Day 75, Torun, March 24th 2012

Tea 75: Green Pepper Hot chocolate, Madame Chocolat, Torun

The first and only full day in Torun.  Marta, her Mum and myself all went into the city centre in the morning for a little bit of a walk around (mostly in shoe shops for Marta and her Mum’s amusement), but also to the old Teutonic Castle ruins, past a little model of a dragon where the world’s only confirmed sighting of a real dragon was made, also a sight of a screeching pair of Peregrine falcons flying about their nest just across from the castle.  I wonder how long Peregrine’s have lived near the castle?  Maybe they are a medieval throwback!?!?

Then we went into this cafe / chocolaterie called Madame Chocolat.  This is a fairly new place in Torun apparently.  The decor is a little basic and plain, I think because it is so new, and it is potentially slightly naively named, and decorated also…  We ordered:  Green Pepper Hot Chocolate, Advocat Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Fondant cake, Chocolate Advocat cake, and another chocolate cake, whose contents I can’t really remember, but it was very tasty none-the-less!  The chocolate was tasty and rich, nice and thick.  Sadly the green pepper part was just some fresh green pepper on the top, it hadn’t been cooked with the pepper in it, so it hadn’t really got any chance to infuse the flavour.  But it was still quite good hot chocolate, nice and thick.  The cakes were all very good.  My fondant came with a nice, but small blob of ice cream and a chocolate twirl.

After this rather indulgent start to the day we went for a bit more of a walk, to burn off a bit of the sugarific-ness.  We ended up in a Gingerbread shop along with a crowd of rather merry polish guys out on a team building weekend.  They appeared to be buying the who shop up, gingerbread gift baskets were flying off the shelves!  All for their boss apparently, though I’m pretty sure lots were for wives and girlfriends too, an apology for the horrendous hangover they were likely to be suffering the next day…

We then headed back to the car and back to the house where lunch was being prepared.  Another huge meal with everything you could imagine, including another traditional wrapped Polish dish called Gołąbki.  Minced meat, rice and spices are all wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves.  They were very good, despite looking a little anaemic initially.  We ate until we were royally stuffed, as usual. Then sat in the beautifully sunny garden for a while drinking tea and eating (more) cake!  This all took a couple of hours and then we decided to head back into the town, to visit the Centre of Contemporary Art, or CoCA.  We got back in the car and were dropped off.  The gallery is a nice space, surprisingly large and the work on show is of a good quality generally.  There is a show on at the minute entitled The Fourth State of Water: from Micro to Macro.  This is obviously all about water.  It’s a strange show, a bit hit and miss and some of the curatorial decisions are a little dodgy, but it is a definite improvement on the work I saw in Krakow!  The other show on at the minute is called People and the City, a collection of photography, video and the occasional painting.  There are some big names here, Henri Cartier Bresson, WeeGee, Wolfgang Tillmans and Peter Blake to name a few.  The collection of works is good, and is put together in a straightforward, simple, but effective way.  This space is much better than the other.  More open and higher ceilings.

We eventually got asked to leave the gallery, the place was closing, but luckily we had made it around everything.  They shuffled us out pretty quickly, but I still managed to get a photo of this hilarious sign declaring that the gallery had been estimated as a very good gallery…

We left the gallery and went for a walk around the town as the sun began to set.  The town was quite quiet for a Saturday night, that was until a group on bikes cycled past us with music blaring out from a speaker system being pulled along by one of them.  We went to see Copernicus’s residence, then to this leaning tower which I fully expected to be an actual tower but turned out to just be a four story building, but it was definitely leaning…

Then we got picked up again by Marta’s mum who had been on a trip with her gran to visit the grandfather’s gravestone.  We then drove across the river and found the panorama, a spot across the river where you can get a really wonderful view of the whole of the old town.  Postcard perfection!

Back home and more food was prepared, pierogi’s, bread, cheese, salad.  Everything!

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Day 71, Warsaw, March 20th 2012

Tea 71: Yunnan Green Superior, the apartment, Warsaw.

So, more delayed postings…

Monday, today the majority of my day was spent organising stuff for the Artist’s Residency that the Hello Collective will be running in the summer.  We are trying to get some funding together to make the program more open and affordable to the artists that we will invite to the space.  If anyone here who is reading this doesn’t mind this shameless bit of promotion then I would ask, indeed beg and plead with you to check out our campaign page, watch our short video and if you can, then please please donate a little to our project!  Every little will be really really appreciated!  Like you would NEVER believe!  To check it out please visit our campaign page by CLICKING HERE!

We would be eternally grateful!

