So at the weekend we decided to escape the city a little, and ventured south on the bus to the Park Kultury, a bit of forest and fields and holiday ‘huts’. The sun was shining hard as it has been for the last week or two, but the bus was nicely air-conditioned (apparently if the drivers don’t have it switched on they are getting fined). We arrived at it was as though the whole of Warsaw had descended on the place. There were men, women and children everywhere, all fairly scantily clad burning nicely in the midday sun.
We arrived and took a little walk through the park, then to the forest area where there were far less people. However it soon became apparent why people might not be populating the more covered areas, MOSQUITOS! The Polish ones are MASSIVE!!! And they are incessant! You’d think living in Scotland for the past 6 years would of hardened me against midges and all thing Vampiric, but these guys are a whole different class! And, what was worse, the so-called ‘repellant’ we had bought with us (thinking ourselves to be very clever) actually seemed to be ATTRACTING the bloomin’ things! They buzzed around my head like some sort of tiny version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! We escaped as quickly as we could, Mosquitos in hot pursuit. We finally made it out the other side and fended off the last few brave enough to head out into the heat of the daylight.
Walking trying hard to resist the urge to scratch the various parts of our bodies, we were treated to some lovely views of long strips of land, all planted up with different crops, from Cabbages and Wheat to a lovely field of Potatoes. We managed to ‘liberate’ a few from the edges of the field to take home and cook, just to see what they were like. Then we headed back to the main part of the park, where the number of bodies to mosquitos lowered our chances of being bitten. We sat in the sunshine for a while, watching people of all shapes and sizes stroll around the park, playing volleyball, chess or cards and drinking over priced beer. We stayed until the temperature lowered enough to bring the Mosquitos back out, and then we headed back to the bus and homewards.
After a day spent indoors avoiding the extreme 35’C heat we headed out in the evening, when the sun was getting low and the temperature a bit more reasonable. Most days all you have to do is walk out of the door and you are soaking in sweat, sorry to be so graphic! This evening, the same one as the Tram evening in the previous post, we headed vaguely North West out of the flat, past the Tram depot and some lovely allotment gardens, then ended up alongside the train track and eventually stumbled upon what must have been allotments in the past. We discovered beautiful pink Sweet Pea flowers growing wild as well as a few old cherry trees that were offering up some lovely ripe fruits, which we gobbled with smiles on our faces. They were juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of sourness in them. We walked a little more, then the Mosquitoes woke up and seemed hungry, so we did an about turn and headed home.
Park Lazienki, the Royal Park is currently hosting a little bit of China along one of it’s avenues. Two long rows of beautiful red Chinese lanterns line the path way and cross a little bridge where some (rather stylized) Chinese characters sit. The lanterns are really beautiful, with so many different designs it’s impossible to count. During June they were lit up between 9 and 11 every night, but now we are in July they are just being lit up on a Friday Saturday and Sunday night, but it is worth a visit, and to wander around the whole park at night is quite beautiful experience. There are pretty much no other lights in the park apart from the lanterns, so it is very very dark if you are still there by 11. It does make for a really nice evening out though. The second to last image is probably the best for demonstrating how beautiful some of these lanterns are.
A beautifully sunny day with really hot hot heat! Went to Profesorska Street to look for the old buildings and bullet holes that were meant to be evident there, but alas this little street has become a victim of time, but in a different sense to the usual. The old buildings are now fixed up and shiny again, no signs of stray bullets anywhere here anymore. Then headed to Lazienki, the big royal park where we were treated to a strutting bunch of peacocks all showing off their glorious feathers.
My first day back in Warsaw. Yep, I came back. And I am happy too, the football excitement was starting to build up and the sun is shining in the sky. It really is a beautiful city in many ways. Even it’s ugly bits.
Tea 114: Sweet Chai, Hallmackenreuther, Brüsseler Platz, Cologne.
Day 113. My first day in Cologne, and quite a easy going one. Usually my first day in a place is spent having a short explore around the local area to get my bearings. I had a wander to the park just around the corner, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. There were people jogging and walking dogs as well as a few rabbits hopping around munching on the damp grass. The air was heavy with misty rain filled clouds, but luckily it didn’t rain. I wandered part way towards the city centre and then back again, to the park first, where I decided to feed the ducks in the strange big square pond, with water that is a strange shade of turquoise (I later found out that I’m apparently not supposed to feed that ducks here, but luckily no one stopped me), there are carp in the water too, so despite it’s colour it must be capable of sustaining some life, although apparently a few years ago they had to totally refill the thing because the water had gone toxic and was killing the ducks.
