Poland vs Russia, War or Peace?

Riot Squads, Police Vans, Russian and Polish football fans.  The air before match between Russia and Poland was full of anticipation of some rather major violence and aggravation. Before the match the Russians had planned to march to the Narodowa Stadium in celebration of the Russian national day, this march was halted, though there were still a number of people and there was some violence, as you would probably expect whenever anyones passions and anticipation gets stoked up.  There were a few crowds, people throwing stuff occasionally and a lot of (harmless) ‘explosions’ (or just loud bangs really).  The police did well and controlled the situation and during all of the time we spent in the city centre that night we never really felt in danger or under threat.  The situation was dealt with extremely well in my opinion, and the city should be proud of how it handled itself (largely).

The result?  A rather democratic 1-1.


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.


Day 94 – 103, Berlin April 12th – 21st 2012

OH MY GOODNESS!!!  I must really apologise to all the people who have been waiting and hoping for my update!!  But at long, long, long, long, LONG last here it is!

This first post takes us from the 12th of April until the 21st, days 94 – 103!  Some days are a little sporadic in note form, I hope this is ok with you guys!

12th A long and slow wander around the Tiergarten, I got approached by two people wielding a video camera, who then asked me to eat a chocolate quark cake thing and talk about what I thought, so, basically anyone could get me to eat chocolate if they just asked, so I went for it.  A rather funny situation, I was expecting to be asked questions but I just had to say stuff, as it came to me, so it was all a little awkward.  But I think I got away with it!!  After that I wandered the length of the Tiergarten and then back towards the city centre, and this time on the way back I visited the Russian memorial, a large imposing structure right near the Reichstag, I wandered around the rear of the monument where there is a short, but interesting history of.    Then I wandered to the Reichstag and took the usual touristy photo, then to the main train station to check out times and prices of  trains to various onward options, then I headed home, though moved out to stay with another pair of friends for the night.  We went to the opening night of a show, which had some work by an artist that my friend is assistant to

13th The next day I actually moved into a place to myself, just for the next two weeks, it’s nice, a good size for one and has a balcony and lots of lovely sunshine pours in through the large windows.  No photos of this day I’m afraid.

14th A nice walk to Friedrichshain area of Eastern Berlin and around shops and markets.  Then I wandered down Karl Marx Allee, a long, long, beautiful street, the sun was shining brightly, I made it to the fountain and sat next to the statue of Karl Marx for a while, enjoying the sunshine and the passers by taking photos.  More shops and wandering after that, found a Club Mate ‘Ice Tea’ version (image on previous post).  Not much different, maybe a little stronger in taste.  That evening I met up with Annett, a good old friend of mine, who, it turned out I’ve not seen in 3 years!, and her new boyfriend for a drink.  We had some good chat, they seem very besotted with one another, which is sweet.

15th, My friend Marta arrived in Berlin for a few days.  I spent the wandering around some more before I went to meet her at the bus station, and show her where she was! Whilst I waited I had a tasty Green-Oolong Milky Bubble tea with popping lychee balls!  Bubble teas seem to be all the rage in Berlin at the minute, they are quite expensive, but this one was quite tasty and the popping lychee ‘QQ’ were novelty enough!

16th, Today I took Marta to Friedrichshain to try to find film for her Holga camera, which failed because it was all far too expensive.  But it was a lovely wander around.  We wandered along the East Side Gallery, the largest stretch of the Berlin Wall which has been recently repainted, but with the same images as the original murals created, so it is looking really great.  We stopped of and had cake in a Turkish bakery near to Schlesisches Tor‎.

17th, A quick visit to the market that stretches along the canal around the corner from where I am staying, it sells mostly food stuff, veg, cake, cheese, bread.  Followed by a long walk to Victoria Park and the Kreuzberg monument, after which the area is named; Kreuzberg translating literally into ‘Cross Mountain’ basically a big green pointing thing with a cross on the top at the top of a tall hill, with a fake waterfall built onto it.  Then walked further West into the Shoneberg district, had a hot chocolate in a little old ice cream parlour that looks like it has existed forever, really old school decoration and wooden walls.  Then walked to Kliest park, and then found an old war time bunker as well as the area where the sports hall once existed that Hitler used to give his big speeches, including the one where he asked the crowd whether they want total war and the crowd cheered in agreement.  It is now a housing development.

