Day 77 & 78, Warsaw, March 26th & 27th 2012

Tea 78: Turkish Coffee & Green Tea with Mint, Cafe Adi, Warsaw.

So, monday was a bit of a write off, the only reason I left the flat was to go and do a bit of food shopping and come back again.  So, not much to talk about there, and no photos either I’m afraid.

Straight onto Tuesday then, and a bit more eventful.  I started the day with a little trip to Raclawicka again, to show Marta the little second-hand bike shop and to wander around in the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day with loads of sunshine, though a bit windy.  After a while walking around there, into a second hand shop where Marta bought a lovely red hooded coat with black toggles for a bargain price, we started to head towards town.  We popped into a little photo shop to see if they develop medium format film, Marta recently invested in a Holga and has used her first roll of film!  She also got her photo taken for her US Visa application.  The place was tiny and dark and smelt like many decades worth of cigarette smoke had seeped into the walls.  The guy looked like he has propped up the counter for his entire life too.

Back out into the daylight I had a sudden craving for an ice cream, the bright sunlight stirring that primal ice cream eating monster inside us all!  A chocolate Magnum made it into my stomach in double quick time, and we carried on walking.  We walked through Pole Mokotowskie, and then into the city centre, on the hunt for a launderette for Marta’s new coat.  We didn’t manage to find a reasonably priced one before making it to Central Station, where we stood in a queue for ages and I bought a ticket to my next destination, Berlin next monday.

Ticket bought and we intended to get a tram up to the old town and to stop for a coffee in the cafe where I had the great Turkish Coffee, cafe Adi.  All the trams were totally packed though, so after attempting to get onboard 3 we decided we would just make the most of the sunshine and walk.  We did so and made it to the cafe whilst the sun was still streaming through the open window.  It was so warm and lovely in there, and the turkish coffee was really good again.  The place started to suddenly get really really full of well dressed pensioners, who were probably waiting for a show at the theatre across the road.  We had finished our drinks so we decided to leave.

We then continued our walk, it was still sunny and quite warm so we walked up to the huge monument to the Polish Resistance and the funny multicoloured Pegasus’s ( Pegasuses?  Pegasi??  ) that sit outside of the national library and the supreme court.

Then we headed West and ended up on Jana Pawla, where we managed to find a cheap launderette for the coat.  We left it there and carried on our walk, south now and back towards the city centre, we stopped off in a few shops in search of some Ciechan Honey Beer, which seems to be in short supply at the minute.  Unsuccessful we headed back to the Metro at central, at the minute and until the end of April part of the Metro is shut down so you can only get as far as Central from the stations south and only from Ratusz Arsenal north.  You have to get a tram or bus between Central and Ratusz Arsenal at the minute.  But this didn’t really affect us, just meant a slightly longer walk, we bought some chocolate covered raisins to sustain ourselves!

Back home via the Marc Pol store, where we successfully got some honey beer, though not Ciechan, but another brand, we ate some food and drank some beer and then the clock decided it was high time we headed for the sack!


Day 43, Warsaw, February 21st 2012

Tea 43: Japonska Wisnia (Green Cherry), Marta and Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw.

Today was a good long day of walking and sightseeing.  I took the Metro two stops past Centrum to Ratusz Arsenal.  This is the nearest stop to the old town (I think).  I left the station and took yet another guess at what direction to go, used the sun as a reference to what way was east and west.  I made it successfully to the Old Town and hunted out a Tourist Information to raid the free maps.  The one that Marta had bought the other day is good, but is massive and really conspicuous to carry around, I much prefer one you can slip in and out of your back pocket.  I wandered to the old town square where a good tourist information is, with a good selection of maps and guides in every language imaginable, and maps and guides in hand I went back out of the old town to the tomb of the unknown soldier.  This is a ceremonial heart of memorial for all the lost soldiers in the wars and is guarded constantly by two soldiers, guns in hand, a fire burning to keep them from freezing to death.  There is a small park behind the tomb with an impressive switched off fountain and various sculptures of goddesses, Venus, Art, Justice etc etc, there are a few without titles which I found a little odd, and tried to figure out what they were but failed.  The ice was thick on the ground, still solid with no sign of it shifting any time soon.

