A taste of the homeland, and even Tram’s need some REM

The local super(cheap)market has started selling seriously strong Cheddar cheese! Amazing! After months of strange pastey cheeses and rather poor imitations of brie and the like I’ve gotten my hands on some lovely proper cheese! Don’t get me wrong, Cheddar has never been my favorite cheese in the world, but at least it has some character and flavour, a very welcome addition to the refrigerator! At last some decent cheese on toast is on the horizon! If only I could get my hands on some Lea & Perrins!

After the cheesey delights we headed out for an evening amble, which I will break up into a couple of posts, as there are lots of pictures. First on the agenda has to be the Tram Depot, where many of the trams have their night time naps.  Looking at the second image below you can see just how seriously Warsaw takes the sleep of their Trams, REM level or above only!

Signs of an old Tram line, caught up in an avenue of trees.

Rapid Eye Movement essential!

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Two Trees

The sun is out constantly, the air is hot and humid.  Sometimes I struggle to believe I’m still in Northern Europe, this weather is a far cry from what I was so used to in Scotland.  Thunderstorms roll in most nights, which aren’t usually that unwelcome, as they clear and refresh the muggy air.  32-34’C average the last few days, BRILLIANT!


Brownies, Tea, Palaces and …er… Doors

What isn’t here is a picture of the absolutely amazing Chocolate Brownie that I had from the little festival type thing that was happening at Krolikarnia on this day.  It was one of the best Brownies I’ve ever had!  Rich, chewy, thick, tasty.  Every brilliant word you could think of.  Why no photo?  Well, because I ate it all of course!  The last thing on my mind was taking a photo!  After that we went for a walk and ended up in cafe Relaks, a cafe I’d been looking for for quite a while and have now, finally, found!  A nice cup of tea was had there, and the first tea photo I’ve given you all for a while.  More walking later into the evening.  Ending up in the city centre, around the old Jewish district again, then onto a bridge to witness a stunning sunset, which will be specially featured in my next post!


Day 62 – 67, Warsaw, March 11th – 16th 2012


I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!  TEN whole days without a posting!  That is awful!  And now I’m even going to role those ten days into one post!  even more awful!  As you can probably tell, internet availability has been somewhat lacking.  Hoping between wifi cafes has not been ideal for posting up stuff.  But I will try to be more active now that I have got a little more stable internet back again.  It even made me miss Mother’s Day it would seem, so here is a public apology to my mum for that!  I am sorry!

So, what have I done since being back in Warsaw.  Well, hmm, mostly tried to find internet it would seem! One major occurrence was the haircut I gave myself!  At long last I now have short hair again!  It had got to that point when the hair on the sides starts to curl upwards and I look like I am sporting a nice set of wings like Hermes or Mercury!  So, yes, a good chop with a pair of kitchen scissors and I felt positively refreshed!

The first thing I did on my first day back, a Sunday, was to return to Maharaja, the indian restaurant.  I took Marta, who is kindly looking after me again, on the hope that the Thali lunch was still on.  Unfortunately it is not on over the weekend, but we stayed anyway and I ate a really great sweet and sour fish dish with a Vegetable stuffed naan.  It was really really good!  So much food, too much really and I should of taken some of it home, but I ate it all instead!  We then walked around the city in the cold sunshine and took some photos, Marta had taken her holga with her, the new love of he life.  We found a small statue of Jesus that was in a rather strange position, in the little courtyard of an old tenement block.  The building is one of the ones that has survived the war, but it still bares a lot of the scars.  We managed to get inside, the doors were open and went up the staircase to the top and got a good view of a few rooftops.  The inside looks like it hasn’t changed much since the war either!  A great building, but it needs some work doing to it if it is to survive much longer!

Later that afternoon we met up with Carolina, one of Marta’s best friends and we were intending to visit cafe Vincent, the french bakery on Nowy Swiat, when we go there though the place was totally rammed with people (this was not a surprise), so we crossed the street and went to this little ice cream parlour directly opposite.  This place is a little gem, mostly for people watching.  We ordered some cake and I got a coffee and we sat and chatted whilst little old ladies snuck into the place, past us and then to the toilet.  Some of them stayed for ice cream, some not.  One really amazing lady seemed to be having the time of her life with her ice cream.  Spoon after spoon disappeared into her mouth, the pace was incessant, and it seemed as though she had a never ending ice cream.  I have never seen so much concentrated enjoyment on an adult face in my whole life!  After this little place Carolina and Marta were still craving vincent, and something savoury.  So we tried again, this time we managed to get a seat, and I ordered a tea whilst they both ordered a ciabatta and more tea.

