The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really. My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before. There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin. Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal. The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard. I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before. There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being tourist in such a situation. This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper. There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit. There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.
Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed! I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure. The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day. I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…
The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey. I wonder if they will ever try to clean it? I hope not.
After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while. There I discovered a chocolate museum. Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead. The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne. For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark! Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.
A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘. Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate. It was great! I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.
That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia. The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.
The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!
The 12th. Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday. So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday. When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux. The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door. So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite. This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere. I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time! After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat. On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!
The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday! We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque. I was on vegetable parcels. Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas. We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3. The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday. We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm. The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.
Day 125, Monday. Regina had to wake up early again! She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out. She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside. We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz. The weather was still perfect. When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch. I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii. Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese. It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese). After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline. After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money! In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back. That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing. It looked and smelt amazing! But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!
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 61, 20 Year old Pu Erh, Herbaciarnia, Krakow
So, the 10th. What I did on this day may come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually decided to return to Warsaw. I have decided that I will attempt to stay in Warsaw for a little while. My next intended stop is the Ukraine, and after a bit of deliberation I decided the weather was still too cold there for me, and that I still wasn’t done with Warsaw, so I decided to come back, sit out the cold weather a while longer and get to know Warsaw a bit more. This all hinges on finding somewhere cheap and easy to stay at for a month or so, but will probably be the case.
The morning was spent getting my stuff together, and then I went with Marta (Malgorzata’s flatmate, not Warsaw Marta), to the art school to have a look around the studios and see what their system is like (not the sort of system I agree with at all), and we talked about art and our passions and intentions with it for a while. Then I went to town and to this tea house called Herbaciarnia. This is tucked down a small staircase off of Florianska street in the old town that leads to the main square. It was an amazing find. The place is in the basement and the vaulted ceiling is bear brick and a bit like the little tea house under the church in Warsaw. I ordered a tea, a 20 year old Pu Erh tea. This was a great choice, it was a really amazing tea, one you could feel working, the warm glow you get in your cheeks and the tingle up your spine. It was a really amazing, meditative tea. Really wonderful. A while spent there until it got a bit cold from all the people coming in and out of the door. I paid, left the building, went to a milk bar for some simple but satisfying soup and salad and then went to the bus station, which it took me ages to find, getting lost in the train station because of all the construction work going on. Then I got on the bus and headed back to Warsaw!
First things first, but it seems I have forgotten how to count and have managed to add a day onto my travels as if by magic, so the last three posts have been updated with the correct travel day.
So, Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea. This tea is very unusual, as if you probably couldn’t guess that anyway. Pu Erh tea, for those of you who do not know, is a partially fermented tea, and with a very unusual flavour, rather aquired I would say, but once you are into it I’m sure you will enjoy it’s complexity. This one is reasonably smooth for a Pu Erh, not too much bitterness or dustiness. The chocolate element is very interesting, similar to the chocolate tea I had in Helsinki. The tea itself is very dark and thick, like the colour of black treacle. It is intriguing and I can’t make up my mind about it, I feel I need to experiment with it some more, maybe with sweetness and with different steepings.
Today I didn’t go into the city centre until the late afternoon, the morning was spent catching up with life, finishing off some bits and bobs for an artist residency program myself and another are running in the summer, which will actually be in Poland, albeit a completely different part of the country to where I am now, and the two do definitely feel a world apart! And resting my oh so tired legs from the previous days marathon walk…!
Eventually making it out of the house I was walking towards the Metro station thinking to myself, ‘the pavement is very wet’. Puddles everywhere! But then I realised that all the snow had melted! The grass was back, albeit very muddy, but it was grass, which it feels as though I haven’t seen in over a month! I made it to the Metro, bought a 20minute ticket and was about to validate it through the barrier when I noticed that there were trains sitting at both platforms, and neither were moving… I waited a few more seconds to see if their doors would slide shut but they didn’t and then an announcement came over the tanoy, which I can only presume said the Metro was not operational, as everyone began to leave the station. I left and found the Bus stop, as did basically everyone who had been in the metro station. Eventually the bus arrived, already loaded with people our stop must have basically trebled the number of people. Sardines in a can is not an appropriate metaphor, but it’s the best there is! The next problem… the bus follows the same route as the Metro, meaning it stopped at all the metro stops into town. And being as the entire Metro was down, every stop had a massive crowd waiting for a bus, many of which still thought it possible to get themselves onto the bus… click HERE for a scene that is very similar…
Eventually we got into town, me with my arms directly over my head for the entire journey until Warszawa Centralny, where everyone got off except for about 5 people! I stayed on until Zacheta, where I was meant to meet Marta. We were intending to visit the Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, or contemporary art gallery. Unfortunately though this was shut today because they are currently installing a new show. So, I took out the map and found some other places nearby that we could go to. We first tried to find a little place called Galeria Kolonie, but we failed at this task, I think it might be in an office building, but we couldn’t seem to find it unfortunately. Then we stopped off at a little place that sells traditional Polish doughnuts, this is a little window out onto the street. A lady stands and serves you, whilst in the background the kitchen is a hive of doughnut baking activity. I chose a chocolate and cherry one as well as a more traditional Rose Marmalade one. They were warm, sweet and utterly delicious! I scoffed them down much too fast, but they were SO good! We then decided to look for another gallery space, this time on the opposite side of the Palace of Science and Culture.
