Macarons and Lightning, very, very frightening (and tasty too!)

Try reading that title to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen….

So, Marta had never had Macarons/Macaroons before, and we came across this little stall in a shopping centre that was selling them, so I decided to get some as a little treat.  Previously she thought they were some sort of wafer with a flavoured centre, but despite my attempts to explain them I couldn’t quite describe them properly.  I guess you really do just need to taste them to find out.  These ones from the company Le Roy & Louis (maybe an attempt at ‘poshing up’ the name Leroy?!?!)  were pretty good, nice amount of crunch on the outside with a good squidgy centre.  The Pistachio and the Chocolate were the best, the other two (Raspberry and Blackcurrant) were also good, but I think the Pistachio and Chocolate are a bit more classic.  We munched them down with gusto when we got home, alongside a nice cup of Sencha Sakura tea.

That night there was the most spectacular thunderstorm, I have literally never seen or heard anything like it before.  The amount of lightning strikes was just amazing, the whole sky was lighting up like a strobe in a smokey nightclub.  It was just amazing.  We went to the top floor of the apartment block, 10 stories up and watched the three storm formations circle around us.  Despite the number (literally hundreds) of strikes it is surprisingly hard to take a photograph of the lightning.  It took me the best part of 700 photos to get just three shots of the lightning, and only one of those was really something special.  They are all below.

Enjoy!


Potatoes, Cabbages, Blue Jays and Mosquitos

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.


Analogue Love

This post is really image heavy, so they are just down here as thumbnails, but you can click them for the full size images.  So please feel free and enjoy this little collection of images taken in Berlin, Cologne and Warsaw using either the Agfa Agnar Silette LK, or the LOMO Smena 8M, which are both pictured above! Have fun!


A Tea-cap.

So, those of you who have followed me from the very beginning will know that this blog all started with a tea everyday, and usually a little something was said about the teas.  This hasn’t really been happening in a while, but I just want you to know that I have not abandoned tea, far from it in fact.  This is a little round up, a tea-cap if you will, of all the teas currently doing the rounds in my cup.  Some have been with me a long time, some are much newer, some are good, some less so. But here you go!

The Golden Chariot tea above is not very good quality tea at all, hence it costing so little, but I bought it because I really love the packaging!

I think that I am a bit obsessed with Yunnan Teas.  This one from 5 o’clock, a smallish shop in Warsaw is a good everyday Green tea, but is nothing out of the ordinary.

I bought this Mate in Berlin for 1Euro.  It is a roasted variety and is quite pleasant, being much smoother and less bitter on the palate than a normal Mate, but it lacks the magic punch and stimulation of the unroasted variety.

This tea, which is not strictly ‘mine’, is delicate and sweet, with the smoothness of the Sencha balanced well with flower blossoms.

A good quality and clear variety of Sencha tea from China.

Definitely just for night-time!

I’ve not tried this yet, and it is again not strictly mine, but I will let you know when / if I get my hands on it!

A standard Green Tea, but in a Cape Verde packet.

This is probably my most coveted tea, from Estonia I have been carrying this around since February.  It is excellent, you can steep the leaves several times and it is delicate yet nourishing. If you happen to leave it a little long the Ginseng, in which the Oolong has been rolled, will start to create an odd, but not unpleasant, sweetness.

I love Mate, ever since I found it tucked away in a little farm shop in the middle of nowhere in England  when i was about 16.  This one is good, actually quite delicate in flavour, but it definitely does the job!

Last, but by no means least, is my Yunnan Green Oolong.  I brought this with me when I started my trip and it has been perfect every time.  I am running extremely low on it now so will only drink it occasionally.  It is perfect for lifting the spirits and refreshing the soul.  This tea is a life saver!


An evening amongst wild Sweet Peas, Sunshine and Cherries.

After a day spent indoors avoiding the extreme 35’C heat we headed out in the evening, when the sun was getting low and the temperature a bit more reasonable. Most days all you have to do is walk out of the door and you are soaking in sweat, sorry to be so graphic! This evening, the same one as the Tram evening in the previous post, we headed vaguely North West out of the flat, past the Tram depot and some lovely allotment gardens, then ended up alongside the train track and eventually stumbled upon what must have been allotments in the past.  We discovered beautiful pink Sweet Pea flowers growing wild as well as a few old cherry trees that were offering up some lovely ripe fruits, which we gobbled with smiles on our faces. They were juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of sourness in them.  We walked a little more, then the Mosquitoes woke up and seemed hungry, so we did an about turn and headed home.


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!


Day 120 -125, Cologne & Laacher See, May 9th – 14th 2012

Tea 121: THE MYSTERY PU ERH TEA all the way from Tallinn!, drunk in Cologne.

Tea 125: Fruit Tea, Bockhaus Laacher See, Laacher Sea, Eifel

The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really.  My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before.  There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin.  Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal.  The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard.  I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before.  There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being  tourist in such a situation.  This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper.  There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit.  There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.

Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed!  I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure.  The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day.  I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…

The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey.  I wonder if they will ever try to clean it?  I hope not.

After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while.  There I discovered a chocolate museum.  Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead.  The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne.  For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark!  Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.

A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘.  Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate.  It was great!  I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.

That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia.  The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.

The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!

The 12th.  Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday.  So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday.  When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux.  The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door.  So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite.  This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere.  I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time!  After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat.  On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!

The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday!  We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque.  I was on vegetable parcels.  Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas.  We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3.  The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday.  We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm.  The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.

Day 125, Monday.  Regina had to wake up early again!  She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out.  She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside.  We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz.  The weather was still perfect.  When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch.  I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii.  Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese.  It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese).  After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline.  After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money!  In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back.  That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing.  It looked and smelt amazing!  But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!