Day 83, Warsaw, April 1st 2012

Tea 83, Hot Chocolate (another tea deviation!), A cafe whose name I can’t remember, Warsaw

Happy April Fool’s day (belated)!

Today was, very sadly, my last day in Warsaw.  It’s very strange to be leaving, I am still really loving the city and the people here.

We decided to go for a wander around the Praga district, to have a proper look around on the other side of the river.  We managed to get one bus all the way from Wilanow to Praga, so that was pretty good.  The day was very cold again, with loads of snow once more, but very sporadic with beautiful sunshine in between, very British style weather (though that would probably be rain instead of snow which is worse I think).  We got off the bus in central Praga and just began to wonder, the streets and back courts are dotted with murals and Madonna’s, some of which are kept in wonderful condition, whilst others have slightly more bizarre surroundings.

We wandered around a little more, our original intention was to visit the Vodka Distillery, but this is shut at the weekends, though we knew that before we set off.  But we got a good look at it from the outside, before heading into an entrance way where I took one photo that then resulted in a slightly fraught conversation with a security guard about the private property aspect and not being allowed to take photos.  Marta managed to hold her ground pretty well though, then we made our escape.  We wandered around the outskirts of this same area of derelict land, coming around the opposite side we could look through a gate and see what all the fuss was about, but it was all just literally piles of rubble and the remains of one last building.  We took some more photos just to spite them!

We then popped to the shopping centre nearby to answer a call of nature.  I managed to enter a situation where a man appeared to have locked himself in one of the cubicles and was possibly doing more than his fair share of drugs, the cleaners were calling for security to come and sort the situation.

Managing to escape another strange situation we headed out of the shopping centre and then found ourselves wandering around some more old, old streets.  We managed to find an open door to one old tenement which we explored a little, with some beautiful old railings and a butchered bike on the top floor.  Then we found a nice little cafe selling lots of cookery books too, and with some great photographic and fashion magazines.  So we sat with a hot chocolate and read whilst we waited, in vane, for the weather to improve.  Back out into the cold we wandered some more, bought some crisps/chips and then got on a tram back to the old town on the other side of the river.

We got off at the first stop in the old town then made for the University Library building.  On it’s roof is a huge garden, which anyone can freely and easily explore.  It is pretty cool, even at this time of year when not too much is growing, though it is great to be able to see the buds on the trees starting to bulge with leafy life.  We then decided we were getting a bit hungry so we had a look in a few of the university cafeterias to see if anything took our fancy.  There didn’t seem to be too much, so we walked for a while along Dobra and in and out of a few shops, a great bookshop/cafe where I managed to convince Marta to buy a copy of Alain De Botton‘s ‘The Art of Travel‘.  I hope she will enjoy it!   This place didn’t have much savoury food on offer though, so we carried on walking.  We eventually made it to a branch of Rue De Paris cafe.  This one was decorated pretty roughly with lots of colourful lampshades and bare brick walls, a nicer atmosphere compared to many.  We had a Goats cheese tart and a Camembert and Walnut tart between us.  These were good, though were a little disappointing when you are literally just presented with a tart on a plate, no salad or garnish even for visual effect!

We ate and people watched for a while then had a slow and relaxed wander back to the city centre and then home.

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Day 82, Warsaw, March 31st 2012

Tea 82, Yunnan Green Superior, the Apartment, Warsaw

We were late leaving the flat today, as Marta decided to have a bit of a spring clean.  When we did leave it was time for a late lunch, so we headed out, into the freezing cold, and SNOWING (!) air, we jumped on the metro to central and headed for Kebab King.  I had a huge craving for Falafel!  So we went to the large branch of Kebab King on Jerozolimpskie and basically stuffed our faces, I had Falafel, Chips and then we both shared some Baklava for dessert!  (One Pistachio and one Coconut sweet treats)

We got totally stuffed and then headed back outside.  Whilst we had been inside eating the sun had been out, shining through the window, but, as sod’s law so often dictates, as soon as we left the rain and hail began beating down on us.  We ran around the corner, cut through Empik and then waited for a bus from Foksal.  We took the bus to the stop nearest to Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, the centre for contemporary art in Warsaw.  We walked briskly here, the snowy hail was pouring down on us.

The main show that is on there at the minute is a semi-retrospective / archival project about the AKADEMIA RUCHU. entitled AKADEMIA RUCHU. CITY. The FIELD of ACTION. This charts the history of one of Poland’s most prolific and active arts collectives.  They began life in the mid 70’s and have created numerous performative installations in public spaces ever since.  The show charts pretty much every project they have ever conducted, through photography, film and text.  It was really great to discover this group, who have made, and strive to make important, thought-provoking and enlightening work for their whole existence.  This section of work on show at the centre took us quite a long while to tour around, so if you plan to go, definitely give yourselves time.  The show ends in a small basement space where some more of their video documentation is shown and they are running a little tea stand, with free tea or coffee and a lucky dice roll to try and win a glass of wine (sadly me, nor Marta managed to roll the correct amounts to get any wine)…  We did have a cup of tea and coffee though and sat and watched some more of the videos, and spoke to the guy serving the tea, who is a member of the Akademia Ruchu.  There are apparently only 5 of them left now, there were 22 originally.  It seemed a little odd to discover that, as I had walked around the show thinking that Akademia Ruchu was more organic than that and that maybe they had a membership that was constantly evolving across the years. It seems a shame that one day it will cease to exist…