Walking past the flat and along the little high-street. Then back to the flat I met with Regina as she had finished her first day back at work. We went and did some food shopping at the asian supermarket. We had thought about cooking this prawn, fennel, pasta dish (with fake prawns as Regina is a vegan), but we couldn’t find the fake prawns anywhere so that recipe quickly changed into a Pak Choi, Green Tea Noodles, lemongrass and tofu invented dish, which turned out to be very very good, if I do say so myself.
After eating we spent some time unpacking boxes from Regina’s basement, most of her stuff is still down there as she has only just got back from traveling around for the past year.
Day 114. Today I wandered further into the city centre. I found a few galleries, most rather commercial, but one quite nice space called Galerie Karsten Greve. This is a big space with about 4 levels, and very, very clean and tidy. The work on show at the minute is by Jean-Michel Othoniel. Glass sculptural hanging pieces. They are clean and sleek, but I’m not sure of the artists intent with them, I got the impression they are simply meant to be pretty objects.
After that I wandered back towards the flat, via a bicycle / sports shop. Then Regina arrived home from work again and we decided to head out to buy a few things and then went for ice cream at this good italian ice cream parlour near the city centre. I had a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of Pistachio, delicious!
Then we wandered to the ‘Belgian Quarter’. To a little square with a church called Brüsseler Platz, and we stopped at a cafe called Hallmackenreuther, and I had the above tea, a Sweet Chai, with fennel and liquorice and cardamom. It was good, though not amazing, possibly because I had wanted a different one, that they didn’t have, oh well.
We went home after that and cooked a traditionally German Asparagus dish. The asparagus is the same plant as I am used to, but they dont allow it to grow out of the ground and turn green, so it is yellowy-white in colour. We made a vegan bechamel sauce and potatoes to go with it, and it was very tasty.
After dinner we met up with Regina’s work mate in town and went to a gallery called ‘Museum Ludwig‘. This houses a large collection of modern art work, some huge names, and therefore a very expensive collection. Currently there is a sort of retrospective of the work of Yvonne Rainer. There is so much there that it’s impossible to do it all in a day, let alone two hours. This day was a special day where people who live in Cologne can get into the galleries for free, and due to the time we arrived I managed to get in for half price too! There is also Cosima Von Bonin’s CUT! CUT! CUT!, a show that has toured around and grown, and is now in its ‘final resting place’, at Museum Ludwig. I’m not too sure what I really think about this show though. I’m going to reserve opinion on that one for the minute.
There is also Henrik Olesen on show. Who’s work ‘Mr Knife and Mrs Fork’ has won the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2012. I actually saw this work for the first time a few years ago, when it was installed in a much rougher space in London. It was good to see it again, and quite strange to see it in a much cleaner and ‘official’ situation, with clean floors, and weirdly carpeted walls. The whole piece was set up exactly the same, except for the space and the way you enter the space. It was a kind of surreal experience to see it again!
After the museum we headed to a bar, a traditional Cologne pub where we drank Kolsh, the Cologne beer that comes in short 200ml glasses and is refilled until you signal by putting a beer mat on top of your glass. It is light and smooth, and pretty good.
After a couple of those we headed for a snack and then home!
Tea 104, the ‘free sample’ tea from the department store mentioned in last post, ‘Silvery Pearl Mountain’.
23rd and 24th were spent working on a few projects and things like that, not even a photo to show from these two days I’m afraid
25th, and just some more walking around, back to Gorlitzer park and around that area. Still relaxed and nothing new to report.
26th, Today I decided to head to Treptower park. I had read at the Russian monument a week or so before about the graves and memorial that had been built there in memory of the lost Russian soldiers, as well as housing mass graves of over 7000 soldiers. The walk there was along the canal and was very pretty and sunny. The park is huge, a big open space of grass then you wander around or through this and ‘come across’ the memorial. I say ‘come across’, you do sort of find it, as it is surrounded by tall trees and in some ways hidden. But the place is absolutely huge. A massive area of almost perfect symmetry. At one end is a statue of ‘Mother Russia’, where you enter the memorial from. Then you come across two pylons designed to look like lowered flags, with two kneeling soldiers, one on each flag. Then you enter the burial area properly, with 5 areas of grass, beneath which lie the graves. On either side are 8 white plinths with varying images of war carved into them and quotes of Stalin written on them, Russian versions on one side, German translations on the other. Then at the far end is the main piece. A huge structure of a man holding a child and a huge sword, standing over a destroyed swastika. The sculpture is amazing, it is so huge, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tall modern statue! You can walk up the staircase to the feet of the sculpture and, although there is a locked gate, inside there is a small circular room with a mosaic mural to the soldiers.