18th, A walk to the city centre.  To the TV tower and Neptune fountain, then down towards the Brandenburg gate meandering about and finding old churches and other old buildings, the old Aeroflot office, that Marta told me used to still have the Hammer and Sickle on the sign, but not anymore it would seem, the Russian embassy, just a little way down the road though, still does have the hammer and sickle on its façade!  Then to the Holocaust memorial and found the area that once had a lot more of Hitlers bunkers, as well as the one in which he, and Eva Braun committed suicide, before their bodies were removed and burned.  Then also found the North Korean consulate / living quarters.  Strange place, seemed to be just normal flats and apartments, but totally caged in and then people came outside whilst we were taking photos of the place…  Coffee and cake at Checkpoint Charlie in Einstein’s.  A little expensive but the cake was very good, and huge slices too!  Walked home via international supermarket and through a really nice area of Kreuzberg, near a synagogue, that has a 24 hour guard and gates and fences up everywhere, seems mad that such a place still needs protection!  But the general area is beautiful, with some great apartments looking out onto the canal.

19th, A day trip to Charlottenburg, the old palace and gardens, there was really beautiful, properly warm sunshine, wonderful flowers and atmosphere everywhere.  Walked around gardens then went for pizza in this little place next to the Rathaus, made totally from fresh in front of us.  Service was a little shakey but otherwise the food was very very good, Gorgonzola and Spinach pizza was great, Marta had one with anchovies, capers and fresh parma ham.  Then we walked in the sun to zoologisher garden underground, found a place for more Bubble tea!  Green tea with Passionfruit and tapioca balls, and Green Tea with mango and coconut cubes.  Then we went into a big shopping place with lots of tea, very expensive; basically the same as somewhere like Harvey Nichols.  They had a huge space with tea in big urns, and lots of the dry tea out in cups to smell, and also to potentially slip a few of the pearl style ones into your pocket for sampling later…

20th Walk along the landwehrkanal, a beautiful day and a lovely walk, reasonably easy going after all the crazy amounts of walking done so far!  Lots of people out, jogging, dog walking, drinking by the river.  Lovely jubbly.

21st, Walked to a market near Boddinstrasse, in Neukolln, and I bought a new old camera!  An Agfa Agnar, for a hopefully bargain price of 4 euros!  It even has a little shutter release lead with it for photos of yourself!  With a shiny reflective viewfinder too!  A little walk through Gorlitzer park, slow easy paced day, not to over do it before Marta headed back home on the bus that night.

IMAGE TIME!!!  (they are smaller than usual because there are so many, but they are clickable for the larger versions!)


Day 25, Tallinn, February 3rd 2012

Tea 25: China White Monkey, Majasmokk, Tallinn

So, a belated post!  Went out last night and didn’t get chance to write this until this morning.  Yesterday was yet another freezing cold day, and I think today is going to be even worse!  But the sun still shines and that makes me happy, and I will be heading for Tartu later, hopefully on a warm bus!  I headed out around mid day again, this time I wanted to go back to the sea so I went down by the big old concrete Soviet Concert Hall ‘Linnahall‘ and looked out into the mist.  The sea is covered by this low lying but dense mist, this is apparently caused when the sea temperature is warmer than the air temperature, and you get this spooky, slow moving mist about 5 feet tall and dense as a cloud.  After I totally froze out next to the sea, my hands aching, even my toes through my big boots suffering a bit, AND my scarf freezing to my face!, I more or less ran back into the old town in search of a cup of tea and some warm sanctuary.  I went to this cafe called Majasmokk, a fairly old school, traditonal looking cafe selling various cakes and pastries and lots of Kalev chocolate goods (which I actually managed to resist).  I had a mushroom and pepper flakey pastry thing, and a cup of China White Monkey tea.  This tea is very interesting, quite a strong, nutty flavour comes out from the delicate green leaves.  They don’t seem to colour the water much, and so I was expecting a tea more like your standard White tea, but, as I said, it is surprisingly stronger and not like most white teas at all.  I thought for a while I was drinking a different tea, or that the filter had another flavour stuck in it, but after a bit of research it seems that is how it should be.

After warming up, and then psyching myself up, I ventured back outside.  After walking a little way the mobile phone Ingrid had lent me rang and she was on the other end, she had finished work early and was coming to meet up with me in town.  I escaped the cold and went into a shopping mall while I waited.  Looking through books and windows and pretending to be shopping.  I met Ingrid and we went straight to another cafe, this time the chocolate cafe, Pierre Chocolaterie, tucked away down a little side road in the old town.  We both had the same, a rum and raisin hot chocolate!  It was very good, warming and tasty, with raisins in the bottom and a decent hit of rum. The cafe itself is nice and cozy, full of cushions and wooden furniture, soft lighting and dark walls.  A lovely little place, but for treats only as it is a little expensive.

