Day 41, Warsaw, February 19th 2012

Tea 41, Genmaicha, Same Fusy, Warsaw.

Today was my first proper day in Warsaw, well, I say proper, still didn’t leave the flat until late because I had stayed up until stupid o’clock in the morning last night chatting, my brain sleeping but my body still awake because all I had done all day long was sit on a bus.  I’ve never been so glad to see +1’C in my life!  And, for the first time since I started to travel, today it rained!  After living in Glasgow for 6 years you would think I’d dread the sight of rain, but it actually makes you miss it to some extent.  And it wasn’t too heavy so that probably helped.  The puddles were dreadful though, as the rain was melting the big piles of snow making the streets flooded with an inch or two of water in most places.

My host Marta took me into town.  We got the Metro, a small one line system that leads into the city centre.  We got off one stop before Centrum and walked around for a bit, she showed me where she works and we walked into the city centre along streets lined with a mixture of huge blocky Soviet buildings, many still with Soviet sculptures carved into them off workmen and women with children, and some of the few that survived the bombing and destruction during and after World War 2 which destroyed around 80% of the city.  We walked a little way down this huge wide street, whose name I don’t remember, but that has loads of the embassy buildings along it.  The American Embassy being clearly obvious from it’s paranoid 12 inch concrete barriers and thick black metal fencing.  We kept wandering in the snow and rain until the old town, past a view point of the new football stadium, built ready for the Euro 2012 competition, which will be held in Poland and the Ukraine.  The Warsaw castle to one side of the view and another old building to the right.  It looks quite good there somehow, but maybe it was the low lying cloud making it seem all mystical or something…

We then went deeper into the old town, the cobbled streets getting smaller and smaller until you reach the centre, which is very much like most old town squares, a big open space surrounded by attractive old buildings.  We then went down a little street and found Same Fusy and Tea House and Coffee shop. This is a funny little place, decorated in dark terracotta colours and african masks dotted about all over the place, but which was playing some CSS when we walked in, and turned out to be the whole album, an unusual choice if you ask me.  This place is pretty expensive.  I paid 22Zloty for my tea, which is around 5 Euro, so definitely not cheap, basically similar to Helsinki.  But then this is the old town, that is what tends to happen.  We sat for quite a while, the tea was a basic Genmaicha (Green Tea with Roasted Brown Rice), but it was nice, it usually is.  But nothing spectacular, and for the price, nothing special.  After that we then decided we were a bit hungry so we popped into another place and shared a plate of mixed Pierogi.  This is a traditional Polish dish of dumplings made from Wheat or spelt pastry with various fillings, many of them Veggie, which is good.  These were boiled, though in the past I have had fried ones.  They were tasty, but I find the fried ones much better, more flavoursome.

This filled us up so we decided to head home, via the city centre for Marta to buy a new map.  The city has it’s own version of Stalin’s Birthday Cake, similar to the one in Riga, but built of grey stone, not the red stone of Riga.  At night it is lit up with a rainbow of colours, making it look quite cool, and with the cloud still low, the mystical-ness came out once more.  We got on the Metro again and went home, watched a movie, and then it was time to sleep.

As you may be able to tell, these last two posts have been late, due to the internet availability here, it is likely to become the norm for a while…

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Day 32 & 33, Pärnu – Riga & Jelgava, February 10th / 11th 2012

Tea 33: Green tea with Ginger and Lemon, Silva, Jelgava.

(Tea 32: Estonian Herbal tea, Liis & Ivo’s Apartment, Pärnu)

Many apologies for a two day in one day blog… I feel genuinely guilty.  Yesterday was another travel day, and so I didn’t get chance to take many photos or to document my tea, but needless to say it was another lovely Estonian Herbal tea, brewed to perfection by my wonderful Pärnu hosts.  I took the bus from Pärnu to my current location, Riga, Latvia.  The bus was luxury compared to the bus from Tartu to Pärnu, a good few inches of leg room beyond my knee caps, and a comfortable seat, and even some sporadic internet access.  I arrived in Riga, met my new host and we went to her apartment to the East of Riga city centre.  After a sit down and a little bit of relaxation we headed into Riga, myself, my host Kristine, and her flatmate Linda.  We wandered around for a while, showing me a few of the sites, mostly around the old town and the Latvia Statue of Liberty / Liberty monument.  We then stopped in a cafe for a coffee and a small but glorious slice of nutty, praline type cake.  VERY good stuff!  I had a coffee instead of a tea, mostly because I needed a caffeine boost, but also because their tea selection wasn’t up to much, doubt me if you will, but a cup of ‘Hot Love‘ tea certainly wasn’t my, well, cup of tea!  We then headed back to the apartment, got some food and I went to bed.

So, day 33.  Today I woke up around 9 and spent the morning Skype-ing family and doing internet stuff.  By lunchtime I had finished catching up with modern life stuff and headed into the city centre.  The weather was still cold, but not as bad as it has been, probably helped by being in a massively busy, bustling and somewhat polluted city.  I wandered to central station then up towards the north-east of the city, just to wander around streets and get my bearings mostly but also in search of tea.  Unfortunately this search was a little fruitless.  I had had some suggestions but had forgotten their names and was hoping that they would jump out at me, but, today, they did not.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow…

After a wander around this district, with it’s pretty little parks offering some peace from the traffic-filled streets, I went back towards the old town.  More wandering around these cobbled, higgledy piggledy streets, souvenir shops and tourist trapping restaurants.  Then I got a call from Linda, to meet her at central station.  I headed there and met up with her and her boyfriend and we hopped on a train to a little town called Jelgava.  There we met up with Kristine.  The plan was to visit the Ice Sculpture Festival.  This is an annual event, apparently run in tandem with a Sand Sculpture Festival in the summer months.  Before we got there though we went for a tea and a bit of cake to warm up and give us a bit of energy.  The weather in Jelgava was palpably colder than in Riga and it didn’t take long for us all to cool down much too much.  We stopped in a little cafe / restaurant called Silva.  I had a lovely cup of Green tea with fresh lemon and ginger, not an amazing tea but a great cold weather tea.  I also had some kind of layered cake that tasted a little bit like a mild lemon meringue pie.  Warmed up once more we headed for the festival ground.  In the site are loads of ice sculptures that have been created by many different people from all over the world.  There had been a judging contest and the winning one was this huge spire of ice with a figure reclining half way up the spire.  It was very impressive, they all were.  The time and effort stuff like that must take is unimaginable.  It has to be a full time careers for some of these guys who have honed their skills so well.  Seahorses, pocket watches, an amazing Chinese New Year Dragon, an Owl, a Dinosaur Skeleton, all things imaginable, and not.  Wandering around we took in all we could with the cold biting heavily at our toes, a short but sweet firework display and then we decided to head back towards home.  We stopped off in Silva once more to warm up and then made for the train station.  We hopped on the train, got back into Riga, and the rest, as they say, is history, or the future…

P.S. You get extra pictures today to make up for the lack of yesterday’s posting…