The other parts of the building house two more exhibitions, one part is showing POSTDOCUMENT (they seem to enjoy capital letters here…)  This is a show of photographs charting the Polish Transformation following the fall of the Soviet Empire from 1989.  There are some really great photographs in this show, and some really interesting works and perspectives.  Really worth seeing.  We could have spent much longer in the show, walking around seeing everything in more detail, but we had spent so long in the first part that we were running out of time.  The next part isn’t so interesting, a collection of Cognitive artworks from the CCA collection.  There are some works from Yoko Ono and a work by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

After the shows we were both ready for home, so we walked in the cold air back to the Metro, Politechnika this time, via a shop to buy some juice.  Then we hopped on the train home.  Back home and we just chilled out basically, drinking some more tea via Marta’s wonderful new teapot and then headed to bed.


Day 79 – 81, Warsaw, March 28th – 30th 2012

Tea 80, Loads of Yunnan Green Superior for study support!, the apartment, Warsaw

Tea 81, Sencha Sakura, the magic teapot (above), Warsaw

Day 79, well, what happened on this day?  I guess not a great deal, we did go and pick Marta’s coat up from the dry cleaners and then wandered around in the sunshine, it was a little windy today so much of our time was spent trying to avoid the wind tunnels between buildings.  We wandered around Jana Pawla for a while visiting the places we didn’t manage to go to the night before, the little tea shop, which is a bit expensive, then into the XX1 gallery to see the show that is on at the minute, although I think it might be shut now.  ‘Transfusion’ by Pavel Novak, apparently the Polish version of a super common name such as my own!  He had presented a few paintings alongside a sculptural glass installation of clear glass heart casts.  The work looked good in the space, especially with the sun beating through the window, glistening from and through the glass casts.  They weren’t exactly presented perfectly in the space though, somewhat ‘plonked’ on the end of white poles.  The press release seemed to say they should appear to be floating at heart level, but they weren’t floating.

Day 80, Thursday, we didn’t really leave until late, later than we had intended really.  Marta was studying for a job interview most of the day, I did pop to Galleria Mokotow for a short while to buy some eye moisturizer stuff from the pharmacy, as I had managed to lose my other one somewhere between Torun and Warsaw.  When we did eventually leave we headed straight to central and to a photo development shop where we dropped off Marta’s first ever medium format Holga film!  That was very exciting, and they had it ready in an hour, which amazed me, stuff like that in the UK usually takes about 2 weeks!  While we waited we went back to Zacheta, to see the newly installed sculptural installation show called ‘New Sculpture?’.  The show is good, I’m glad I got to see the other spaces in this gallery.  There were various large scale works by a number of artists including Martin Boyce (giving me a sentimental thought of Glasgow) and  Mai-Thu Perret, as well as others.  We wandered around in there for a while, attracting various suspicious glances from the guards.  The security guards in Poland are pretty hardcore, even more so in the health and beauty stores, Rossman’s is the worst, they may as well handcuff you as you walk through the door, and don’t even think about going in for a simple browse, not unless you are a massive fan of the serial voyeur!

Show seen we headed back outside, then had a whistlestop run around the old town to try to find a shop we had been to before that sells a great almond cake, we found the shop but sadly no almond cake!  Then we had to rush back to the photo shop to collect the film, but not without a quick diversion to the donut place on Chmielna to fulfill our sweet cravings.  We were both quite excited about the Holga results.  We really didn’t know what to expect, especially as the film that Marta had bought was such a cheap one that we didn’t even know if we had put it in around the right way to begin with!  But we were not disappointed!  The results were very pleasing, though we both realised that we had been a bit foolish, Marta had been using the different colours of the flash when she had taken the photos.  But it turned out we had both totally forgotten the film was black and white!  Needless to say coloured flashes are utterly pointless in this case!  Two of the photos are below, so I must credit Marta for them!

Day 81, the last day of employment for Marta!  And also a job interview for her too!  She had headed for this very early in the morning, I just about remembered to wake up and wish her good luck, before crashing back into sleep again.  When I eventually awoke I spent some time on the computer before deciding to head into town.  This was made a little difficult, I had been locked in!  Marta had accidentally taken the keys with her to work.  I sent her a message asking where they were, she looked in her bag and there they were.  Luckily she managed to get permission from her work to come back and free me.  Once that fiasco was sorted I went into town and walked around the shops for a while.  The biggest thing on my mind was (and is) a hunt for this camera, a DIY lomo (yes, Marta’s Holga experience has inspired me).  But this is a little different, one you build yourself from total scratch and that uses standard 35mm film.  It’s called a DIY Recesky Twin Lens Reflex (or TLR), and looks like it could be good fun.  I spent a lot of time searching around in the camera and gadget and toy shops, but to no avail.  I think I am going to have to buy it online when I am in Berlin, the problem is the delivery times, but I will still keep looking for the next few days I think.