Anyway, after all of that stuff was sorted out, which took most of the day believe it or not, form filling, spell checking, mail outs, I then went for a walk in the early evening, as the sun was beginning to set.  I went back to Park Arcadia and took a few long exposure photo graphs of the ponds there.  I also fed the ducks, which was fun as it is some thing I’ve not done since I was a kid.  This little Moorhen even plucked up the courage to eat a bit of bread from my hands.  They have the funniest little feat, as if each toe is made of one individual feather.  Strange.  I then tried to find this old fort I had seen on a map, but it was all shut off and it looked pretty scary in the dark so I decided to head back the way I had came.  I found myself at another viewpoint out over the twinkling city, right next to what seemed to be the american ambassador residence or something like that, they must have a really great view from there.  A few more photos of the city and I started to get cold and hungry so I went back home.  A short day in terms of sight seeing, but I did see some good things.


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.


Day 61, Krakow, March 10th 2012

Tea 61, 20 Year old Pu Erh, Herbaciarnia, Krakow

So, the 10th.  What I did on this day may come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually decided to return to Warsaw.  I have decided that I will attempt to stay in Warsaw for a little while. My next intended stop is the Ukraine, and after a bit of deliberation I decided the weather was still too cold there for me, and that I still wasn’t done with Warsaw, so I decided to come back, sit out the cold weather a while longer and get to know Warsaw a bit more.  This all hinges on finding somewhere cheap and easy to stay at for a month or so, but will probably be the case.

The morning was spent getting my stuff together, and then I went with Marta (Malgorzata’s flatmate, not Warsaw Marta), to the art school to have a look around the studios and see what their system is like (not the sort of system I agree with at all), and we talked about art and our passions and intentions with it for a while.  Then I went to town and to this tea house called Herbaciarnia.  This is tucked down a small staircase off of Florianska street in the old town that leads to the main square.  It was an amazing find.  The place is in the basement and the vaulted ceiling is bear brick and a bit like the little tea house under the church in Warsaw.  I ordered a tea, a 20 year old Pu Erh tea.  This was a great choice, it was a really amazing tea, one you could feel working, the warm glow you get in your cheeks and the tingle up your spine.  It was a really amazing, meditative tea.  Really wonderful.  A while spent there until it got a bit cold from all the people coming in and out of the door.  I paid, left the building, went to a milk bar for some simple but satisfying soup and salad and then went to the bus station, which it took me ages to find, getting lost in the train station because of all the construction work going on.  Then I got on the bus and headed back to Warsaw!


Day 60, Krakow, March 9th 2012

Tea 60, Black tea with fresh orange and mint, Pierogi world (not the real name), Krakow

The 9th!

Today I decided to visit MOCAK, the Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow.  Isabel, the Spanish woman who was in Krakow still asked to join so we headed there together.  We walked across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the river.  This is one of those padlock bridges that seem to be in every city (they are all apparently inspired by a novel, though I don’t know which, maybe you guys do?).  There were some quite old and some quite funny ones, some people had even gotten a little creative and gone for the bike lock approach!  We walked into the other side of town and started to attempt to find MOCAK.  We weren’t lost but weren’t exactly sure of the way, so we asked someone for some directions.  It turned out that the guy we asked was a tour guide!  Isabel had met him a couple of days before on a free tour of the city.  He sped off telling us to follow him, he was going at a fair pace though!  And he was talking the whole time, as though he is probably always stuck in tour guide mode.  He got us to the point where he was leaving us and pointed us in the right direction.  Probably couldn’t ask for a better person to ask for directions!  We walked through a square dedicated to the memory of those lost in the holocause, with empty bronze chairs set about the place.  We made it to MOCAK, which is right next door to the Schindler Factory Museum.  We went in, paid our entrance fee and walked into the museum.  Currently there is a retrospective style exhibition charting the 20+year performance of Eve + Adele.  This is a couple and artistic collaboration project aimed at highlighting, adjusting, altering and breaking down the social stigma and sort of taboo of sexuality and gender stereotypes.  The two artists have spent the last couple of decades as women (one is a woman, one WAS a man, but has since been legally recognised as a woman), dressing in matching outfits, and wearing similar make-up, but they also both shave their heads to complete baldness.  The show has large copies of Polaroid photographs plastered along the walls, showing them in attendance at many exhibition openings and artistic events.  The person who takes the photograph becomes their collaborator in each of these works.  There are also a number of videos, examples of their dresses / costumes and a few other objects.  The show has a huge affect on the viewer, with every image of the two they have huge smiles, which have a profound affect at making you smile back, even if the smiles are false.  I got to the end of this show with jaw ache!  And I also came to the end of the show thinking that the end of this project might not come with the acceptance and change that the artists are maybe looking for, but is more in danger of the end of Polaroid film!