I wandered around that part of town for a while, the huge Soviet ‘Sofitel’ hotel mirrored across the huge open, parade type, square by the more modern glass fronted building, that looks to be offices.  I headed towards the hotel to the front of another building, which turned out to be the Zachęta National Gallery of Art.  I didn’t go inside as I am planning that for thursday when, hopefully, entry will be for free.  So I turned back and went to the Old Town side of the square, by the statue of Józef Klemens Piłsudski, which stares down on it’s audience with a dour and stern look on it’s face.

I then decided to go back to the tea house I had seen.  It is a Demmers Tea House, which turns out to be an Hungarian company.  I didn’t stay to drink inside, but instead chose to look through the teas smell a couple and make a purchase.  This I did, I picked Japonska Wisnia, a delicate green tea, Sencha I think, with cherry.  The smell of cherry is quite strong, but the flavour less so, which makes the tea very interesting and a good sensation to taste.  One of those teas where you can decide what to concentrate on, smell or taste, without either of them becoming the focus.  I also bought an intriguing sounding Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  This will be reviewed next I am pretty sure.  It smells great!  Purchases made using a good mix of broken English and Polish I decided to head towards the river.  I went down this looping road that is still directly in line with the tomb and the Piłsudski statue.

The road has got this great big yellow bridge over it, with two tunnels through it, traffic goes one way through one and the other through the next.  There is are big sculptures lining the bridge, a mermaid stands on top looking down onto the passers with a threatening look and wielding a sword.  Behind her a bearded man’s face looks out, I can’t totally giure out if it is meant to look like it has been chopped off of it’s body, but that is what it looks like to me…  the mermaid is the emblem of Warsaw and there are many of them dotted about over the city.  Walking beneath the bridge, a little shrine set up to something, I headed for the river.  Making it there I walked past this amazing green glass building, but one that is not brand-new.  It looks like a huge greenhouse, and I thought maybe it was a public building or museum, but I don’t think it is, I think it is just offices.  But an amazing building.  The street was lined with coaches, loads of them.  I think this is because a little further down is the Copernicus Science Centre, or Centrum Nauki Kopernik.  This is housed in a modern building, it’s facade covered by lots of bits of metal in various tones of reddish-brown.

Walking past the Science Centre and then to the corner of the street I made the decision not to cross the river today so I turned right instead, past a hodge-podge of old, middle-aged and new buildings.  One very old building still appearing to bear the scars of some battle, bullet holes peppering it’s front.  I have read that this isn’t such a rare thing to see in Warsaw, so I’m pretty sure they are relics from WW2.  I then turned left onto Dobra Street, meaning ‘Good’ Street.  In front of me was a great sight, two old grey arching bridges loomed over the road, one being seen through the arch of the other.  They both carry trains I think and are huge and heavy looking.  I walked beneath them, with a short diversion into a supermarket, and then I walked along the edge of the biggest of the two, arch after arch leading up to the city centre.  Part of the bridge looks like it was once going to be developed into something, bare concrete blocks making rooms and spaces, with concrete staircases leading between floors.  It has now been taken over by graffiti artists and skateboarders.  A strange construction, I can not imagine how it was intended to look and how it would of ever looked right sitting between the legs of the bridge.  A long, tall, covered and graffitied staircase leads back up to the main town.  At the top of the staircase is the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, or Polish War Museum, this is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the outside area is still open and you can freely wander amongst aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and missile launchers.  If that is your cup-of-tea.  Some of the stuff is pretty impressive and the size of some of the rocket launchers, and their rockets, is quite a scary thought…

I left the ‘war garden’ and went back to the centre of town.  I walked through Waszawa Centralna (Warsaw Central) Train Station then back out and into the big new shopping centre.  The roof of this place is the most interesting part, made up of thousands of glass triangles the roof flows like the surface of an undulating sea.  The bluish glass reflecting the sky.  That’s about all I have to say about this place, it’s a shopping centre, we all know what they are like…