After the fruitless search I went and met Marta outside her work.  She arrived carrying a load of stuff including some leftover cake from her goodbye cake collection and a goodbye present she had been bought, the fantastic teapot you can see above.  The cups are double-walled to keep the tea warm for longer!  A really great present, in my opinion!  We christened it with some Sencha Sakura, a floral, delicately flavoured tea (she had been bought this as well as some Chinese Sencha and two flower teas).  The tea was good, delicate and green, a very good sencha, and the flavoured aspect was very well balanced and didn’t take away from the tea too much!


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!


Day 74, Warsaw – Torun, March 23rd 2012

Tea 74, Green Tea (not pictured), Torun

Today I travelled with Marta and her Mum to Torun, a town on the Unesco World Heritage list, founded by the German Teutonic Knights and the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus.  The day started with Marta rushing across the city to pass on a birthday present to a friend before we left.  She got this cool bracelet in the style of an Octopus arm from an online store run by her friend called oohandy.com.

I then met her at Dworzec Centralny at about 11 and we got a train at 1130 that took us to Zyradow, a station on the outskirts of Warsaw where Marta’s mum, Hanna, met us with the car.  We all piled in and off we went.  The journey to Torun took about 3 hours, the views are very nice, a part of it tracks a very pretty part of the Vistula river.  Though lots of the road surfaces aren’t exactly friendly!  They are building a whole new motorway infrastructure along this part though, that was intended to be ready for the Euro 2012 competition: take this as fact… it won’t be!

We made it to Torun at around 4, and were dropped off in the city centre.  We then wandered around the town a little, soaking up the sunshine and then we went to this pancake place called Manekin, where we met Carolina and Mike, who had also come to Torun for a couple of days, though they were there waiting for the bus back to Warsaw.

I ordered a pancake with Feta cheese, olives, basil and tomatoes, which was very good, though both mine and Marta’s pancake ended up with us after a short stop at the wrong table…

After the pancake and a pint to drink Carolina and Mike had to leave to catch the bus, so we all left and Marta and I took in a bit more sightseeing, with the light failing and the stars appearing in the sky.  Eventually we too decided it was time to leave so we headed to the bus stop, got on a bus and went to Marta’s uncle’s house somewhere in the Torun suburbs.  We spent the evening chatting and eating, another huge weekend of food was ahead of me!  And then Marta’s uncle got out a few of his spirits and we drank a little too, cherry liquor, quince liquor, and one make from aronia, or chokeberries.  All of them very tasty, if I had to pick my favourite, I’d go for the quince!


Day 73, Warsaw, March 22nd 2012

Tea 73: Darjeeling “Puttabong” Green Tea, Ganders Tea House, Warsaw.

A proper tea day today!  Hoorah!  Finally, not only have I been neglecting my updating, but also my decent tea related blogging!

First things first though.  Shoes.  The trainers I brought with me on this trip are now completely busted, so it was high time for a new pair!  Especially as it’s no longer the weather for by huge walking boots.  So the majority of todays daylight hours was dedicated to finding a new pair of trainers.  This, eventually, resulted in the purchase of some nice high top Puma ‘First Round trainers in the home away from home store that is TK Maxx.  Anyway, enough about shoes already.

After that long, long search I met up with Marta after her work and we decided to head to the other side of the river to Saska Kępa district and back to Herbaciania Gander, or Gander’s Tea House.  This was the place I visited a couple of weeks ago and had the amazing Armenian layer cake.  This time I decided upon an interesting sounding Darjeeling variety of Green Tea, called Puttabong.  This was rich and very green in taste, quite heavy on the tannins but it didn’t suffer from that.  It was very good, served in a nice parcelain teapot and filter, and poured out in a delightful golden greenish colour.  Marta decided upon a flower tea, I have forgotten it’s name.  It was good though, very delicate and not too floral in taste as they sometimes can be.  I still think that too often these things become too much about the visual and not enough about the tea though, but this was of a good quality, as I have already come to expect of the tea from Gander’s.  We sat there for a couple of hours, enjoying the tea and I had also ordered another layer cake, this time a ginger and cinnamon one.  It was good, very light and not too sweet.  Loads of cream too, but again, not heavy at all.

After that we went for a walk around Saska Kępa, and then walked across the river, a long busy bridge, buses and cars flying past as we took some photos.  The great cityscape shining out, the new Euro 2012 football stadium lit up and shining brightly.  Making it to the other side we took a bus then got back on the Metro and home.  My legs were tired and heavy from the days walking, but the tea had revived me and my spirit was feeling good again!  I love TEA!!!! 😀

More shameless self promotion; if you don’t mind, visit my sponsorship campaign page on kickstarter and check out (and hopefully pledge??) a little towards the summer studio project!  If you donate I’ll even throw in a bit of tea to your reward package!  CLICK HERE 


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.