There was another show by a polish sculptor and painter, which wasn’t my favourite, the best bit being the people that were playing table tennis behind one of the closed doors, hearing the ball bouncing about and their chatter.

There is also a large show of the permanent collection of the Musuems artworks.  This span various decades, some of the works are good, but they are ALL let down by the Museums attempts to enlighten the viewers with each and every work having a rather patronising and condescending piece of writing that attempts to ‘explain’ the work.  If you go, I implore you to NOT read what is written on the walls!

By the time we finished in the museum we were quite thirsty so we went to this other café we had heard about, called Cheder Café it is actually a coffee shop, not a tea house (SHOCK HORROR).  But we had both been convinced by the promise of Israeli coffee.  This place is lovely, decorated with great colours and furniture and a good soundtrack.  It is the hub of the Jewish community and events.  The place was shutting early on this day for a meeting about the Jewish festival, but we luckily still had plenty of time.  We ordered the coffee, and some food.  I had a Pitta bread with Feta, olives and a sauce called Zateh(?).  The food was good, the breads were thick and tasty, and the filling very satisfying.  The coffee was good too, a lot more mild than I had anticipated.  Spiced very slightly with cinnamon and nutmeg etc.  This, we found out, was from a pre-mixed pot, which was a bit of a disappointment, but it was nice none-the-less, though neither of us were convinced of it being that close to the real thing.

We sat for a while longer then left when the café started to set up for the meeting.  We went for another cup of tea, this time at the hostel that Isabel was staying at, spoke for a while longer and then it was the end of the day.


Day 59, Krakow, March 8th 2012

Tea 59, Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, Czajovnia, Krakow

So, the unavailability of internet has wreaked havoc on my postings, a terrible, terrible neglect and I must apologise, but sometimes that’s how things go…

So, I think my last post was on the 7th of march, it is now the 13th!!  :.S  oops!

So, going back into my memory banks to the 8th… This day started slowly, I stayed in the apartment / dorm of my hosts for most of the morning.  Malgorzata stayed home too and we spent most of the time talking and I also helped her with a script she is writing at the minute.  She wants the film she intends to make to be in English and so I helped her with word order and the usual things, such as expressions and the simple way of how to say things, or how not to say things….one notable example being the English expression of being ‘pissed off’ with someone, this had become to ‘piss on’ someone!  This provided a lot of laughter!  She also showed me a few films she is into, and we watched bits and bobs of all of them.  In the afternoon I had organised to meet another traveller and to go to this tea house called Czajownia.  This is a very similar name to a place in Glasgow called ChaiOvna.

We met at about 3 and went straight in.  This place is really amazing, it is divided into different loose themes, Japan, India, China (I think) and with different decoration and furniture in each.  We were in a more Chinese styled area.  The menu is really massive, a comprehensive list of teas from all over!  I was in tea Nirvana!  We were given the menus and a little bell to ring when we were ready to be served, a neat touch, though we both felt a little rude about ringing for attention!

I initially chose a really exciting sounding Putuo Fo Cha, a rare and exclusive tea from the island of Putuo Shan.  To my disappointment this tea was so rare they had run out of it!  I was a little upset, but then asked what would be a good alternative.  I was recommended Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, and I took this.

It was a good tea, delicate, light in colour and flavour.  Extreme clarity came with the tea, both in appearance and in flavour.  The guy who prepares the tea does so with extreme care and consideration, he really knows what he is doing and he has turned his preparation into something of a show (albeit unintentionally), timing, pouring, heating, all the proper processes to make each and every tea according to each and every teas requirements.  This is really a great, great place, unfortunately I never made it back there before I left Krakow, but the next time I’m there I will make that my first stop.

After this tea we were both still chatting about life and travel, and tea of course.  So we ordered another.  This time it was not strictly a tea, but a traditional Turkish drink called Sahlep.  This is a milky warm spiced tea that is only served in the winter in Turkey apparently.  Isabel (the woman I had gone for tea with) had had it before, during her various trips to Istanbul, her favourite place in the world it would seem.  She was very excited about trying such a drink outside of Turkey.  She assured me it was quite a good one, so I’m confident I had a decent Sahlep experience.