We then headed back for home, though via the supermarket to buy some food.  Another couch surfer and one of Ingrid’s friends were coming for dinner before we all went out to a couch surfing meet.  I cooked, the request from Ingrid was a Shepherd’s Pie, but it would seem that it is basically impossible to find any kind of lamb in Estonia, it had to be Cottage Pie.  I was quite pleased with the outcome, a nice tasty filling and I did my favourite thing, to put leeks in the mash potato topping, makes a big, yummy, difference!  Food eaten, and all of it was, we all hopped in a taxi and went to the Red Emperor, a bar somewhere in Tallinn, it was dark and I was in a car so exactly where it is I could not say.  We hung out there for a while, playing giant jenga, and watching people play pool, also laughing at the guy who was asleep on the sofa when we arrived (at about 10) and still there when we left at around midnight!  Poor guy!  We then went to a club, somewhere nearby the Linnahall again, danced for a few hours, to music that I’m more used to hearing in adverts and in my imaginations of bad mid-nineties clubs, than in today’s clubs.   There were a little too many people for what was a very small space, but the little group of us that had gone managed to keep our dancing circle going and the music began to improve eventually.  We left at around 3:30 and got in another taxi home.

Today I am traveling to Tartu, hopefully some point soon, though I have to pack, but will try to fill you in later!


Day 23, Tallinn, February 1st 2012

Tea 23:  Black Tea with Red Berries, A deli in the old town, Tallinn

So today I totally forgot to get the name of the place where I got my tea!  I blame it on the biting cold adn the aching fingers.  The cold is also to blame for the steamed up image, the lens on my camera totally steamed up and I didn’t want to wait for it to clear up before taking the photo…..

So, yes, today I headed first for the Old Town.  Wrapped up as warm as possible I left the apartment and soon discovered that as warm as possible was most definitely NOT warm enough!  I think today’s high temperature was -10, but I am fairly certain this was optimistic.  It was the coldest day so far I think, I had icicles all over my face!  And leather / suede, thick lined gloves are totally ineffective it would seem!  On positive factor was the sunshine though, and the, albeit psychological, warmth it brought was very welcome.  There also seemed to be tiny bits of snow, which has now turned into proper snow, floating about in the sky glinting in the sunlight like glitter, despite a seemingly cloudless sky.

It took me around 10-15 minutes to walk into the old town, through the pretty little Tammsaare Park and you are there.  The ancient medieval gate towers at this entrance are very impressive.  Then it’s up hill towards one of the three main churches that stand atop of the the hill.  Winding cobbled streets weave a rabbit warren of multicoloured houses, cafes, restaurants and millions of souvenir shops.  Make it to the top of the hill and you will probably arrive at the orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Russian built impressive and imposing looking building.  I wandered inside to be quite shocked at just how small the place is.  The inside space is tiny, magnificently decorated, but how they ever hold services in there I do not know.  There were about four people in the place and it felt full!  I only stayed in there a short while before heading back outside.  I turned right out of the entrance and up a small street (ok, they’re all small) past what seemed to be a ballet school and a drama and music school then past another church and onto a viewing platform that looked out over the west of the city.  Views of modern buildings mixed with modernist buildings mixed with the old, whilst factories billowed out smoke from chimneys into the clear blue sky.

I was now starting to get really cold, so I went in search of food.  There are quite a few nice looking restaurants around the old town, and you can eat from many different country’s cuisines.  After spending much too much time procrastinating, again the cold not helping brain function, I went into a deli whose shelves were filled with lovely looking things.  I went for a Goats Cheese and Spinach lattice type thing and a cup of the above-mentioned tea.  I sat down, took my gloves of and tried to move my fingers.   They were so cold I could hardly hold my tea it felt so hot.  Eventually they warmed up and I drank it up, it was nice a mellow, not too acidic with the fruit and the right flavours to warm the cockles!  By the time I had finished my Spinach thing and was thinking about leaving the girl from behind the counter came out and started putting discount stickers on some of the cakes… So clearly I took that as a sign I should stay and have one.  I treated myself to a Sacher (or Sachertorte as research has now found out), a traditional Austrian cake which basically consists of chocolate cake, apricot jam and then a layer of chocolate to cover it all up.  It was delicious!!!  The perfect thing to get me back into the frame of mind to face the outside.

I was now heading back east to KUMU, the art museum, to hang around there until 6, when a documentary about Olaffur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls project was being screened.  The gallery is an amazing building.  Shaped and lit really well.  It basically goes chronologically through time showcasing numerous works by Estonian artists.  Many of the pieces are really great and for the first time in a long time I am once again enjoying looking at classical painting.  I think it may be down to the fact that most of these artists, if not all, are completely unknown to me, and also just their subject matter, and their motivations are different from the more western European styles, although they do clearly have the same influences and come from similar schools.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but it is nice to be able to enjoy looking at these things again.  The top floor is currently showcasing works by various contemporary Danish artists, some of which is really very good, other’s not so good. A noteworthy has to be Jacob Kirkegaard, whose video and sound installation is excellently executed, completely enthralling.  I also enjoyed the work of Rolf Notowny and Marie Kølbæk Iversen.  After a few hours spent wandering around in there, and only just realising I had missed a large space, though I wasn’t too keen on the work, so it wasn’t so bad, it was time for the film.  The auditorium was packed, but i guess that’s what happens when you show a film by an artist like Eliasson.  The film entitled ‘Olafur Eliasson: Space is Process’ was good, charting the ups and downs of his planning, developing and eventual execution of his project to change the new york city environment and to create ‘one more story for the city’.  It was intriguing to see into the world, and to some extent, the life of such a well respected and prolific artist.

