Day 84 – 86, Berlin, April 2nd – 4th 2012

Tea 86, Green Tea, Betahaus, Berlin

So, day 84 was spent travelling from Warsaw to Berlin by train.  It was about a 5.5 hour journey which was reasonably comfortable, there was only one incident of an altercation with a woman and an incorrect seat choice.  But it was fine, though she seemed very angry for a woman who then started to read an esoteric book about Auras!

I made it to Berlin at around 3:30pm and met Abigail, the woman I run the Hello Collective with.  We took a few trains to get to her place, in Kreuzberg district, the current hub of the creative world in Berlin, apparently.  Also the heart of the Turkish community in Germany.  There must be more Falafel, Halloumi and Baklava shops per square meter than anywhere else in the world!  Including the middle east!  We got home and I dropped my stuff, finally met Sergej, Abigail’s boyfriend to whom I have only ever existed through Skype (and visa-versa)!  We sat a chatted for a while and then popped to a cafe around the corner for a coffee and Abigail had a pizza before she had to disappear off to a German lesson.  I went back to the flat and chilled out for a while.  When Sergej arrived back from his studio we started to cook a bit of food ready for Abigail’s return.  She didn’t get back until late (normal for her German lesson days) and we ate, then went out for a little drink.

Day 85, Tuesday.  We woke up and went out into the local area, a little market by the river, then I went to see Abigail’s studio and we carried on walking to the Neukolln area and visited a few art spaces and then ended up in a place called Agora, a cafe which is also home to a few artist’s studios.  We sat with a coffee for a while and chatted about our plans for the summer residency program and what needs organising, including the fundraising issues!  Another reminder about our Kickstarter campaign, please visit our page and if you can donate a little.  Some guy made 3.8million dollars for a computer game development, so SURELY we can make a modest $2500!  CLICK HERE!

We met up with Sergej for a bit of lunch, an aubergine Halloumi wrap, which was tasty, though very messy!  The rest of the day seems to be a bit of a blur… hmm… We basically explored the city a bit more, then Abigail had another German lesson and I went towards the city centre, making it to Alexanderplatz for a while then headed home.  After a while we decided to leave and wandered around a while longer then headed home.  Later that evening we met up with Sergej and his brother and went for a couple of drinks in a bar around the corner.

Day 86, Wednesday.  We spent the morning do more Hello Collective things, trying to get some more emails out to people to try and drum up a little more sponsorship and trying to investigate other avenues if we don’t manage to make it to our target.  Then in the afternoon Abigail took me on another little tour of the area, taking me to this amazing arts supplies store called Modular.  Everything you could probably imagine!  Quite cool, though maybe a bit ikea arts ish?

We then went for a tea in a place called Betahaus, a very cool space near to Modular.  It was very nice and chilled out in there though, and the green tea, though standard, was of very good quality.  We sat there and chatted for a while, and people watched.  A funny situation developed when a woman arrived, put her things down and went to get a coffee, whilst she was away from the table another gentleman arrived and sat at the same table.  When the woman got back from ordering her coffee she approached with a rather confused expression and went to the table.  The man had obviously not noticed her stuff on the seat and there was a funny looking (though unheard) conversation that took place before the man got up and went to another place.

That evening we had a night in and watched a film, the 80’s childhood classic, Flight of the Navigator!  I love that film!  Though it was maybe not Abigail’s cup of tea, for Sergej it seemed pretty nostalgic, one of the first American films he remembers seeing when Eastern Germany left communist rule.

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Day 58, Krakow, March 7th 2012

Tea 58: Lemo Mate, the Apartment, Krakow.

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

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

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

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

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


Day 57, Krakow, March 6th 2012

Tea 57, Japanese Green Tea, with Cherry, Lemon and Honey, The apartment, Krakow

So, today was my first day in Krakow.  The cold has returned a bit today, which is a shame as I had begun to get used to the warmth again!  Hopefully this little cold snap won’t last too long, though looking at the weather that is happening in what will hopefully be my next stop (the Ukraine), maybe it should stay so I can get used to being cold again.

