A wee jaunt to dusty sneezy Katowice

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!

Close Encounters?

The library building

Beware of fire-tailed Goats?

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Tea and Train Stations (not all is how it might seem to be)

TEA (tr) Photo!


Day 84 – 86, Berlin, April 2nd – 4th 2012

Tea 86, Green Tea, Betahaus, Berlin

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.


Day 76, Torun – Warsaw, March 25th 2012

Tea 76: Green Tea with Cactus Flowers, Torun

The majority of sunday was filled with more travelling back to Warsaw, most of the day was spent in the car and then the train.  We got back to Warsaw safe and sound though and then headed home, totally starving having not had lunch, not that we had been hungry at lunchtime due to the sheer amount of food consumed over the weekend!  But we got home then went about making a good tasty salad with feta cheese and all kinds of lovely things.  Then we went to meet Ola, a friend of Marta’s, at a club / pub near Pole Moketowski.  This was a student bar which we unfortunately had to pay to get in, but once inside the beer was cheap.  There was also another turn up for the books when Marta found 20 Zloty on the floor that no one wanted to claim back, so that paid for our entry!  The music was some Rock and Metal, taking me back to my teenage years, both with music and looking around at the fashion, which hasn’t changed very much in the past decade…. apart from the occasional bit of nu-rave neon…

Needless to say we stayed for a few pints and did a lot of chatting, and of people watching, especially of this guy who was part of our group but who seemed eager to pull at least two girls, at the same time, in the same conversation… good luck to him, he didn’t seem to be doing too badly!

We probably got home around two in the morning and collapsed in a heap.  There are no photos from this day I am afraid, so instead comes a little Torun photo recap!

ALSO!  Please don’t forget to check my campaign page and if you like the project, the blog, and would like to support a really great project and cause then every little would be massively appreciated!  I even offer tea handouts to people who donate that read my blog!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellocollective/hello-collectives-summer-studio-2012


Day 74, Warsaw – Torun, March 23rd 2012

Tea 74, Green Tea (not pictured), Torun

Today I travelled with Marta and her Mum to Torun, a town on the Unesco World Heritage list, founded by the German Teutonic Knights and the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus.  The day started with Marta rushing across the city to pass on a birthday present to a friend before we left.  She got this cool bracelet in the style of an Octopus arm from an online store run by her friend called oohandy.com.

I then met her at Dworzec Centralny at about 11 and we got a train at 1130 that took us to Zyradow, a station on the outskirts of Warsaw where Marta’s mum, Hanna, met us with the car.  We all piled in and off we went.  The journey to Torun took about 3 hours, the views are very nice, a part of it tracks a very pretty part of the Vistula river.  Though lots of the road surfaces aren’t exactly friendly!  They are building a whole new motorway infrastructure along this part though, that was intended to be ready for the Euro 2012 competition: take this as fact… it won’t be!

We made it to Torun at around 4, and were dropped off in the city centre.  We then wandered around the town a little, soaking up the sunshine and then we went to this pancake place called Manekin, where we met Carolina and Mike, who had also come to Torun for a couple of days, though they were there waiting for the bus back to Warsaw.

I ordered a pancake with Feta cheese, olives, basil and tomatoes, which was very good, though both mine and Marta’s pancake ended up with us after a short stop at the wrong table…

After the pancake and a pint to drink Carolina and Mike had to leave to catch the bus, so we all left and Marta and I took in a bit more sightseeing, with the light failing and the stars appearing in the sky.  Eventually we too decided it was time to leave so we headed to the bus stop, got on a bus and went to Marta’s uncle’s house somewhere in the Torun suburbs.  We spent the evening chatting and eating, another huge weekend of food was ahead of me!  And then Marta’s uncle got out a few of his spirits and we drank a little too, cherry liquor, quince liquor, and one make from aronia, or chokeberries.  All of them very tasty, if I had to pick my favourite, I’d go for the quince!


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…


Day 7, Denmark & Sweden, January 16th 2012

Tea 7: Earl Grey, Tom’s Apartment.

Today I left for Stockholm on the train. Packed up and now on the second leg of my travels.  Was sad to say good bye to everyone who had given me such a lovely week in Copenhagen, and such a gentle introduction into my travels.  My train left at 1137 from Kobenhaven H (Copenhagen Central station) and arrived in Stockholm Central at 1650.  The journey was comfortable and quiet, I even managed to get a little sleep.  The train service was much better than our UK equivalent.  The carriage was clean, comfortable and despite being near to the toilet you actually couldn’t smell it!  The journey was pleasant, very flat and easy going, the view was good, but nothing of huge note apart from one small town, I think called Nässjö which was beautifully picturesque. Set on a currently frozen lake with traditional Scandinavian buildings coloured yellow, but totally dominated by the 324m television mast that pokes up from the top of a hill behind the town.

I arrived in Stockholm and was greeted by Jessica, my host for the next few days, in the main hall of the train station.  We headed down onto the T-Bana and got on the metro train to her home in Skärholmen, to the west of the city.  At her home I was introduced to her flatmate and friend Tiffany.  A warm cup of black tea was made for me and a wonderful dinner of Tortellini pasta and sauce.  I’ve just met the Budgies, Conan and Candyfloss and am looking forward to a good nights sleep in a real proper bed!!!

Tea this morning was an ‘A.C. Perch’s The-Salon’ Earl Grey, fragrant and deep and enough caffeine to get me up and ready to face the fully laden rucksack!