Ingrid and I then visited Kom Pot, a lovely little restaurant serving traditional but modern fayre, in a lovely space, filled with jars of their own compote (I’m assured a traditional Estonian foodstuff and pastime), light fittings made from graters and colanders, clocks from spoons and forks, and a feature sofa area dolled up like a Soviet 50’s household.  The food was really good, I had a traditional Estonian meatball dish with Beetroot salad and sea-buckwheat sauce, whilst Ingrid had another dish consisting mostly of pork crackling and mash-potato, but it was very tasty despite how it sounds.  For dessert I had a great compote dish with Kama Mousse.  Kama is basically the Estonian equivalent to porridge I think, but as a mousse it was very tasty and the mixture of fruits in the compote was delightful!


Day 14, Helsinki / Suomenlinna, January 23rd 2012

Tea 14:  Thyolo, théhuone, Helsinki.

Today I headed to the islands of Suomenlinna.  This is a short boat journey, which if you have a travel-card like me, is included, so is basically free.  The island are an old fortress, which began life in 1748, when the Swedish, who at that time ruled over current day Finland, built it to defend themselves against Russian expansion.  Suomenlinna played a key role in many disputes, swapping hands time and again, until 1918 when it became part of newly independent, Finland.  It is now an UNESCO world heritage site.  The island is quite pretty, the first impression was a little disappointing, the buildings on the first island are similar to those in the city, and quite close to the Swedish architecture in Stockholm.  As I headed further into the complex though things got more interesting, crossing a small bridge I entered the old port area, where currently a wooden Gunboat is being constructed.  This is based on the plans of architect F. H. Chapman.  The main aim of the project is to employ and train young people and to revive and maintain ancient ship-building skills.  They are certainly doing a good job on this project, the ship is still in a skeletal stage, but it looks as if it will be amazing when finished, it is huge!

After that I headed towards some even older looking bits of the fortress.  The complex is huge, and like a rabbit warren, it would be so easy to get totally lost in there if there weren’t maps dotted about.  The building is quite low, barely going over two stories for the most part, but the walls are really thick and, like I say, the labyrinthian quality must of made it an excellent defensive structure.  I headed towards the Kings Gate, basically the original main entrance / first stop off for any wannabe invader.  There are cannon of various ages, some from the earlier period of it’s history and some from the more recent conflict around 1918.  I spent around two hours on the island before my fingers began to get numb through my gloves, definitely the coldest day so far, the exposure of the island to the Baltic Sea and the fresh bout of snowfall all contributed to this.  I hopped back onto the ferry headed back to the mainland.

My mission now: TEA!  Of course.  I almost indulged in a hot chocolate instead, but my tea head was on and I wanted to go back to the shop that had been closed on Sunday, théhuone (Teahouse in Finnish).  I was greeted by a wall of amazing smelling teas.  The shop was inviting and warm.  A pair sat at one table and another lone soul like me at another, so I took a third.  The menu was extensive to say the least, I couldn’t read any of it except for the tea names, and country of origin.  I picked one and asked to smell it.  The smell was deep and reddish, exactly what I was looking for to warm me up, and to give me something different.  The tea was called Thyolo, I presume in further reference to it’s origin, Thyolo in Malawi.  Today I decided to take proper tasting notes, especially because it was a tea I definitely haven’t experienced before.  So here we go:  The tea was smooth and rounded in flavour, delicate in flavour, and no bitterness at all.  There was the slight hint of Rooibos and also a smell it took me ages to pin down, but I think it might have been the very tiniest hint of Passata (tomato puree).  It took me ages to think what it was, and I might still be wrong.  There was an edge of sweetness to the tea, mostly from the Rooibos tones, that refreshed the underside of my tongue along and a slight and pleasant lingering metallic note in there somewhere.  The tea was dark amber in colour, reminiscent of Golden Syrup.  The water was heated perfectly and the timing of the brewing was to perfection, thanks to a little egg-timer used my the assistant.  I also indulged in a delicious seeded Croissant with St Dalfour Black Cherry jam.  It was SOOOO good!  After my tea I chatted to the assistant for a while about tea and travel, she told me how, for her honeymoon, she and her husband travelled for five weeks down very much the same route as I am planning but in a Caravan, it has made me think more about using a different form of transport than the trains and buses I have planned so far…..