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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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 44, Warsaw, February 22nd 2012

Tea 44: Dark Hot Chocolate, Wedel Cafe, Warsaw.

Ok, Ok!  Sorry, but Hot Chocolate over takes tea today, even though I promised you all a review of the Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  Apologies… Not really, never apologise about hot chocolate!

Today was a huge day of walking, I’ve no idea of how far I walked, but it was FAR!  I left the flat, which is in the south of the city and wanted to head to this graveyard I had read about, and Evangelical place, in the North West of the city.  This walk took me about an hour or so I think.  Walking along the wide Woloska Street.  Glass fronted buildings mixed in with unfinished constructions, mechanics, petrol stations.  Trams buzzing up and down and cars hurtling past, the gentle rain fall melting the piles of snow into huge puddles, forcing you to walk in a zigzag up the street.  I eventually reached a little park ‘Pole Mokotowskie‘, wandered around the icy patches and the puddles, a few people were walking their dogs, some taking their lives in their hands cycling over the ice.  I walked through and found myself by a huge main road.  Cars rushing past and the spray from the rain and melting snow going everywhere.  I crossed the road and went through a little area of houses and woodland, a bit like some bits of Brighton in some way.  The area is called Filtry and seems quite pretty and a bit artsy in places.  finding my way through the small streets I got back onto another main road, Towarowa, this was a long long road, with loads of traffic and more mixed up buildings of various ages and uses.  The low clouds obscuring the tops of various sky scrapers that dominate the sky line, the hazy rain fall softening the traffic noise and making everything seem grey and dark.

Eventually I made it to the graveyard.  Although the first few gates I tried were locked, I almost gave up, thinking I had wasted my time walking all that way, but then I found the proper main entrance.  The graves and tombs in this place are really crazy, so many of them squeezed into such a small place, but so many of them being huge structures.  The amount of money and design that must have been poured into these things is totally unimaginable, it made me think that maybe whoever got buried there must of just left their fortune to their own grave!  One tomb, which was just for one person, not even a family tomb like many, could have easily house a family of four!  There is a great mixture though, some being very dour and sad with skulls and crossbones or weeping angels, others more unique and celebratory, a stone carved loosely into the image of a man and woman kissing, a great blue wave and a simple dry stone cave.  I wandered for another 45 minutes or so; weaving in and out of the graves, gawking at the sheer expenditure in the place, something I find pretty incomprehensible: except the case for the potential of it all being the dead party’s last laugh.

Walking back East towards the town centre, along Zyntia and Nowolipie, then South onto Al. Jana Pawła II, I found a largish food market called Hala Mirowska.  Fruit, veg, chicken, sausage, cake, all you could ever really want I suppose, if you looked hard enough.  There were some great characters in there, dour faced women hunched over cauliflowers, merry butchers whistling and having a little dance whilst wielding their hatchet over chunks of meat.

Back onto Al. Jana Pawła II and I came across a small gallery called Galleria XX1.  It was nice to be a little independent art space again, it feels like a while since I have seen something fresh and new.  The show has various red and black constructions floating about in the space, one wall is covered by a huge black and white print of an old fighter plane wing, with more of the strange objects superimposed onto the image.  There is another small space in the back of the gallery, which had an object installation, tall, human-scale grey structures.  Looking something like a small, metallic henge.  I couldn’t really figure out what they were made of, but metal and construction foam seemed to be involved.  Back out onto the street again I decided I wanted to warm up a bit with a drink.  So I headed to the Wedel cafe in the dreaded shopping centre.  One more thing to add to the good reasons for their existence, the other being free use of the toilets…

I ordered the dark hot chocolate, Gorzka (meaning exactly that).  The chocolate was rich and bitter, really great.  You have to drink it using the little spoon provided unless you want to get you face covered in rapidly solidifying chocolate… It was pretty good, not too cheap, but worth it!  Warmed up and a small chocolate high beginning in my cheeks I wandered around a little more.  Then I walked back to Mokotowska, the area Marta works and met her after she had finished work.

We went for some food in a ‘Milk bar’, the place most Polish will go to eat, traditionally frequented by the poor or homeless these places are dotted throughout the city and are going through something of a renaissance.  Called Bambino Bar, on Krucza Street, the food is good value, satisfying and traditional.  We ordered from a little man behind a screen who handed us our receipt which we then handed to a woman through a kitchen hatch, who takes it and a little while later passes our food to us through the same hatch.  We sat with our food and ate it up.  I had barley ‘grits’, what the British would call ‘Pearls’ (to make it sound more appetizing and to charge more for it probably), a piece of broccoli (basically half of one ‘bulb[?]’), and some Pierogi Ruski (the Russian variety stuffed with cottage cheese and potato).  These pierogi were MUCH better than the ones we had from the little touristy place in the old town.  I would recommend going to a Milk Bar over that place any day.

We left the bar and then got on a old tram from the 60’s back home.  But first via the post office, Marta had finally tracked down her parcel, which turns out to be a Holga Camera, she is very excited about getting it up and running, but first she needs to get batteries for the flash to work!  We were going to go back into town to see the city in the darkness, but I’ve totally tired myself out!