It was getting quite late now so i decided that I would head back to the apartment, so I got onto the Metro at Centrum and went back.  I rested my feet for a while, managed to get the internet to work on my laptop and then went out to buy some food, I had said I would cook tonight.  Successfully find a supermarket (though not the one I was looking for), I bought some pasta, Broccoli, Chorizo, Garlic and a couple of bottles of Zubr, a Polish beer.  Back home, Ania had got back to the flat whilst I had been away so we chatted a little and I began to make food for the evening, Marta was out until around 8:30pm.

Food eaten, Beer drunk, Marta and Ania decided to make a banana-chocolate cake.  No cinnamon in the house, Marta popped out to the shop and came back with that and a couple more beers, this time a honey beer Ciechan Miodowe, another Polish made one.  Sweet and tasty, I would definitely recommend it for those of you that enjoy honey.

Beer drunk, cake eaten, a quick cup of tea and it was time to sleep again!


Day 42, Warsaw, February 20th 2012

Tea 42: Green Rooibos ‘African Sun’, Marta and Ania’s Apartment, Warsaw.

PHEWWW!!!  Finally got the internet to work on my computer!  At long long long last!  Hopefully this will mean my postings will be back on schedule!  So, yes, today (or yesterday)…

I didn’t actually leave the apartment until really really late in the end.  And I managed to miss most of the sunshine!  That was a bit of a shame, but I think I needed the rest.  EVENTUALLY I made it to the Metro and took the train to Centrum.  I came back above ground and tried to figure out which direction was the right direction.  I took a punt and ended up going down Marszalkowska, heading South, and eventually back to the tube station I had gotten off the day before.  At least I had figured out some geography and not gotten totally lost!  After find myself back where I had started the day before I decided I would head to the Royal Park, Lazienkowsky.  The long Aleje Ujazdowskie, is lined with big embassy buildings and other parks.  It is quite a spectacular road.  I wandered down the road, popped into another park, paths thick with ice, slowly beginning to melt, a small hole in the ice acting and looking a lot like a bath just the right size for a duck.  Birds scrambled about for scraps of bread recently left by some kind samaritan.

Making it to Lazienkowsky I was first met by a huge sculpture of Chopin.  This is a really amazing looking sculpture, Chopin sitting beneath a stylized Willow tree.  Walking around the rear of the sculpture you realise you are at the top of a high mound of land, with one steep side leading down to the rest of the park.  I slowly scaled the slippery path down to the main area of the park.  A rather treacherous journey!  The park is huge, full of buildings for various purposes, cafes, amphitheaters, museums.  Ducks, and peacocks.  One wandered up to me, probably trying to figure out if I had anything it would like to eat, unfortunately I did not.  There was also a really beautiful Mandarin Duck and his partner.  I’ve never seen one of these up close before and he was very impressive. It was now approaching 5 and I had arranged to meet Marta after work and go for something to eat.  I wandered back out of the park.  Along the long embassy road again and back towards the Stary Mokotow district.

I met Marta outside of her work building and we walked past a lovely church lit up in the early evening light.  We then hopped onto a Metro train for one stop, jumped off again and found this little schizophrenic Chinese restaurant (the ceiling is covered in fake Grape Vines, suggesting it was once an Italian place.  We ordered some food, I had some Soy Noodles with vegetables and shrimps.    It was tasty, but much like the Baltic Countries I have visited, the Polish do not do much spice!  We ate our food and had a rather long and fruitless wait in a Post Office whilst Marta tried to track down a parcel that she was expecting, then it was time to head home.


Day 41, Warsaw, February 19th 2012

Tea 41, Genmaicha, Same Fusy, Warsaw.