We wandered through the neon and traffic light filled streets to the Palace which was lit up in the darkening sky. Wandering around looking at the sculpture that adorn it’s walls, there is a little ice rink set up on one side for those of you who enjoy a little bit of skating. The building is all divided into different sides, youth centres, sporty bits, cultural parts and of course science. On the other side of the building we crossed a Zebra-Crossing designed to look like the keys on a piano and then turned left down a little street with a large neon announcing ‘MUZEUM’. This is the Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie, sort of. The museum doesn’t actually exist yet. It is currently in construction phase, and is planned to be opened in 2014. This space is a temporary space for small shows and examples of the work they hold. And currently they are actually running a KINOMUZEUM, a free cinema showcasing many new films. They opened with the premiere of Steve McQueen‘s Shame, we managed to see a new film by Miranda July called The Future. I’m not a big one for reviewing films, but needless to say we were both glad we had stuck around. I can’t totally make my mind up about how I feel about the characters, at some times they were infuriating, whilst at others very sweet. If you like Miranda July films definitely see it, it also reminded me a bit of The Science of Sleep, a film I love, so if you like that then you should see this too (though it’s not so good). Anyway, I suppose that was a bit of a review.
The film finished and we headed back out into the night, the air had turned a bit chilly and a slightly icy wind was billowing up the gaps between the skyscrapers. We got a tram that took us directly home, cooked some tasty food for our now angrily rumbling tums and eventually went to sleep.
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!
Coming to Pärnu was a good decision. This little cute seaside town is very beautiful and has some similarities to a few British Seaside towns. I woke up and got ready to head into the town centre where I was meeting Ivo, one of the guys who I am staying with, in his Wine and Chocolate Café ‘Piccadilly Wine’. I wandered into town slowly, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the relative warmth of -10’C, compared to the previous days -15 – 20’C. I found myself in the small town centre; traditional wooden faced buildings lining most of the streets, and then eventually found the Café; gentle music playing into the street from the café is the best clue. Inside is beautiful, one wall is lined with many different varieties of wine and also some teas. Gorgeous cakes line the counter and handmade chocolates gleam out at you temptingly. Ivo was talking to a customer so I looked around a little and then took a seat. When the customer was gone I got up and chatted to Ivo for a while and then had a lovely cup of Organic Pu Erh Tea. This tea is not to everyone’s taste, it is very earthy and dark and extremely complex. The tea was rinsed first, this helps to remove some of the dustiness that can be in the tea, it is not essential to do this as most people like it this way. But for a morning tea it helps to lighten it up a little. I was then given a wonderful Chilli Dark Chocolate Truffle. The chocolates in the Café are all made by Ivo’s business partner, specifically for the café and they all look amazing, and if they all taste as good as that one did then they all taste amazing too! I spent a good hour or so chatting and drinking tea. Then I decided to head for the seaside.
I walked through the little town, its beautiful buildings glinting with icicles, the trees lining the streets casting long, thin shadows across the perfect white snow. I made it to the seaside where I could not actually see the sea. For as far as my eyes could perceive the ocean was frozen, just pure white reflecting the winter sunlight, the snow fall from the previous couple of weeks unbroken and perfect. I walked out onto the ice for a while, spying into holes in the ice, clambering over mounds of broken and then refrozen ice. The peace and tranquillity was wonderful, that is why I am so glad I came here. The place was just so peaceful for me, probably a stark contrast to the summertime, when this little city becomes the ‘capital’ of Estonia. I walked along the coastline for a while, going out as far as I dared, which probably was nowhere near as far as I could have gone, the ice being so thick and solid. The snow crunching beneath my feet and the cold, salty sea air cleansing my lungs. I then turned off of the beach and into this little area behind the dunes and marshland. In this area are a few sculptures, and some buildings, one of which apparently houses the Parnu mud baths. I then decided it was about time for something to eat and so headed back into town. Through a nice little park with birds chirping in the sunlight and flitting about between the branches of fir trees. Back in the centre of town I found a little organic café that had been suggested to me earlier. It is quite nice inside, a little bit like they are trying to bring the outside in with Parisian style plastic seating and small tables. I had a nice fish soup and a cup of rooibos vanilla, which was much like any rooibos vanilla. I sat for a while writing and watching the world go by then left and headed towards the river. Next week will be the Parnu ice festival and at the crest of a small hill/mound by the river teams of people are currently building huge ice castles, igloos and other such sculptural works from breezeblock sized chunks of ice. I wandered amongst the activity then out the other side where a small group of lads were doing some snowboard stunts and taking photographs using a bungee try system where three guys would run with the bungee, stretching it out and into the hands of a fourth who would then propel themselves off of a small ramp and onto the railing of a staircase currently laden with snow, whilst two others would be searching for the perfect angle to get the best photograph. After a while standing, watching and taking a few of my own photographs, I went further up along the river to a little bridge that led to a dry dock and the Parnu Yacht Club. More wandering and then back into the centre of town, along the opposite bank of the river. In town I decided to buy my ticket for the bus and to warm up in shopping mall, buying a few snacky things for my bus journey. Then I went back to the apartment. Ivo was home when I arrived and we hung out for a while before we both then went back to his café.
Back in the café Ivo did a bit of work and I sat and wrote a little more. Then we had a little food and a really great slice of chocolate cake, warmed up a little to make it even more wonderful, and complimented with a bit of homemade strawberry sauce. Really, really great! After a while we left and went back to the flat, Liis, Ivo’s wife and my official couchsurfing host came home around 9:30pm after a yoga class and we prepared her some more food, as well as another helping for ourselves. Then we sat and watched a movie, I made all of us a hot chocolate using rice milk, and then I went to bed. A lovely day, relaxed, peaceful, comfortable, and now I’ve sat and written this, I realise, quite full!