Day 87 – 89, Berlin, April 5th -7th 2012

Tea 88, Fresh Mint Tea, Ankerklause, Berlin

Day 87, Thursday.  Today I spent the day wandering around for ages, Abigail had gone to her studio so I decided to explore the city centre.  It was one of those days of loads of inadvertent walking.  I walked back to Alexanderplatz in an, ultimately futile, attempt to find a tourist information, god knows where it is!  I should probably check the internet, but I keep on forgetting before it’s too late.  I did by a little notebook with a map in it though, so that is helpful to me.  It also makes checking maps in a more incognito fashion easier!  From Alexanderplatz I walked West and past a large area of museums and tourists.  I eventually, accidentally, made it to Checkpoint Charlie, the place was heaving with tourists carrying cameras and beggars carrying cardboard begging scripts.  I didn’t really hang around here for any time at all, the crowds of people putting me off.  There are two men standing in American Army uniform pretending to guard the checkpoint, which was one of the most tense and symbolic border crossings between East and West.

I escaped up a quieter street, which was a bit of a relief, walking past a car museum / rental place called Trabi world, the Trabi (or Trabant) was the most common car driven and produced in Eastern Germany.  This little place is filled with cars that you can hire and drive around the city.  Very old school…

A bit more of a wander, I thought I was on my way towards the Brandenberger Tor, although I never actually made it in the end, I think I did manage to walk all the way around it though!  Much more walking around in a large loop around the city before I made it back home.

That evening Sergej and I went out for some more drinks, where some of his workmates and an old friend were hanging out.  The place was so so smokey!  By the time we got home I totally stank and had to have a cold shower to get the stench of smoke out of my hair and skin.  It still surprises me that most places allow smoking anywhere in Berlin.  And it is kind of weird to see advertising for cigarettes, especially that still promote them in a life giving kind of way!

Day 88, Friday.  Today was a slow morning, Abigail and Sergej have gone away for the weekend, sort of for her birthday, which is next week.  Eventually I got up and started some work on my website, which is part of the reason for these belated, bunched up posts.  All the shops were closed today, it was Good Friday, though not the cafes and restaurants.  I met up with one of Abigail’s friends, Ulijona, and we went for a cup of tea at a cafe called Ankerklause.  This place is quite popular, and I am told, a good place for celebrity spotting (it’s apparently one of Quentin Tarantino‘s favourite places). The sun was mostly out, so we sat outside and I had a nice Fresh Mint tea and we chatted for a while about clubbing, Berlin, art, etc.  Then we both decided that we were hungry so Ulijona took me to the place she considered to have the best Falafel (I imagine there is a lot of opinions for a lot of different places!)  But it was good, I had Falafel with Halloumi and it was pretty good, and possibly better than the first place I went to, though mostly because the Halloumi had been cooked properly here.  After that Ulijona went home and I walked around trying to soak up as much sunshine as possible, though it was a little cold in the wind.  I got home and did a bit more work on my website and some more pondering about the future, which seems to be dominating a lot of my thoughts right now.

Day 89, Saturday.  So, finally!  A post that happens on the day it happened!  Today I woke up and had breakfast and then left fairly quickly, compared to usual.  However, as I got to the door and opened it, I was greeted by sleety, snowy freezing rainfall.  I decided to leave anyway, although changed my original plan (which was a walk through the Tiergarten!) and went back towards town and browsed in bookshops and found the Lomography shop which I had a little look around (Marta’s experience with the Holga has still inspired me to look for something of my own to use)  I basically did a big loop and wandered around some of the smaller streets, filled with high class galleries, and expensive shops.  Then I got back home, via the Chinese market where I bought some rice crackers and a can of Aloe Vera juice.  I sat and rested my legs for a while.  Then the sun peeped it’s head out so I went out again to try to catch it, I wandered around the remnants of a little market next to the cafe I visited yesterday, most of it had been packed away, but there were still a few stalls left.  I walked some more whilst the sun stayed up and then came back home, via the supermarket where I treated myself to some over priced Peanut butter, it was far too expensive, but I have been craving it for long enough to make it seem worth it!

Time for more work on the website.

Also, don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter Campaign, if you don’t mind.

<CLICK HERE>

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Day 82, Warsaw, March 31st 2012

Tea 82, Yunnan Green Superior, the Apartment, Warsaw

We were late leaving the flat today, as Marta decided to have a bit of a spring clean.  When we did leave it was time for a late lunch, so we headed out, into the freezing cold, and SNOWING (!) air, we jumped on the metro to central and headed for Kebab King.  I had a huge craving for Falafel!  So we went to the large branch of Kebab King on Jerozolimpskie and basically stuffed our faces, I had Falafel, Chips and then we both shared some Baklava for dessert!  (One Pistachio and one Coconut sweet treats)

We got totally stuffed and then headed back outside.  Whilst we had been inside eating the sun had been out, shining through the window, but, as sod’s law so often dictates, as soon as we left the rain and hail began beating down on us.  We ran around the corner, cut through Empik and then waited for a bus from Foksal.  We took the bus to the stop nearest to Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, the centre for contemporary art in Warsaw.  We walked briskly here, the snowy hail was pouring down on us.