Today was my first proper day in Warsaw, well, I say proper, still didn’t leave the flat until late because I had stayed up until stupid o’clock in the morning last night chatting, my brain sleeping but my body still awake because all I had done all day long was sit on a bus.  I’ve never been so glad to see +1’C in my life!  And, for the first time since I started to travel, today it rained!  After living in Glasgow for 6 years you would think I’d dread the sight of rain, but it actually makes you miss it to some extent.  And it wasn’t too heavy so that probably helped.  The puddles were dreadful though, as the rain was melting the big piles of snow making the streets flooded with an inch or two of water in most places.

My host Marta took me into town.  We got the Metro, a small one line system that leads into the city centre.  We got off one stop before Centrum and walked around for a bit, she showed me where she works and we walked into the city centre along streets lined with a mixture of huge blocky Soviet buildings, many still with Soviet sculptures carved into them off workmen and women with children, and some of the few that survived the bombing and destruction during and after World War 2 which destroyed around 80% of the city.  We walked a little way down this huge wide street, whose name I don’t remember, but that has loads of the embassy buildings along it.  The American Embassy being clearly obvious from it’s paranoid 12 inch concrete barriers and thick black metal fencing.  We kept wandering in the snow and rain until the old town, past a view point of the new football stadium, built ready for the Euro 2012 competition, which will be held in Poland and the Ukraine.  The Warsaw castle to one side of the view and another old building to the right.  It looks quite good there somehow, but maybe it was the low lying cloud making it seem all mystical or something…

We then went deeper into the old town, the cobbled streets getting smaller and smaller until you reach the centre, which is very much like most old town squares, a big open space surrounded by attractive old buildings.  We then went down a little street and found Same Fusy and Tea House and Coffee shop. This is a funny little place, decorated in dark terracotta colours and african masks dotted about all over the place, but which was playing some CSS when we walked in, and turned out to be the whole album, an unusual choice if you ask me.  This place is pretty expensive.  I paid 22Zloty for my tea, which is around 5 Euro, so definitely not cheap, basically similar to Helsinki.  But then this is the old town, that is what tends to happen.  We sat for quite a while, the tea was a basic Genmaicha (Green Tea with Roasted Brown Rice), but it was nice, it usually is.  But nothing spectacular, and for the price, nothing special.  After that we then decided we were a bit hungry so we popped into another place and shared a plate of mixed Pierogi.  This is a traditional Polish dish of dumplings made from Wheat or spelt pastry with various fillings, many of them Veggie, which is good.  These were boiled, though in the past I have had fried ones.  They were tasty, but I find the fried ones much better, more flavoursome.

This filled us up so we decided to head home, via the city centre for Marta to buy a new map.  The city has it’s own version of Stalin’s Birthday Cake, similar to the one in Riga, but built of grey stone, not the red stone of Riga.  At night it is lit up with a rainbow of colours, making it look quite cool, and with the cloud still low, the mystical-ness came out once more.  We got on the Metro again and went home, watched a movie, and then it was time to sleep.

As you may be able to tell, these last two posts have been late, due to the internet availability here, it is likely to become the norm for a while…


Day 1, Denmark, 10th January 2012

Tea 1:  Yunnan Green Oolong, Tom’s Apartment.

Denmark so far has been a little cold, quite expensive but otherwise a nice relaxed place.  I arrived at the airport yesterday and took the Metro to Norregard station.  The Metro reminds me a lot of the MRT system trains in singapore, long, open plan trains with little merry-go-rounds in the middle.  The biggest difference though, is quite obviously the temperature.  And the cleanliness.  Not that its dirty, but just not ‘Singapore clean’.

Today i visited Arken, Denmark’s contemporary art gallery, situated near to the Ishoj train station and a stones throw from the coast, beautiful views of the sea from the gallery cafe and a chilly but pleasant wander from the station through marshlands with howling basset hounds and rosy cheeked locals.  I managed to catch the last day of the Warhol Basquiat exhibition, a dive into the collaborative practice of the two artists, featuring numerous works and really quite interesting documentary on Warhol’s life.

My first tea was from my own supplies, in Tom’s flat, once I’d figured out what pan would work on an induction hob…..