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!)

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Day 77 & 78, Warsaw, March 26th & 27th 2012

Tea 78: Turkish Coffee & Green Tea with Mint, Cafe Adi, Warsaw.

So, monday was a bit of a write off, the only reason I left the flat was to go and do a bit of food shopping and come back again.  So, not much to talk about there, and no photos either I’m afraid.

Straight onto Tuesday then, and a bit more eventful.  I started the day with a little trip to Raclawicka again, to show Marta the little second-hand bike shop and to wander around in the sunshine.  It was a beautiful day with loads of sunshine, though a bit windy.  After a while walking around there, into a second hand shop where Marta bought a lovely red hooded coat with black toggles for a bargain price, we started to head towards town.  We popped into a little photo shop to see if they develop medium format film, Marta recently invested in a Holga and has used her first roll of film!  She also got her photo taken for her US Visa application.  The place was tiny and dark and smelt like many decades worth of cigarette smoke had seeped into the walls.  The guy looked like he has propped up the counter for his entire life too.

Back out into the daylight I had a sudden craving for an ice cream, the bright sunlight stirring that primal ice cream eating monster inside us all!  A chocolate Magnum made it into my stomach in double quick time, and we carried on walking.  We walked through Pole Mokotowskie, and then into the city centre, on the hunt for a launderette for Marta’s new coat.  We didn’t manage to find a reasonably priced one before making it to Central Station, where we stood in a queue for ages and I bought a ticket to my next destination, Berlin next monday.

Ticket bought and we intended to get a tram up to the old town and to stop for a coffee in the cafe where I had the great Turkish Coffee, cafe Adi.  All the trams were totally packed though, so after attempting to get onboard 3 we decided we would just make the most of the sunshine and walk.  We did so and made it to the cafe whilst the sun was still streaming through the open window.  It was so warm and lovely in there, and the turkish coffee was really good again.  The place started to suddenly get really really full of well dressed pensioners, who were probably waiting for a show at the theatre across the road.  We had finished our drinks so we decided to leave.

We then continued our walk, it was still sunny and quite warm so we walked up to the huge monument to the Polish Resistance and the funny multicoloured Pegasus’s ( Pegasuses?  Pegasi??  ) that sit outside of the national library and the supreme court.

Then we headed West and ended up on Jana Pawla, where we managed to find a cheap launderette for the coat.  We left it there and carried on our walk, south now and back towards the city centre, we stopped off in a few shops in search of some Ciechan Honey Beer, which seems to be in short supply at the minute.  Unsuccessful we headed back to the Metro at central, at the minute and until the end of April part of the Metro is shut down so you can only get as far as Central from the stations south and only from Ratusz Arsenal north.  You have to get a tram or bus between Central and Ratusz Arsenal at the minute.  But this didn’t really affect us, just meant a slightly longer walk, we bought some chocolate covered raisins to sustain ourselves!

Back home via the Marc Pol store, where we successfully got some honey beer, though not Ciechan, but another brand, we ate some food and drank some beer and then the clock decided it was high time we headed for the sack!


Day 68 – 70, Warsaw, March 17th – 19th 2012

Tea 70: Turkish coffee, Cafe Adi, Warsaw (imagine a coffee house just to my left in this photograph!)

Saturday, a beautiful sunny day, with proper warmth in the air!  It was a really lovely day, like summer had just popped up to say hello!  I spent the day wandering around the city, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air.  Marta and I ended up back in Cafe Vincent, we had planned to go to the is fish place called Top Fish, but it was full with people, like most places.  We were really lucky with Cafe Vincent, managing to nab a seat as some people left.  I had a really great Salami and Mozzarella baguette and some orange juice.  It was very good, one of those baguettes with proper substance to them, nice and chewy, and warmed up a bit too.  We scoffed those down and then carried on our sunny walk.

We walked and then sat in the university grounds on a bench in the sunshine for a while, until some neddy characters turned up and decided to stare at us until we decided to leave, what is with some people some times, they are just out to spoil other people’s enjoyment, I have never understood that.  Anyway, we started to wander again, then bought a cartoon on Green Grapefruit Juice and went to sit by the river.  The bank has large steps built onto parts of it and there were loads of people out enjoying the sunshine.  It was a lovely atmosphere, people buzzing up and down on their bicycles and rollerblades.  We sat there for a while until it started to get a bit cold as the sun went down and then we attempted to go home.  This took us aaaaages!  We got on a tram, then, with the intention of speeding up or journey home, got off at the Metro stop and went down to the platform.  What a mistake, engineering works were happening which meant we could only get a train two stops, then we had to get off, get another train another two stops, from the opposite platform, then get off again and go home.  This whole fiasco took about two hours in the end!  There was loads of confusion about which platform to be on and when and why.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone, I think I would of ended up in Siberia or something!

Sunday, and another great sunny day.  I went to the flea market up at Kolo, on Obozowa street.  This was full of stuff, much of it bric-a-brac and junk, but it was a good experience, lots of good faces and banter going on.  I bought a little badge that the stall holder described as junk, which it probably is, but then, aren’t all badges really??  We walked up and down the stalls for a while.  I took a few photographs, and was glad that I hadn’t photographed one stall, as I saw a girl trying to and then the stallholder come bowling towards here waving his arms at her camera in anger.  That was a lucky escape, for me, and for her camera which remained intact.

We then met up with Carolina again, and her boyfriend, another Michael from Scotland (though this one was born and bred).  We then headed to the Jewish Cemetery, where Marta was meeting a friend.  Her friend is part of a scheme that is currently trying to clean up and restore parts of the cemetery as it is in a rather sorry state.  The place is really massive though, so it is little surprise.  We wandered around the graves for a while, it is reminiscent of the graveyard in Krakow, although much much larger and there is a little bit more space between the gravestones.  The sun was still shining down, and a small breeze was waving the tall, thin tree trunks gently back and fourth.  The place is very peaceful, and in the sunshine very serene.