I woke up, first time, at around 8 today.  The sun was pouring in through the window, the bright blue sky up above giving more illusion of a warm summers day.  One of the people I am staying with (another Marta, not to be confused with Marta from Warsaw) made me a cup of tea, a dose of Chocolate Cake Pu Erh tea.  She then left for university, which resulted in me promptly falling back to sleep and not waking up for another two hours!  So, second attempt at being awake, and this was much more successful.  I topped my tea up with some hot water, luckily I had removed the tea-ball before I had fallen back to sleep so it wasn’t too well steeped.  Then me and my host Malgorzata sat at the table with some breakfast and some more tea, this time a cup of power tea (the one I bought all that time ago in Copenhagen), we sat and chatted about art, art schools (she is studying at the Krakow Academy of Art), art students, painting, Marina Abramovic, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Guy Debord.  Loads of stuff.  It was nice to have a good long conversation about these artists and philosophers that I’ve not had much chance to talk about for quite a while.  She seems to be going through a similar time at art school as I did, especially in my third year, the year she is currently in.

A couple of hours later we decided we should probably head out into the town.  Marta had called and asked if we wanted to meet her in a cafeteria that is part of the Music school, so we jumped on the tram and took it to the old town.  We wandered around a little, trying to find the place.  Old Town is one of those ones that is pretty easy to get turned around in and we had gone slightly the wrong way, but a quick phone call later and we were back on track.  We went into the Music school building and took the lift up to the top floor, where the canteen / restaurant is.  This little place has got an amazing view!  Both side of this floor are glass and offer a wonderful panoramic view of the entire city, one downside is that if, like me, you are a non-smoker, then one side is for smokers and the other not, so you only get one choice of city view.  But it is great!  The food is good quality too, like most student places it’s good value and good portion sizes.  I ate Zapiekanka ziemniaczana, a kind of potato based lasagne-style thing.  It was pretty tasty, cheese, potato, some sort of sauce, beetroot, salad.

After that, and by this time it was after 3pm, Malgorzata and I left Marta, who was preparing for a presentation she had to give in English later that day.  On the way out I went to the loo.  This was in the basement of the building, and there were loads of people practicing every kind of orchestral instrument imaginable.  A trombone, tuba, violins.  Then, walking into the actual toilet I was greeted by a lad practicing his clarinet, he was all set up with stool and music stand and everything and seemed very content there!  Rather surreal if you ask me!

We left the building then went separate ways, I was on the hunt for the tourist information, to raid their free maps and info.  Walking in the sunshine was lovely, the rays soaking into my skin making me feel nicely content.

Map found and I went for a little aimless wander around the city, a little while spent in the old town.  The obstacle-course of tourists leading me to the decision to head outside of the city walls (!) and explore the less touristy bits of the city.  My first impressions of Krakow are that it is a very different place to Warsaw.  I think this may be due to the huge focus on the old town that there is in Krakow, it is the heart of the city.  In Warsaw it is more of a part of the city than THE city.

I left the old town out of the western side and walked down a little street that could have been Karmelicka street.  A mixture of buildings, old and older, all with various bits of facia and / or concrete falling or chipped off of them.  I kept on walking around, heading north and then east.  I ended up in a little market area, fruit, cakes, bread spread across tables, people with brilliant faces and great characters.  They were beginning to shut down their stalls, and pack up there things, so this was only a short visit, I will try to have another look around on another day.

I then made it onto Plac Matejki, a large monument to Grunwaldi dominates the street.  I turned right back towards the old town.  I wandered through the park area that surrounds the town wall, soaking up the last few rays of sunshine as the sun began to fall below the level of the buildings.  Then I followed the wall east, popped into the Galeria Krakowska to go to the supermarket, came out and did another little loop around a few of the narrow streets.  Then back to the town wall and I followed this around and then began to follow the tram lines until I made it to the river, the sun was totally down now and it was getting dark and cold, but I stayed for a while a took some photos of the river and the helium balloon that goes up and down all day long, giving views of the city.  Then I got the tram for about 3 stops and came back to the flat.