We sat and drank tea and ate for a while, then decided it was getting late so we left.  Eventually we decided to head to Carolina’s place for a while, so we got on a tram, or two, bought a bottle of wine, a rather unusual Moldavian variety, and went to her flat.

The next day was a rather quiet one for me, I left the flat late and went for a small wander around the town, I did buy a new tea, from the 5 o’clock tea shop in the basement of the horrible shopping mall in the city centre.  It is a Yunnan Green Superior.  I bought it mostly as an everyday tea, nothing special.  It is good, but i think the leaves have been ripped up too small, it is lacking the smoothness that bigger leaves can give it.  I also popped to the supermarket and bought some food for dinner.  That night I made a Moussaka, and I have to say, it was the best one I have ever made in my life, and possibly the best I have ever tasted!  (this probably means that it didn’t taste anything like a real Moussaka, but it was goooooood!)

Tuesday now…Again, I went into town late, I spent the morning working on a few things.  But then went in to meet Marta, I had a little walk around the embassy district while I waited, the ponds in the little park there were still frozen despite the temperature being above zero for the past few weeks.  I then met Marta and we went to Green Coffee for a drink and a bit of internet access, we checked emails and just did the little things that needed to be checked.  That was about it for Tuesday I think.

Wednesday, Marta had the day off for a doctors appointment so she dragged me out with her to the shopping centre where her doctors is (yes INSIDE the shopping centre!).  This place is called Blu City, and is just full of the usual shops, Saturn, Empik, McDonalds etc etc, and lacking in customers which is probably more normal now than we like to admit.  After my wandering past and through a few of the shops Marta reappeared, we went back home, and I am now struggling to remember what we did for the rest of the day (see, this is exactly why I need to keep updating daily!)

Thursday, the same problem, exactly what I did during the day that wasn’t spent on working towards the residency  I do not know.  But in the evening Marta and Ania’s landlady came over, so I made myself scarce for a while and wandered to this park called Park Arkadia.  This place has got a great view out across the East of the city, the sunlight was fading and the lights were beginning to twinkle from the flats and high rises.  The park falls down a steep hill where there are a couple of ponds, which were still frozen, the ducks skidding about avoiding an enthusiastic chasing dog.  A few people were there, wandering around or sitting on the benches with a bottle of beer or two.  One guy with two girls on either side of him looking rather happy with himself…  Then I went back to the flat, via a shop to buy loo roll.

The next day I spent most of the day working at Hello Collective stuff, but then in the late afternoon I met Marta and we went for a wander around the old town, we got on the tram for a couple of stops and got off near Metro Swietokrzyska.  We wandered around in the low yellow sunlight for a while, before we decided it was too cold and it was time to head home again.

Ok, time for a new post…


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 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 5, Denmark, January 14th 2012

Tea 5: Sencha Currant, Laura’s Bakery, Torvehallerne KBH.

Today started fairly late, it is a Saturday after all. I headed for the ‘The Lakes‘, three, shallow man-made lakes to the West / North West of the City Centre. The sun was shining and the sky was clear, but probably the coldest day so far, should have put the old Long-Johns on, but carried on nevertheless. I wandered along the western edge of the two northernmost ‘lakes’, amongst joggers and dog walkers, sat on a bench for a while and made a few notes, watched Helicopters hovering in the sky whilst swans cruised along the waters of the man-made ‘Peblinge Sø’ and thought about the strange irony that represented.  I carried on sauntering up the lakes and then back around and down past the Botanic gardens, on the quest back to find the promising looking glass encased food market I had passed on my way to the lakes.  Inside I found myself reheated, and my eyes filled with wondrous treats, cakes, fresh fish, teas, chocolates.  The smells and sights set my stomach rumbling in an instant.  I wandered through one glass building and then the next and ‘selected’, I use this word loosely as the money in my pocket did most of the deciding for me, Laura’s bakery, the breads and cakes gleaming from behind their glass case.  Of course I had to free one, and a tea, obviously.

The tea was warm, slightly fruity and reviving. Sencha Currant, delicate and golden (though my fault for leaving the tea bag in a little too long), with just enough fruity sweetness.  The chocolate croissant was, probably the best croissant I’ve eaten, possibly ever, definitely for a long long long time went down much faster than it should have, but it was just perfect, in the cold air, the sun shining down, wonderful.

Tonight I plan to visit Christiania again, Inga has invited me to see some Cabaret type performances in an old cinema there, so hopefully that will work out and be good.