27th, A day before the deadline to the residency program so I just worked and a little walking around. Not much to talk about, just food shopping etc etc.
28th, The sunshine was so hot and wonderful today. I decided to walk back to Karl Marx Allee and to the fountain, which is basically a roundabout. I sat on the edge of the fountain for a while soaking up some sunshine and dipping my feet in the water, which was surprisingly cold! But very refreshing on my well walked and tired feet! That evening I went out for a walk in the hot night air. It was so warm even in the dark and there were people out and about everywhere! I took some photos, one of which made a petrol station look like something from the film TRON (one of my favourites), complete accident but I like it!
29th, Today, my penultimate day in Berlin, I decided I wanted to go and find the graveyard that contains the lying places of the Grimm brothers. This is called the St. Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery, in Schoneberg. It is quite an impressive place, with some old, and some very rich people buried there. The graves of the Grimm brothers (there are four there altogether, though the ones of the fairy tales are Jacob and Wilhelm) are actually very subtle and not as in your face and imposing as you might imagine they could be. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I wandered around and sat in the peace and quite there for a while, it was a Sunday and there were quite a few people there tending to the graves and making them neat and tidy, it seems to be something that is taken quite seriously, after visiting a couple of other cemetery’s in Berlin, which all seem to be very well looked after.
After that I walked back to the flat and had a late lunch before heading back out to Hasenheide Volkspark. I’d been here before and decided to pop back in order to take pictures of the animals they have in this petting / rescued animal area. There are camels, llamas, emus, storks, deer. All sorts. Many of them look a bit shabby and there’s a pair of Australian Black Swans that look terribly sad, but I think, I hope, they are rescued and basically have to be there. One of the camels looks like it has a bad case of mange!
30th, The day arrived to move out of the apartment I had rented for the last two weeks. So I spent the day making sure it was all clean and tidy, taking the rubbish out etc etc. Then I just went and sat by the river, to write and wait for the guy to arrive back so we could swap keys and deposits. That all went off without a hitch, the guy even gave me some Bulgarian tea to add to my collection! Excellent! Shame to leave such a great little flat, but it is definitely time to move on.
1st and a delightful 5:30am wake up followed by a trip across town to get to the bus station, to get my 7:30am bus to Cologne! The bus trip itself was totally fine, and actually arrived a bit early which was great. And by the time we had made all the stops there were only two of us left on the entire coach! Like a huge limousine! I met Regina at the bus station and we headed to her apartment, had a drink then went for a walk in the evening sunshine with the dog! The sun was warm and the city feels peaceful and calm, a stark contrast to Berlin, and a welcome one! We went for some Thai food that evening and had a cocktail then headed home and baked scones at midnight, as Regina returns to work after her sabbatical tomorrow, so needs to take exciting cakes! They are vegan orange scones and they taste great! Scones are amazing!!!
That’s it, I am finally, and at long last up to date!! I do apologise again for the huge break in posting, but the distinct lack of internet in Berlin, as well as trying to work towards the summer project has been a big issue in terms of updating.
Today I went for quite a long walk again. Starting in the area around Metro Racławicka I first searched out a little bike shop called Milou, that specializes in dutch style bikes, the sit up and beg variety. They have some lovely looking old frames, including a great looking Gazelle which seems to be my perfect size, but I’m not too sure just how practical riding a sit up and beg all the way to Berlin is!
After that I headed East through some of the back streets to Puławska, I meandered up the street for a while, looking in shop windows and watching the trams buzz up and down. Then I turned off and wandered around some of the back streets again. The streets are dotted with lots of old grey blocky buildings, a great old antique shop sits perfectly on the ground floor of an old antique of a building, an ideal match. There is a vast old grey warehouse, with the symbolic Warsaw Mermaid resplendent on it’s Facade. It looks like it is now a storage space for street sweepers and gritting trucks.
A bit more meandering, and I crossed Puławska and went through a small park, park Morskie Oko, and made it to a busy main street with sporadically placed shops and hotels and apartment buildings. A big grey communist styled concrete block houses a bank and a cinema. It’s roof dotted with aerials. A huge yellow hotel sits nearby, dominating the skyline, called the Belvedere. Walking past that and along the appropriately named Belwederska, and then onto Jana Sobieskiego (South bound now), more concrete blocks line the street. One, set back a little from the street, is built like a stepped triangle, with a gap in the middle, and actually looks really cool, but seems to be totally empty now. It seems that it could still be utilised and improved some way though. I kind of hope they don’t demolish it. It’s like the architect was actually given a bit of creative license with this one! On my right, the opposite side of the street are a lot of allotments, each divided up, some set up like little gardens, others more for veg and fruit growing. I ended up back by the street with Fort Legionow on it, so I decided to go back along it and head for home. I made it back to Puławska and hopped on the 31 back home. I also made the lovely cheese and herby scones (brie and parmesan), they were pretty tasty, though the outside texture wasn’t quite right, needs more development…
Don’t forget, 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
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.