I sat for a while, catching up with all the belated postings I owe you all, then Malgorzata and Marta came home.  Malgorzata made me a lovely cup of Green Tea with cherry (my bag from Warsaw) with added lemon and honey to try to fight off my cold and slightly sore throat.  Then Marta made a great hot chocolate for herself and Malgorzata, and which I tried a very small cup of, despite the risk of congestion I couldn’t really resist!


Day 56, Warsaw – Krakow, March 5th 2012

Today marks my 56 day, and the official turning over of my second month of travel!  CRAZY!!!  It went slow to begin with, but the speed at which I’ve hit two months is mad!  Anyway, my anniversary was marked with a long 5 hour journey to Krakow from Warsaw, so there is, alas, no photography for today, and also my first day without having a tea photograph!  This makes me very sad, maybe sadder than it does for all you guys, but I do hope you will forgive me!  For compensation here are a few more photos of my time in Radom…


Day 16, Helsinki, January 25th 2012

Tea 16: Flunssan Nujertaja (The Cold Cruncher), Cafe Java, Helsinki.

Today was another snowy day and my earliest start so far.  I was in town for around 11a.m, though I did experience my first snow related train delay today. A few minutes only, pretty impressive considering the amount of snow and the rather balmy -7’C….  I was meeting up with a person I met on Couchsurfing who had offered to show me around a bit of the city.  I met her in the train station and we went for a little bit of lunch in the university cafeteria.  I had a satisfying portion of Elk medallions.  They were pleasant, a lot milder in flavour than I had expected.  But the portion was good and set me up well for the rest of the day.  We then took the Metro to Kaapeli (The Cable Factory), where I had been the night before.  We visited the photography museum there, which was unfortunately half shut, but that did mean we got into what was open for free, my favourite price!  There was an interesting exhibtion of self portraits from various groups there, as well as a small exhibition that was mostly about the development of human rights.  We then browsed around the small bookshop and headed back out into the cold air.  We took a tram towards the old town and wandered along Kalevankatu and stopped off in a small Greek cafe called Cafe Delicato where we both had a lovely hot chocolate, and Ella had a slice of expensive but tasty looking blueberry cheesecake.  We sat and chatted for a good long while about life, learning, traveling, mono-brow parties and boob inspired pizza before braving it out into the cold weather once more.

We wandered around the old town a little more, occasionally lifting our heads from the inside of our jacket to take in views of the rather beautiful architecture around this area. Yellow townhouses line the streets with sweet windows and pointy rooftops.  The weather seemed to have gotten even colder though so we didn’t stay outside for long, but got onto another tram back into the city centre.  We headed for Cafe Java, which my guide for the day had assured me did a lovely tea, the Cold Cruncher.  And she was right.  The tea was just the ticket, warm and soothing with lemon, honey, ginger and a spiced Rooibos tea all in perfect balance.  It was the perfect answer to such cold weather.  I was made even better with the addition of a good slice of apple strudel cake on the side.  Today was definitely one of those made for sitting in cafes watching the world go by, and observing all the cold people outside rather than being one of them.  My guide, Ella, was an interesting and funny character with a smiling face and plenty of good stories.  She seems to have lived, visited or travelled through pretty much every country in Europe.  Another boost to the confidence levels for the continuation of my travels!


Day 13, Helsinki / Vantaa / Seurasaari, January 22nd 2012

Tea 13: Vihreä Tee (Green Tea) with Goji, Tyrni (Buckthorn) and Karpalo (Cranberry), Caffi, Helsinki.