The main show that is on there at the minute is a semi-retrospective / archival project about the AKADEMIA RUCHU. entitled AKADEMIA RUCHU. CITY. The FIELD of ACTION. This charts the history of one of Poland’s most prolific and active arts collectives.  They began life in the mid 70’s and have created numerous performative installations in public spaces ever since.  The show charts pretty much every project they have ever conducted, through photography, film and text.  It was really great to discover this group, who have made, and strive to make important, thought-provoking and enlightening work for their whole existence.  This section of work on show at the centre took us quite a long while to tour around, so if you plan to go, definitely give yourselves time.  The show ends in a small basement space where some more of their video documentation is shown and they are running a little tea stand, with free tea or coffee and a lucky dice roll to try and win a glass of wine (sadly me, nor Marta managed to roll the correct amounts to get any wine)…  We did have a cup of tea and coffee though and sat and watched some more of the videos, and spoke to the guy serving the tea, who is a member of the Akademia Ruchu.  There are apparently only 5 of them left now, there were 22 originally.  It seemed a little odd to discover that, as I had walked around the show thinking that Akademia Ruchu was more organic than that and that maybe they had a membership that was constantly evolving across the years. It seems a shame that one day it will cease to exist…

The other parts of the building house two more exhibitions, one part is showing POSTDOCUMENT (they seem to enjoy capital letters here…)  This is a show of photographs charting the Polish Transformation following the fall of the Soviet Empire from 1989.  There are some really great photographs in this show, and some really interesting works and perspectives.  Really worth seeing.  We could have spent much longer in the show, walking around seeing everything in more detail, but we had spent so long in the first part that we were running out of time.  The next part isn’t so interesting, a collection of Cognitive artworks from the CCA collection.  There are some works from Yoko Ono and a work by Magdalena Abakanowicz.

After the shows we were both ready for home, so we walked in the cold air back to the Metro, Politechnika this time, via a shop to buy some juice.  Then we hopped on the train home.  Back home and we just chilled out basically, drinking some more tea via Marta’s wonderful new teapot and then headed to bed.


Day 50, Warsaw, February 28th 2012

Tea 50:  Yunnan Green Oolong, the Apartment, Warsaw.

50 days!  A half centrury and what happens….

Winter returned today!  The snow was falling fast and fairly heavy, giving a good coating to all the freshly ice free paths and roads.  It was almost as though the first lot of snow had not disappeared at all!  I wrapped up warm and left the apartment.  The chill was back in the air, making me fear the worst for the next couple of weeks.  I hope that the winter is not coming back and that that was just winter’s last laugh before spring kicks in.  I took the tram again today, heading for Jana Pawla II street once more, in search of this vegan restaurant I had seen the other day.

Making it there I wandered up Jana Pawla for a while to work up a bit of an appetite, then wandered back down to the restaurant.  The place is called the Loving Hut, an asian food spot, with all sorts of exciting looking things on the menu.  I went for the soup that you can see below, though I have forgotten what it is called.  But it was great, filled with Tofu, Broccoli, Beans, Celery, Lemon Grass, a fake prawn, noodles, loads of things.  It was spicy and coconutty, rich and lovely.  I sat and ate it up, flicking bits of soup all over the table, it was really good, especially with the cold wintry weather going on out of the window.  I also learned that Natalie Portman, Moby, Tobey Macguire and Bryan Adams are all vegan!

Food eaten, which took me quite a while as the portion was hugely generous, I wrapped up again and went out into the wind blustered snow.  I walked down Jana Pawla II then turned left onto Solidarnosci and walked to this little area just on the outskirts of the old town, wandering around a little park, that used to be part of the grounds to a grand old mansion, which still sits at the opposite end of the park.  Ducks were desperately looking for unfrozen water to wash in, crows were diving about in the snow playing with sticks and rocks, for what purpose I don’t know, but I do think they were just playing in the snow, one kept diving into it and rolling around!

More wandering, more looking in bike shops and I decided I was getting far too cold, so I went back into the centre, bought some food to cook for dinner and then headed home.  Back home I cooked a Beetroot soup and some Pierogi for Ania and I, Marta was at Yoga class.  We sat and ate and chatted for a while, then watched an awful film, then went to sleep.  A short, snowy day today.


Day 45, Warsaw, February 24th 2012

Tea 45: Pu Erh Chocolate Cake, Marta’s Apartment, 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.


