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!

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Day 68 – 70, Warsaw, March 17th – 19th 2012

Tea 70: Turkish coffee, Cafe Adi, Warsaw (imagine a coffee house just to my left in this photograph!)

Saturday, a beautiful sunny day, with proper warmth in the air!  It was a really lovely day, like summer had just popped up to say hello!  I spent the day wandering around the city, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air.  Marta and I ended up back in Cafe Vincent, we had planned to go to the is fish place called Top Fish, but it was full with people, like most places.  We were really lucky with Cafe Vincent, managing to nab a seat as some people left.  I had a really great Salami and Mozzarella baguette and some orange juice.  It was very good, one of those baguettes with proper substance to them, nice and chewy, and warmed up a bit too.  We scoffed those down and then carried on our sunny walk.

We walked and then sat in the university grounds on a bench in the sunshine for a while, until some neddy characters turned up and decided to stare at us until we decided to leave, what is with some people some times, they are just out to spoil other people’s enjoyment, I have never understood that.  Anyway, we started to wander again, then bought a cartoon on Green Grapefruit Juice and went to sit by the river.  The bank has large steps built onto parts of it and there were loads of people out enjoying the sunshine.  It was a lovely atmosphere, people buzzing up and down on their bicycles and rollerblades.  We sat there for a while until it started to get a bit cold as the sun went down and then we attempted to go home.  This took us aaaaages!  We got on a tram, then, with the intention of speeding up or journey home, got off at the Metro stop and went down to the platform.  What a mistake, engineering works were happening which meant we could only get a train two stops, then we had to get off, get another train another two stops, from the opposite platform, then get off again and go home.  This whole fiasco took about two hours in the end!  There was loads of confusion about which platform to be on and when and why.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone, I think I would of ended up in Siberia or something!

Sunday, and another great sunny day.  I went to the flea market up at Kolo, on Obozowa street.  This was full of stuff, much of it bric-a-brac and junk, but it was a good experience, lots of good faces and banter going on.  I bought a little badge that the stall holder described as junk, which it probably is, but then, aren’t all badges really??  We walked up and down the stalls for a while.  I took a few photographs, and was glad that I hadn’t photographed one stall, as I saw a girl trying to and then the stallholder come bowling towards here waving his arms at her camera in anger.  That was a lucky escape, for me, and for her camera which remained intact.

We then met up with Carolina again, and her boyfriend, another Michael from Scotland (though this one was born and bred).  We then headed to the Jewish Cemetery, where Marta was meeting a friend.  Her friend is part of a scheme that is currently trying to clean up and restore parts of the cemetery as it is in a rather sorry state.  The place is really massive though, so it is little surprise.  We wandered around the graves for a while, it is reminiscent of the graveyard in Krakow, although much much larger and there is a little bit more space between the gravestones.  The sun was still shining down, and a small breeze was waving the tall, thin tree trunks gently back and fourth.  The place is very peaceful, and in the sunshine very serene.

After a while there, meeting Marta’s friend and talking and her showing us some of her favourite and some of the most famous stones, we left and went to get something to eat, sadly just some fast food in the Arcadia shopping mall.  Then we got a tram to the New Town area, and walked south into the old town, people watching, the other Michael taking cheeky pictures of girls who took his fancy, a 50/50 mix of people who seemed flattered and some who were less so, and a few that pretending to be annoyed but with a rye grin on their faces.  We ended up in BrowArmia, a pub that brews it’s own beers and has a terrible live singer stuck in the window, in a vain attempt to draw in more punters.  If I were them I would stick to radio warsaw….

A nice half litre of Stout drunk and we left, wandering towards central.  Carolina and Michael jumped on a tram home and Marta and I walked around the city a while longer.  We found this interesting little place called V9, a sort of artists space, mostly for graffiti artists it would seem.  Then we carried on our walk and finally headed back home.

Monday, I spent the morning at home then left and went to the city, I am still thinking about the bicycle travel plan, but can’t quite figure it out in my head just yet.  But I had another look at a few bikes.  Then got drawn into a bookshop by the window display of books about chinese tea.  Then I found myself in Cafe Adi.  I ordered a Turkish coffee and sat down.  There were only a few other people there.  One appeared to be the owner, a big Turkish man who was definitely the patriarch of the place.  The waitresses, yep, all girls, seemed to be at his beck and call.  One even had to go out and clean the inside of his car window!  But it all seemed fairly light hearted and they seemed to know how to deal with him.  The coffee was really good.  Much better than the Israeli coffee I had in Krakow.  The flavours of the spices were properly there and the coffee was thick and rich.  I sat for a while, writing and thinking.  The sun was pouring through the window, making you forget about the wind that was lashing the awnings and forcing the door shut with a huge slam a few times, even with a rock the size of my head holding it open!

I drank up my coffee, then walked slowly back to the city centre, got on the metro at Politechnika and went back to the flat.