So at the weekend we decided to escape the city a little, and ventured south on the bus to the Park Kultury, a bit of forest and fields and holiday ‘huts’. The sun was shining hard as it has been for the last week or two, but the bus was nicely air-conditioned (apparently if the drivers don’t have it switched on they are getting fined). We arrived at it was as though the whole of Warsaw had descended on the place. There were men, women and children everywhere, all fairly scantily clad burning nicely in the midday sun.
We arrived and took a little walk through the park, then to the forest area where there were far less people. However it soon became apparent why people might not be populating the more covered areas, MOSQUITOS! The Polish ones are MASSIVE!!! And they are incessant! You’d think living in Scotland for the past 6 years would of hardened me against midges and all thing Vampiric, but these guys are a whole different class! And, what was worse, the so-called ‘repellant’ we had bought with us (thinking ourselves to be very clever) actually seemed to be ATTRACTING the bloomin’ things! They buzzed around my head like some sort of tiny version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre! We escaped as quickly as we could, Mosquitos in hot pursuit. We finally made it out the other side and fended off the last few brave enough to head out into the heat of the daylight.
Walking trying hard to resist the urge to scratch the various parts of our bodies, we were treated to some lovely views of long strips of land, all planted up with different crops, from Cabbages and Wheat to a lovely field of Potatoes. We managed to ‘liberate’ a few from the edges of the field to take home and cook, just to see what they were like. Then we headed back to the main part of the park, where the number of bodies to mosquitos lowered our chances of being bitten. We sat in the sunshine for a while, watching people of all shapes and sizes stroll around the park, playing volleyball, chess or cards and drinking over priced beer. We stayed until the temperature lowered enough to bring the Mosquitos back out, and then we headed back to the bus and homewards.
This post is pretty picture heavy, which is kind of a surprise because, in reality, it seemed to me that there was really very little to see or do in poor old Katowice. The city is pretty shabby and is all over the place, something which is not helped by the rebuilding of the railway station and some of the tram lines in the ‘city centre’ (in inverted commas because it is actually quite hard to tell exactly where the city centre is…)
We stayed at a friend of Marta’s. An old flat that she had inherited and has sat mostly empty for the past six years, meaning it is full of dust and causing some major allergic nasal floods the whole time we were there. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday wandering around the city in the sweltering heat, it was a rather exotic 34’C! Thank goodness for Biedronka and giant cartons of Ice Tea, and their delightful portions of chocolate halva (extremely dangerous)!!
The city isn’t a complete bore though, there are some interesting buildings, from every era, starting with the old German-Bavarian mansions, to the huge UFO of a concert hall from the 1970’s right up to the library building, which seems to be carrying on the tradition of being plonked right in the middle of where you would least expect it to be.
The city is, on the whole a rather poor place, and there are plenty of rather dodgy looking characters unafraid to eye-up your camera and back pockets, but it does definitely have it’s interesting bits that are worth visiting, though try and avoid the hottest days of the year!
Oh, and the trams are a bit like being on a scary rollercoaster (scary because you could fall off the tracks at any point…)
Hot-Dog? Bon Appetit!
The library building
Beware of fire-tailed Goats?
This installation, by the artist Julita Wójcik has moved from it’s temporary home in Brussels to it’s new permanent (I hope) home on the super trendy, hipsterville of Plac Zbawiciela. You can read more about it by clicking here.
Next a just a smattering of photos from my latest trip to Radom, there was a huge thunderstorm in the night, and although I didn’t manage to catch an actual lightning strike, I did do some long exposure photographs that have a strange glow in them when the lightning struck part way through the exposure time.
So, day 84 was spent travelling from Warsaw to Berlin by train. It was about a 5.5 hour journey which was reasonably comfortable, there was only one incident of an altercation with a woman and an incorrect seat choice. But it was fine, though she seemed very angry for a woman who then started to read an esoteric book about Auras!
I made it to Berlin at around 3:30pm and met Abigail, the woman I run the Hello Collective with. We took a few trains to get to her place, in Kreuzberg district, the current hub of the creative world in Berlin, apparently. Also the heart of the Turkish community in Germany. There must be more Falafel, Halloumi and Baklava shops per square meter than anywhere else in the world! Including the middle east! We got home and I dropped my stuff, finally met Sergej, Abigail’s boyfriend to whom I have only ever existed through Skype (and visa-versa)! We sat a chatted for a while and then popped to a cafe around the corner for a coffee and Abigail had a pizza before she had to disappear off to a German lesson. I went back to the flat and chilled out for a while. When Sergej arrived back from his studio we started to cook a bit of food ready for Abigail’s return. She didn’t get back until late (normal for her German lesson days) and we ate, then went out for a little drink.
Day 85, Tuesday. We woke up and went out into the local area, a little market by the river, then I went to see Abigail’s studio and we carried on walking to the Neukolln area and visited a few art spaces and then ended up in a place called Agora, a cafe which is also home to a few artist’s studios. We sat with a coffee for a while and chatted about our plans for the summer residency program and what needs organising, including the fundraising issues! Another reminder about our Kickstarter campaign, please visit our page and if you can donate a little. Some guy made 3.8million dollars for a computer game development, so SURELY we can make a modest $2500! CLICK HERE!
We met up with Sergej for a bit of lunch, an aubergine Halloumi wrap, which was tasty, though very messy! The rest of the day seems to be a bit of a blur… hmm… We basically explored the city a bit more, then Abigail had another German lesson and I went towards the city centre, making it to Alexanderplatz for a while then headed home. After a while we decided to leave and wandered around a while longer then headed home. Later that evening we met up with Sergej and his brother and went for a couple of drinks in a bar around the corner.
Day 86, Wednesday. We spent the morning do more Hello Collective things, trying to get some more emails out to people to try and drum up a little more sponsorship and trying to investigate other avenues if we don’t manage to make it to our target. Then in the afternoon Abigail took me on another little tour of the area, taking me to this amazing arts supplies store called Modular. Everything you could probably imagine! Quite cool, though maybe a bit ikea arts ish?
We then went for a tea in a place called Betahaus, a very cool space near to Modular. It was very nice and chilled out in there though, and the green tea, though standard, was of very good quality. We sat there and chatted for a while, and people watched. A funny situation developed when a woman arrived, put her things down and went to get a coffee, whilst she was away from the table another gentleman arrived and sat at the same table. When the woman got back from ordering her coffee she approached with a rather confused expression and went to the table. The man had obviously not noticed her stuff on the seat and there was a funny looking (though unheard) conversation that took place before the man got up and went to another place.
That evening we had a night in and watched a film, the 80’s childhood classic, Flight of the Navigator! I love that film! Though it was maybe not Abigail’s cup of tea, for Sergej it seemed pretty nostalgic, one of the first American films he remembers seeing when Eastern Germany left communist rule.
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!