Day 37, Riga – Kaunas via Vilnius, February 15th 2012

Tea 37: Not tea, hot chocolate, Emils Gustavs Chocolate Shop, Riga

Today was a travel day, 1040 – 1645 on a bus.  Riga to Kaunas in Lithuania.  This bus was probably the nicest one so far, good leg room, good temperature, though a dubbed version of Fast and the Furious Five was maybe not the ideal ‘in coach entertainment’ choice!

I left the apartment in Riga earlier than I really needed to, but this was because I was determined to leave Riga on a high note.  And, at long last it worked!  I managed to track down the illusive Emil and the holy chocolate grail!  This made me exceedingly happy.  The perfect treat for 9:30am?  A cup of the gorgeous hot liquid chocolate.  This small but perfectly formed little cup provided me with a much needed and much appreciated chocolate high.  This hot chocolate was literally just melted chocolate in a cup, even those little bits that are left in the cup you see began to turn back into solid chocolate.  It was simply wonderful, only cost 1 lat and the lady that served me did so with a lovely smile and a warm bit of broken English conversation.  It was a great ending to a strange few days in Riga.  Thank goodness!  The little shop is in the central train station, and there is even a tea shop too, I think I probably should have just hung out there the whole time I was in Riga!

I got to the bus station, waited a little while then hoped onto the bus, a double decker beast of a thing, but as I said, nice and comfy. The journey didn’t feel too long either, we made a small stop somewhere, then another short stop in Vilnius, which looked, from the bus window, a bit like Riga…  Then I arrived at Kaunas.  I went into the bus station to ask about buses for the next leg of my trip, received friendly and efficient service and then waited for my next host, Lina.  She arrived a little after 5pm and after a quick pop to the supermarket we headed to her flat, which she shares with her husband.  The flat is lovely, on the top of a hill only a few minutes from the bus station and it has the most wonderful view of the city, I will try to get a photo of it in the coming days.  We sat and chatted, ate a little, drank a bit of brandy, which I actually enjoyed even though I didn’t think that it was my sort of drink.  Then  one of Lina’s friends arrived, we ate some dinner, a bit more chat and now it is time to sleep…

Goodnight.


Day 31, Pärnu, February 9th 2012

Tea 31: Organic Pu Erh, Piccadilly Wine, Pärnu.

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!


Day 30, Tartu – Pärnu, February 8th 2012

Tea 30: Meliss (Lemon Balm), Liis & Ivo’s loft, Parnu

Two belated posts in a row…  oops.  Yesterday was another travel day mostly.  I spent the morning packing and relaxing on the sofa in Tartu, trying to gather a bit of energy back.  A huge breakfast of chocolate pancakes and toastie sandwiches was made for me so that was really good.  So after a little bit of zombifying in front of the TV I went down to Tartu bus station bought my ticket for Parnu and left.  The bus was really full and possibly the least leg room I have ever experienced.  Luckily the bus had quite an early stop and a large chunk of the people got off at that first stop, so that was a bit better, but i still had my legs stuck out into the aisle, wedged between my rucksack and the armrest.  Traveling by bus shows you just how much of Estonia is covered by thick dense forest.  60% apparentely, it’s no wonder they burn so much of it to heat their homes.  But I am assured it is all sustainably done.  Arriving in Parnu at about 5:30pm, I was met at the bus station by Liis, who is kindly putting me up for two nights before I make for the border and into Latvia.

We went straight away to her husband’s car and the three of us drove, picked a fourth person up, and headed out into the countryside, to one of their friends houses. I had been kindly invited to join their dinner party.  A weekly occurance they pick a ‘theme’, or vegetable, that will be cooked into as many different options as possible.  Last night was one of my favourites, Sweet Potato.  We had it as salad, baked, and ‘caramelised’ crisp/chip style.  It was good food, and followed by a documentary film, The Living Matrix.  Basically this is about energy fields that may, or may not, exist around the human body, and how holistic medicine can engage with these fields to heal.  It was very interesting, though the characters and scientists were all quite extreme and intense, which can be a little off putting for some people.  If you are into, or just curious about the ideas of holistic medication, healing, acupuncture, the placebo effect, and such things it is worth a look.

We all left after the film, and headed to Liis and Ivo’s apartment, which is a roof space apartment near the centre of Parnu.  They keep insisting it is unfinished, but it is a really lovely space, nice decor, nice environment, really lovely.  I am certainly jealous, it is one of those places you always wish you could live in, and the decor you always strive for but never feel you achieve.  I’m pretty sure these two have achieved it.  It is really lovely, especially the ‘rocket stove’, which I am currently sitting on typing this.  We drank tea, ate apples from Liis’ Gran’s Garden, and chatted for a while about what I am ‘planning’ and where the two of them have travelled and what their plans are.  They seem very happy here.

So, no Parnu photos yet, but here are some more of Tartu, including the rather dazed looking face of the pig sculpture that stands outside of the Tartu meat market…