of Maironis, Lithuania’s most celebrated poet, who had studied during his high-school years in Kaunas. While I was sitting there in the peace and quiet a delivery lorry turned up and two young people were, rather unceremoniously left holding a mattress. After a few attempts to lift and carry the thing I decided that I would offer some help to the young couple. So I got up, went over, apologised for my lack of Lithuanian but offered help. We carried the mattress the few hundred yards to their front door, had a little chat about why I was in Lithuania and what they did (students, one studying Music Technology, the other Medicine), and then I went back to the town square.
I then walked a little while north and found myself at Kaunas Castle, an old, semi-ruined, semi-reconstructed (and therefore sort of ruined a little more), building that stands more or less at the point where the two rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, meet. It also marks the start of a small area of parkland that is the true point of the land where the two rivers meet. The little park is only a few meters higher than the river level, the ice of one river was pretty much mostly frozen, but on the other, the Nemunas the ice was breaking up and shifting. Huge great chunks of glacial blue ice slowly floated down the river, creaking and bobbing about. It was quite an amazing sight.
After that I went back into the Old Town Square, I had spied a place to get a little treat. Chocolaterie, as it is simply named, is a sweet little chocolate and coffee cafe. It isn’t cheap, and especially not by Lithuanian standards, but as a small treat it is ok. I had the above hot chocolate, and espresso sized cup filled with glorious liquid chocolate, I also treated myself to a piece of cake, true gluttony as the chocolate by itself was much more than enough sweetness. But the cake was really good, chocolate, cherries, more chocolate, and not just sponge but a layer of solid chocolate in the middle too. Very, very bad for you, and therefore very, very good for your soul…
I sat there for a while, then wandered through some of the side streets of the Old Town. Taking my life in my hands down the icy narrow, cobbled streets until I reached the Nemunas River again, but this time further up stream, by a large bridge that leads into the heart of the old town. A huge sundial sits on the wall of one building, it’s smiling face greeting all those that arrive. I then met up with Lina’s brother and one of his friends who decided to take me to the Žalgiris Arena, the huge black basketball arena that sits on a small island in the New Town area of Kaunas. Basketball is actually Lithuania’s national sport, and they are very passionate and proud about it. In the arena a competition was on between a lot of Lithuanian schools (though I don’t know if it was just local schools or the whole country). The stadium is mostly black, outside and in, which is actually quite nice to sit in, the focus is really on the basketball court. We sat and watched for a while. Small three person competitions taking up the time between quarters of the main game of the day. Then a small challenge for a member of the audience to throw a basketball from the centre of the court into the basket, but, as if this wasn’t hard enough, they were blindfolded. When they inevitably missed the audience was told to scream and shout as if they had made the shot. The guy throwing was very almost convinced!
After a while I decided I would head back home, so, leaving Lina’s brother and friend I walked across the main bridge back to the mainland, walked past the huge empty unfinished Soviet era hotel. This is an almost solid block of concrete, about 12 stories high and probably the size of a few football pitches. The thing is built so solid that it is apparently near impossible to break it down, the reinforced concrete latticed with steel. No one knows what will happen to the thing, but everyone hopes something will happen to it. It is like a huge, grey, gloomy reminder of the past. Making it back home, through the little park, that was once a graveyard, then a sports arena (another Soviet influence) and now a park with reference to the previous graveyard, and back up the 210 steps, myself, Lina and Algis sat a chatted for a while. Then we ate some traditional Lithuanian dumplings, little parcels of pastry filled with meat or mushrooms which are boiled and served with sour cream and salad. Very satisfying food! Then a couple of Algis’s friends arrived and we sat with some wine and a few card games, and another round of Dixit (the game I failed to explain yesterday). Then by the time all that was over it was time for bed!
Today was another bright sunny day, though without cloud for a day or two it has become considerably colder, the thermometer is currently hovering around -16’C……
Eeero and myself headed into town at around 12 to go and see a few exhibitions and to hang out in the city together, as this, unfortunately, hasn’t really happened so far, due to his work and baby commitments. We had a few exhibitions in mind that I had purposely avoided for when we could both go and see the shows as I knew Eeero wanted to go and see them.
The first show was at the Taidehalli Museum, just west of the train station. The Finnish artist, Elina Merenmies has something of a retrospective on there at the minute. Certainly a large collection of her works all in one spot anyway. There is a mix of ink drawings on paper (often handmade) as well as numerous oil and tempera on canvas pieces. The space is quite beautiful, especially the main and largest space. High ceilings and windows make the space feel airy and expansive. Eeero said that he has never been to a show there where the height of the spaces has been utilised, and this seems like somewhat of a shame, maybe one day someone will realise that potential. Elina’s work is interesting and, often, well produced. Intricate line drawings and highly detailed paintings are abundant, what I feel let the work down the most though is her titling. Maybe one or two of the titles were good, sometimes brilliant, but in general I felt her titling to be annoyingly obvious, or opaque, showing that really the artist could see nothing more in her own work than what is staring you in the face. It was a shame as I felt it really brought the work down a peg for me, it made me enjoy it much less and as I went around I found myself pleading for something at least a little more refreshing and vibrant. I don’t wish to end on a negative note, the work is certainly good, revealing and intriguing. I just wish there were no titles stuck next to every piece, and as for the red sticker dots……
After that show we headed to the Amos Anderson Museum where the artist Anssi Kasitonni currently has a show. This show was really good fun. The pieces Anssi has created are brilliant. Funny, witty, and full of life. The kind of art possibly most artists want to make, but, from my own experience and knowing that of others, is really, really, really hard to do. A full size, highly detailed golden horse stands resplendent as you enter the first space. Again, a full size, detailed American Muscle Car takes centre stage in another. Darth Vader stands poised with a flaccid light saber. Whilst the video ‘Planet of Sexes’, is hilarious, lo-fi genius. We spent quite a long time in this show, there is plenty to see and do, an arcade machine of Anssi’s other animation and video pieces, buttons to push here and there, and if I was complaining about the terrible titles of the Merenmies show, then this had the opposite effect. Brilliant.
After that we had a quick buzz around the rest of the gallery / museum, various things were on, an architectural design competition, a collection of African artifacts and a rather good show of Finnish work from the 60’s – 80’s. We then headed towards our final planned stop. The show, or piece was at a space called Sinne, the piece by artist Tanja Koponen is called The Inside Is The Outside. Unfortunately it would seem that this piece wasn’t working perfectly. The space should have, in theory, been lit up with orange fluorescent lighting, but when we arrived this didn’t seem to be the working. The idea is / was that the space would be lit up, therefore attracting people into the space, and then when they enter the lights should turn off and the viewer realises that they are in a kind of nothing space. Litter covers the floor and sides, a slight hint of smoke, through sight a smell, fills the space and the windows are smeared and blurred. The space worked very well in this instance, but we both came out wishing we could of had a full experience, and both wondering how effective it really would be should it have been working properly….. I guess it was just one of those things.
We then headed back towards the station, stopping off, of course, for some tea. Today I had a very unusual tea, Green Opuncia, or in layman’s terms, Green tea with Cactus! It was quite bitter, but definitely tasted of Cactus, slightly acidic and, for want of a better term, ‘spiky’, giving a strange sensation along the sides of the tongue, kind of cool but with a definite tone of….. well… cactus I suppose!