My first post about Tea in an age plus some Art and Water

My first Tea post in a long time, and I’m sure some of you may find Bubble Tea Sacrilegious!  But on such hot sweaty days like these it is certainly refreshing, and there is something very fun in the struggle to get each and every last bit out of the cup! For those of you not too offended by the Bubbleyness, then mine was the one on the right, and it was a Matcha Milk Tea with Apple and Pineapple bits in the bottom! Does the fact that it’s Matcha make up for any purist annoyance out there??

We also visited Zacheta, the Art Gallery, and being as it was a Thursday entry was free.  On show at the minute is a collection of works and histories of the Warsaw art School, with pieces by professors and students alike.  There are some great pieces, the highlight being, in my opinion, the posters from the mid 30’s.  There is a great amount of Poland’s history wrapped up in this exhibition, and I would recommend it to everyone!

That was all followed up by a wander around town, quite a lot considering the heat.  We found ourselves near Plac Trzech Krzyzy, or ‘Three Crosses’.  There was a fountain of water spraying out onto the street from an orange pipe.  We definitely didn’t need any encouragement, and dove right in to cool off.  Apparently they do this on purpose on days like these to help people cool down, in the winter they set up small fire places by the Bus and Tram stops. I’m a bit worried about the waste of water, but I guess there is no denying that it is quite a good, and kind, idea.


Day 49, Warsaw, February 27th 2012

Tea 49:  Masala Chai, Restauracja Maharaja, Warsaw.

A spectacularly sunny day today!  The weather was a little colder than on the previous days, but the sun made up for that, the sky was a great glass-blue colour, a few whispy clouds dotted about.  I got up and took the tram to central.  From there I went and bought myself a new memory card reader, another thing that has bitten the dust along with the crotch-hole jeans…

Then, after escaping the horrible shopping mall I followed Emilii Platter street south.  It’s southern end is a stark contrast to the part north of central, narrow and quiet with lovely little shops and cafes.  I wandered down as far as Wilcza then turned east, then back southwards along Marszalkowska.  The town seemed a bit sleepy today, probably the fact of it being a Monday I imagine.  Walking through Constitution Square and then down onto Plac Zbawiciela with the pretty Kościół pw Najświętszego Zbawiciela (church).  I then went down Mokotowska, still southwards.  By now my brain had begun to think about food, it was after two and I had a desire for something wholesome and nutricious.  I wandered around, looking at the various options, a thai place, a cafe, until I found Restauracja Maharaja.  This lovely little Indian restaurant is on Marszalkowska, right next door to Galerie Next.  go through the door and up to the top floor and it is tucked away there.  I guess I arrived pretty late, but the place was empty, although I did walk through at a semi-rush hour, two people literally in front of me up the stairs and a third close behind.

This little place is really great though, the food was VERY good, I ordered the veggie set lunch option, Saag Paneer.  It is a thali style lunch so rice, naan bread, poppadum, yoghurt and all sorts of other things were included.  It was a proper feast, I totally stuffed myself.  The Masala Chai I ordered alongside my meal was very good too, the right balance of sweetness and milkyness, and went really well with the food choice.  It tasted freshly made, and properly made, not just chai tea with a bit of milk in it, but properly made with milk and only milk.  The food was exquisite, the Paneer cheese perfect, the brightly coloured sauces complimenting everything perfectly.  And the addition of aniseeds (fresh and sugar-coated) to freshen the palate and breath was a lovely touch that doesn’t happen often. I must have sat there for the best part of 2 hours, eating for most of that time!  No-one else came into the restaurant after the little tidal wave I had come in on, but they should.  The lunch was only 20Zloty, the tea another 10.  If you have a different main the price changes, but not by much if you stick to the set lunch menu.  They have different lunch dishes on offer everyday of the week, so I might well go back before my time is up in Warsaw!  And I would encourage anyone else to go too!