First things first, last night.  My first experience of a proper Finnish Sauna!  In fact my first experience of a sauna of any kind!  There is one in the house I am staying in and it is apparently tradition that a sauna is had every Saturday.  And blimey, it was an experience.  Eeero apparently has saunas HOT, I was warned of this before, but having never had one at all I had basically no inkling of what that really meant.  But what it did mean was 90’C!  Initially I didn’t really know what to think of it, I couldn’t really understand the whole thing, but I think I do now.  After the first bout of heat I went out an took a cool shower then went back in, this time I still didn’t quite get it.  I got out again and this time let myself cool down properly with a cool shower and a sit down to catch my breath again.  Then, once I’d psyched myself up again I went back in.  This time and then the next was when I realised that the sensation is actually quite enjoyable, I think probably as your body starts to defend itself and you get a bit euphoric, I even had a strange shiver at some point that felt pretty good.  That and a couple of beers followed by a nice helping of Eeero’s homemade liquorice vodka and the night was a good one, full of chatter and laughs, think I got to bed at about 2a.m.

Today I headed, once again, into Helsinki and from there took a tram north-west to Meilahdentie, I got off the tram and made my way through a little patch of snow smothered park land to Meilahti, one of the bases for the Helsinki art museum, Helsingin taidemuseo.  They are currently showing a collection of new work acquisitions.  For the past 6 years or so the Museum has been buying contemporary works from young Finnish artists and this was a mere 50 or so of the 400 they have so far acquired.  There was some interesting stuff; a reasonably immersive set of three videos by the artist Jani Ruscica, as well as some interesting and amusing photographic pieces by Antti Keitila.

After my visit I headed onto the island of Seurasaari, this tiny island is best know for being an open air museum of buildings and structures, reminiscent of the Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm.  The building have all been brought to the densely wooded island from elsewhere in Finland and they act as representation of the older, simpler days of life in Finland.  The oldest building, the Karuna Church, dates back to 1686!  The island was quiet and peaceful and very beautiful, with views out across the water back towards the city centre and another island, Vattuniemi.  Red berries and green pine needles stood out against the perfect white sheets of snow that cover the ground whilst birds chitter away in the trees, feeding from bird feeders dotted throughout the island.  I also encountered the islands tallest Spruce, at a whopping 30metres!

After that long, lovely walk in the fresh crisp cold air I headed back to the tram stop, luckily managed to jump straight onto a tram and back into the city centre.  I was now on the hunt for tea.  After two failed attempts, one being shut, the other where I almost got my nose taken off by the woman slamming the door in my face (it would seem I had inadvertently interrupted some sort of tea event, and despite my apologies she didn’t seem best pleased, ‘No, no, no’ were the only words uttered), I thought I had failed in my mission for the day so I went and got something to eat, a satisfying Thai dish of rice noodles, coconut and red thai paste with tofu and shrimp.  I then headed back towards the station but my attention was quickly drawn to the chinese new year event being held behind the Lasipalatsi (glass palace) shopping / restaurant arcade.  I had a meander amongst the stalls on the hopes of finding tea, there was some but alas over-priced and uninspired options.  I then noticed a little cafe in the Lasipalatsi complex that looked promising.  They had a fairly large wall of teas.  I asked the waitress what she would recommend and after a disappointing few sniffs of some overly flavoured and floral mixes I settled on the Green Tea with Goji berries, Cranberries and Buckthorn.  The tea was a little disappointing.  The water was too hot and this had burned the tea immediately, making it bitter and heavy.  And I felt that the taste had been compromised in some way, it may have been the combination of flavours, but I think it may have been flavoured rather than mixed, there were definitely Goji berries in it, but as for the others I’m not so sure, there was just a distinct flavouring taste in there that reminded me of the weird fake ‘fruit tea’ you can buy.  But anyway, it was ok, but I won’t rush back for more, and next time I’ll pick a tea that can hack boiling water.  They seemed to have a large Rooibos selection….

Tonight Finland gets a new President!