Tea 55, Green tea, mystery mix, Radom.
Today was Marta’s Mum’s birthday, when we woke up she had already made another spectacular breakfast spread with all things you could think of, cheese, bread, tomato, cucumber, salad. Loads and loads of stuff, and I was still pretty full from the indulgences on the previous day. We sat and ate and chatted and watched the TV, which was dominated by the tragic and awful news of the train crash that has happened on the line between Warsaw and Krakow.
After a while of this we decided to head out, Marta, her mum and I, to this park area which is also home to a few galleries and loads of sculptures. It is around 10km from Radom, and in which direction I am not too sure. We also took the dog with us, fully intending to take her for a walk around the park too. We arrived at this little place, which is dotted with buildings, looking a bit like a farm in lots of ways. Everyone out of the car, including the dog and Marta and I went into the first building, a modern built gallery, to buy some tickets. Luckily our tickets gave us access to more than one building because this first show was a bit of a disappointment. The space is pretty interesting but it had been totally rammed with sculptural works by this one guy, which were, basically, terrible. They looked like they were built in the 60’s, and this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if they had been. But they were all pretty much brand new, gaudy, Francis Bacon-esque structures of painted driftwood and plaster. It was a shame, and if there had of been even a TINY bit of critical choice in what was presented it would have been a hundred times better. But it was just like the guy wanted to show and tell EVERYTHING! And I know I myself am a minimalist, so usually something is always too much that nothing, but this was just stupid!
Ehem, so… moving on… We went back out into the park, Marta’s Mum had joined us half way through our tour around this first space and then we all walked to the next space, on a little tour with a lady in a brown hat who seemed pretty passionate about lots of the elements. She explained a few of the things we could see as we walked along, and then we arrived at an old chapel, the all seeing eye staring down at us from on high. We went inside and found an installation created by a guy and called (in Polish) Harvest. This was a collection of ceramic figurines, made by the artist, who were, basically, Chavs / Neds / Delinquents whichever phrase you choose. Then Marta explained to me that in Polish the word for harvest is very similar to that for something like a self destructive society. The piece was a play on words. This work had a lot of humour and enjoyment in it’s rather bleak subject matter, on figurine is peeing in a corner under the old alter, one is texting on a mobiule phone, others drinking in little huts and some fighting.
A little while spent in this space we left again, the lady in the hat locking the door with a huge key, had to be almost a foot long, and we continued onto another space. This one used to be an greenhouse and so is open and full of light. The work presented here was more interesting modern sculpture, of simply a toilet and a cement mixer. They had, however, been covered in little squares of mirror, like on a disco-ball. The toilet span around on its low plinth and the cement mixer was fully working, though only for a short period of time when the lady in the hat switched it on and then off again, suggesting that it may not be the most secure of creations. There were also some photos of the artist’s other creations, including a drain cover, a wheelie bin, and an original Volkwagen Beetle! The photos were documents of when the artist puts them into real life situations and illuminates them, generally at night.
That space over we went back out into the park and headed for the main house. This has been kept in its original condition, with its classical furniture, paintings and it’s egg cooker… so is more of a historical document than gallery space. But it is an interesting little place with some very nice artworks and some intriguing gadgets!
Back in the car, we let the dog out for another, brief walk (she looked a little perplexed to being told to get back in the car after such a brief exit). We then headed back towards town, Marta’s Mum dropped us off in town and we had a short walk in the sun and then went into a café/restaurant that used to be Marta’s favourite when she was younger. We ordered a couple of juices (I decided I needed the vitamin C, I think I am getting a cold!), and a pizza to share. It was a very good one with olives and capers and anchovies. However it turned out to be a bit of a mistake, because on our return home it turned out Marta’s Mum had been busy in the kitchen yet again and there was another HUGE spread on the table. Soup, potatoes, chicken, leftover goulash, more salad, and then when that had been gone over by us all there were cakes brought out! This weekend I have been well and truly stuffed and feel like I won’t eat for a week!
After another few hours spent eating (again), it was time to head back to Warsaw with Marta’s brother. The Clio’s heating system had been fixed so we didn’t have to drive with condensation all over the windows, but the seatbelts were still useless. We made it back to Warsaw safely though. Tomorrow (today) I leave for Krakow, I’m excited to be travelling again, but sad to leave Warsaw as I still think there is so much I haven’t seen!