Full and satisfied I dragged my belly back down the staircase to the street and then decided to finally venture down Mokotowska Street proper.  This street is one of the popular streets for posher shop and things, but it is also where I have found my first hammer and sickle in the ex-soviet bloc so far!  A building being held up by two figures, one holding his sickle, the other his stylized hammer.  They are posing as though they have just caught the building and are holding it there so it doesn’t fall down, infinite strength or infinite labour, you decide…  Carrying on down the street I came back to the big palm tree and the start of Nowy Swiat, which leads into the old town.  I walked down this street, weaving in and out of the crowds of tourists, students and one unicyclist.  Making it to the start of the old town, the sun getting low in the sky, reflecting off of windows and making the colours of the buildings bright and vibrant, I took a side street to get off of the main drag of the old town, the narrow street cobbled and lined with old terraced buildings.  Back into the old town I took a photo of the view out across to the stadium and then was asked by another group to take their photo.  They were visiting from Spain and were also about to head to Bucharest, seeing some friends.  Back onto the cobbled streets and I walked through the town square and down to a little viewpoint out across the river.  Then heading back north into the ‘New Town‘ part of the old town.  The buildings still coloured and higgledy-piggledy, I walked up to Fort Legionow, a round building which appears to be shut at the minute but looks as though it usually holds a museum, up onto a long double-decker bridge, the trams buzzing along on the lower level and the cars and buses rushing over the upper level.  It was quite late by now, the sun had set and I decided it was time to head home.  Luckily one tram goes all the way from there to the southern part of the city, so it was an easy journey home.


Day 38, Kaunas, February 16th 2012

Tea 38:  Green Mint tea, Lina’s Apartment, Kaunas

My hosts have made me so welcome it’s really great. Lina and her husband Anglis (this is probably spelt awfully wrong, but will check tomorrow…) made me a great breakfast of traditional porridge like stuff, but this one was made with barley grits, there was also bread and cheese and yoghurt.  Lovely.  We then headed out into the town centre.  Today, luckily enough, is one of Lithuania‘s Independence Days.  This one commemorates the first independence of 1918.  There was a parade with flag-bearers and little brass bands, and then a in the centre of town there was a big stage set up with traditional songs being sung, the national anthem, flags everywhere and people dressed in military uniform or traditional Lithuanian dress.  Some of the material pattern of the skirts is quite similar in design to that of the Scottish Tartans, and this Scottish link seemed to be a theme of the day today.  Anglis is currently thinking about applying to study a Masters at Glasgow School of Art, where I studied.  People were often buried in mounds much like the Scottish ones, and even sometimes with cairns or structures built on top.  There is a type of Bull, now extinct that makes up part of the Kaunas Flag, which, it would seem may be similar to the Highland Cattle in some ways, though this is just a presumption.  Even tonight we ended up playing cards with some pack advertising a Scottish Whisky!

Anyway, during the events of the morning we popped into the war museum, which although free today, is mostly shut as they are currently renovating / restoring many of the exhibits, it won’t be fully open again until the summer.  We then went towards the Kaunas Picture Gallery, which houses various works, but what I am most interested in seeing is the Jurgis Mačiūnas FLUXUS cabinet.  Alas this was also shut until the afternoon, partly due to the festivities, but also because today the award for artist of 2011 was being presented.  I will try to go back tomorrow and check it out properly.

A few days ago it was Lina’s Birthday and so today many of her family were coming to celebrate and get together over food and drink.  We popped into the supermarket, bought some stuff then headed back to the flat to prepare some food.  I made sandwiches, nice and traditional Salmon and Cucumber triangle classics!  whilst they others tidied the flat up for the arrival of the parents.  They all soon started to arrive and we began to gather around the table, a buffet style spread was set up and everyone helped themselves.  The atmosphere was lovely, the sun was shining through the beautiful wide SW facing windows and everyone was having lots of laughs.  We ate, and drank for, basically, hours!  We then started to play a board game called DIXIT.  For her birthday Lina’s mum had made her the game, which looked to have taken a lot of work as there are many cards involved and lots of little elements.  I won’t try to explain the game as it will probably take ages and not make any sense, but it was good fun, and I think my team came second out of six, so not a bad result!  We then had some tea and coffee, Anglis’s Dad had brought some of his home mixed tea, a good home grown mint, mixed with a little Green tea. It was lovely, delicate mint flavour, and the perfect after dinner drink, especially with the extreme gluttony that had just taken place!

By around 7 or 8 people started to leave.  We tidied up a bit then headed to a bar called Kultura, part of the same gallery I mentioned before, and therefore somewhat obviously or maybe ironically named!  We sat over a beer for a while, listening to an ‘interesting’ choice of music selected by the DJ, and apparantly one of the best Architects in Kaunas / Lithuania.  Though apparently traditional, yet modern songs, the choices were not quite right for the bar, with lots of very mellow, not depressing, but relaxing tracks.  But we kind of wanted to dance a little, even if just on our seats.  We spent a while there, I drank a nice, unfiltered Vilnius Beer, which was golden, slightly cloudy and smelt strongly of honey.  Very tasty!  We came home and relaxed for a while, a couple of games of cards, and now I’m in bed…


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!