Potatoes, Cabbages, Blue Jays and Mosquitos

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.

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An evening amongst wild Sweet Peas, Sunshine and Cherries.

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.


China pops in on Chopin

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.


Some like it hot

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.


Back in the Ghetto

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.


Day 113 & 114, Cologne, May 2nd – 3rd 2012

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!


Day 104 – 112, Berlin & Cologne, April 22nd – May 1st 2012

Tea 104, the ‘free sample’ tea from the department store mentioned in last post, ‘Silvery Pearl Mountain’.

22nd, A slow steady day, with just a little wander around the Warshauer Street / East Side Gallery area, enjoying the sunshine and relaxing.  Nothing much remarkable to talk about really.

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.