EVENTUALLY we left the tea house and I went to meet my host.  We were meeting around the corner in Kazimierz, near the famous Zapiekanka stall on Plac Nowy.  We then went to a little bar, the name of which I have forgotten.  We ordered a beer each and waited for Malgorzata’s friend to arrive.  She had organised that we meet so I could talk to her about Glasgow School of Art, she was hoping to go there on her Erasmus exchange, and wanted to find out more about it (I studied there).  She arrived a while later with a friend, and we spoke for a while about it and about travel and all those things.  Then they both had to leave and so we all went.  Malgorzata and I went back home via the Zapiekanka stall, this was my first experience of it.  Put very simply it’s a bit like a Polish version of Pizza.  Bread, cheese and a mushroom sauce base on which you can have different toppings.  I had spinach and onions, and it was a very good choice.  They taste great!  And the serving is MASSIVE!  Really, really great!  Especially so when it’s 11pm and you still haven’t had dinner!


Day 58, Krakow, March 7th 2012

Tea 58: Lemo Mate, the Apartment, Krakow.

The sun and it’s warmth came back today, gladly (though I hear it’s not to last, again).  I left the apartment and walked in the sunshine to the river, the Wisla.  I walked past the big helium balloon and crossed the bridge.  I then turned south, towards the sun and following the rivers edge.  As i walked the bells of three churches all began to ring for 12 o’clock.  Though it would seem they are all have about 20 – 30 seconds of difference between them.  Maybe this is on purpose so that they can all get a fair share of the attention.  The big white church next to me was  the last to chime, it’s big bells clanging about with great passion.

I continued along the river, then crossed the blue arched bridge to a part of town that could still be part of Kazimierz district, or it could be part of Podgorze district… There I wandered up a staircase to a small park dedicated to Wojciech Bednarski, a polish educator, councillor and activist from the 19th – 20th Century.  The park is small but has a nice feel, with lots of trees and a large cliff at the far side, which has a wall built on the top of it that looks to be a fort of some kind.  I sat there in the sunshine for a while, then left out of another entrance / exit. There was this huge old house at opposite the entrance which looked like something out of a fairytale, with a great roof and cornicing and a turret.  I then walked back down the hill and onto a town square which has a large intricately decorated church at one end, that basically backs onto the little park I was in.  I wandered down the main street, with its old buildings and their great old signs and facias.

After a while of weaving in and out of the streets, trying to keep in the warm sunshine, I made it back across the water and into Kazimierz proper.  I wandered around a little more, walked up Mostowa Street and onto another little square, then along Jozefa street, where there is a tea house I have read about, I didn’t visit it today, but have found it so I know where it is when I am ready (probably tomorrow)!  I then continued east, went under a tiny little bridge with the railway going over the top and found myself outside the large Jewish cemetery called Nowy Cmentarz Zydowski.  I went in, began to walk amongst the hundreds and thousands of gravestones that fill this place.  There is such a concentration of graves in this place, like I have never seen before.  There are even tombs lining the pathways and they are so tightly packed that you can see where paths used to be, but which are now totally taken over by graves.  The place is in quite bad disrepair, which is a shame, some of the stones were once very beautiful but have suffered terribly, probably largely due to the various wars.  After a while amongst the stones I left, walked north and found myself in another food market, with people milling about getting their fruit and veg. Walking out of the market I found myself at a large old bridge, built in the middle of the 19th Century, which marks the start of Dietla street.  Walking down, still in the beautifully warm sunshine (though I still needed a hat and gloves) I then went back into Kazimierz, and found this little cafe I had walked past a little while earlier, called Mostowa artcafe, named after the street it is on and the art on the walls.  I ordered a coffee (I needed the caffeine, the cold is still keeping me under it’s influence), and some olives and sat for a good hour or so writing and just staring out of the window onto the street outside.

After that I left, and walked back to the little square called Plac Wolnica, with the Krakow Ethnography Museum on one side.  I decided I hadn’t been in a museum for a while now and that I would visit this one.  It’s fairly simple, with examples of old tools, traditional costume and reconstructions of houses and rooms.  The usual stuff you find in such a museum.  The best thing about this place was the photographs.  There are loads and loads of old photographs (all reproductions) that are really great, so many faces and characters that say so much more than an outfit or old hammer in a glass case.

A while was spent in there, keeping warm, the temperature had begun to drop when I left the cafe.  Then back out, the sun had begun to set and I wandered back to the river, via a supermarket, and this time instead of crossing straight over I decided to walk north, towards the Jubilat shopping centre, with it’s red neon sign reflecting in the water.  The sky was turning a wonderful orange colour as the sun got lower and fuller.  People were milling about on the rivers edge, rollerblading, cycling, taking photographs and being romantic, even a man walking his horse!  I made it around to the next bridge and walked over it and then weaved through the streets of Debniki district until I found myself home again.  Attempting to get into the building by asking the concierge to let me through the door descended into humorous chaos as I attempted a tiny bit of Polish and then got my tongue all twisted, but eventually we managed to communicate and I got back into the building.