After a while there, meeting Marta’s friend and talking and her showing us some of her favourite and some of the most famous stones, we left and went to get something to eat, sadly just some fast food in the Arcadia shopping mall.  Then we got a tram to the New Town area, and walked south into the old town, people watching, the other Michael taking cheeky pictures of girls who took his fancy, a 50/50 mix of people who seemed flattered and some who were less so, and a few that pretending to be annoyed but with a rye grin on their faces.  We ended up in BrowArmia, a pub that brews it’s own beers and has a terrible live singer stuck in the window, in a vain attempt to draw in more punters.  If I were them I would stick to radio warsaw….

A nice half litre of Stout drunk and we left, wandering towards central.  Carolina and Michael jumped on a tram home and Marta and I walked around the city a while longer.  We found this interesting little place called V9, a sort of artists space, mostly for graffiti artists it would seem.  Then we carried on our walk and finally headed back home.

Monday, I spent the morning at home then left and went to the city, I am still thinking about the bicycle travel plan, but can’t quite figure it out in my head just yet.  But I had another look at a few bikes.  Then got drawn into a bookshop by the window display of books about chinese tea.  Then I found myself in Cafe Adi.  I ordered a Turkish coffee and sat down.  There were only a few other people there.  One appeared to be the owner, a big Turkish man who was definitely the patriarch of the place.  The waitresses, yep, all girls, seemed to be at his beck and call.  One even had to go out and clean the inside of his car window!  But it all seemed fairly light hearted and they seemed to know how to deal with him.  The coffee was really good.  Much better than the Israeli coffee I had in Krakow.  The flavours of the spices were properly there and the coffee was thick and rich.  I sat for a while, writing and thinking.  The sun was pouring through the window, making you forget about the wind that was lashing the awnings and forcing the door shut with a huge slam a few times, even with a rock the size of my head holding it open!

I drank up my coffee, then walked slowly back to the city centre, got on the metro at Politechnika and went back to the flat.


Day 51, Warsaw, February 29th 2012

Tea 51:  Green Sencha with Prickly Pear, Orange Peel & Lemongrass, Ogrody, Old Town Warsaw

What a difference a day makes!  Today was the most gloriously sunny and beautiful day, all of yesterday’s snow had melted away and it was genuinely warm!  Today was a day filled with cafes.

The day started with a little trip around town with Ania, for her to do some errands and things like that.  We went into the old town, where Ania needed to do some photocopying for her teaching job.  whist she did that I explored the little cobbled streets and old buildings and this pretty park with the sun shining down, the back of a grand looking church towering over from the top of the hill.  After about 20minutes Ania returned and we decided to go to this cafe called Ogrody, meaning garden in Polish apparently.  The cafe is clean and modern with a nice chilled out atmosphere, in the summer time they apparently have tables and chairs out on the little square on which the cafe sits.  I had a really tasty salad and a pot of Green Sencha tea with Prickly Pear and Orange Peel and Lemongrass.  It was very good, fresh leaves in the pot smelt sweet and fruity whilst the tea itself was delicate and smooth.  After a while sitting there enjoying the sunshine we headed back into the old town, then Ania decided we should go back into the city centre to find another place that she enjoys.

We took a bus and then waited for a tram from Centrum which took us to the pretty little roundabout with the white church.  There we found another cafe that Ania really likes.  Called Charlotte it is another fairly modern place, full of young professionals and mothers-to-be.  The staff are all about 12 years old with surfer-waxed hair or bohemian looks in their eyes.  The place is very nice though, the bread is all baked fresh, you can see the bakers working away behind the counter, flour filling the air, sun rays pouring through it from the huge windows.  We sat in one of the windows, on some bar stools and watched as traffic and people milled about outside, people sitting on the terrace in the sunshine with their coffee and cigarettes.  The cafe has all of those classic cafe sounds, spoons clinking the edge of the cups as the sugar is poured in, people chatting and laughing, tearing their bread or crunching their croissant.  The sun was warm on our faces, the disbelief at the gloriousness of the day compared to yesterday still the main topic of conversation.  We sat there for a while, also stirring our coffee or crunching our croissant.  I took some photos of people through the window, of the zebra-crossing which was empty one second and the next being jam packed with people trying to cross the road.

After a while Ania had to head home so I took her to the tram stop and saw her off, then I went to wander around in the sunshine before I met up with Marta.  It is mad how much more stuff you notice when you aren’t hunched over yourself trying to keep warm.  A straight back means you can look up at all the amazing sculptures that sit atop of all the buildings, staring down at all of the people below.  I literally just walked up and down the streets, enjoying the sunshine and noticing things that I hadn’t before.  Then it was time to go and meet Marta, she resigned from her job today so wanted to go for a drink after work.

We met at her office and then walked into the centre, taking an elongated route, along Kruzca for a bit, then down onto Mokotowska and along for a while, staring in shop windows and some beautiful entrance halls to tenement apartments.  We then got onto Nowy Swiat, walked along a bit and turned off, behind the street is a little area of bars and a few boutique shops.  Mostly bars though, all decorated in different styles but more or less doing the same thing.  We picked one filled with a mix-match of old furniture and dark decor.  We ordered a pitcher of beer for a bargain happy-hour price of 15Zloty, about £3!  We sat, drank, chatted for a couple of hours or so and then we left, walked along past the Sheraton Hotel, Parliament buildings, the embassy buildings, and that area of town then I dropped Marta off at her friends apartment, where she was heading for more drinks, and I took the tram home, ate a good helping of the leftovers from yesterdays soup and some Pierogi, then sat for a while doing worky things and went to bed!