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!)
Tea 92, Yunnan Green Superior.
also; Tea 91, Power Tea, , Tea 93, Japonska Wisnia.
Day 90, Sunday. Today the sun was shining and it was almost warm, but i still felt the need for some gloves. I left the flat reasonably early, around 10, in order to get to the Mauerpark Flea Market. This is up to the north of the city centre in a district called Prenzlauer Berg. There is everything you could imagine in this market, from a huge bric-a-brac stall, full of boxes of what is mostly junk and broken stuff, but with the occasional highlight, a few box-brownies for instance, to food stalls, bikes, camera’s. Everything you could imagine (almost). So I spent a while meandering up and down the aisles, all the time it was getting busier and busier. I almost bought quite a few things, but actually came away with nothing, despite the efforts of quite a few people… I then wandered in the sunshine, and relative peace to another market just a few streets away. This one, Arkonaplatz, is much smaller and the quality of things they are selling is generally higher, and due to the popularity of Mauerpark this one is much gentler and more peaceful. Some more browsing and yet again away with nothing I walked slowly in the sunshine back towards the apartment, but taking a few little side streets and a much deviated path back, ending up by the TV tower and then back onto my main route back to the apartment. This seems like a short day now that I type it, but I had spent a long time getting to and then around and back from the markets. The weather turned a little bit cold by the afternoon too. Also, due to it being Easter Sunday, almost literally nowhere was open!
Day 91, again today, very little was open. But I made the most of my day by embracing tourism once again and heading out to the Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor. The walk there was very pleasant, in the sunshine most of the time, when I stayed on the right side of the street. It’s quite a simple walk from Kreuzberg there too. It also takes you past the section of the Berlin wall still standing. I’ve walked past this before, but today was the first day I took a photograph of it. Then I carried on towards the Gate. In the area of the gate, which sort of acts, or acted like an entrance to the Tiergarten, is also the Holocaust Memorial, or as it is really called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I spent some time wandering amongst the huge concrete blocks. It’s an interesting place, with lots of children playing and smiles and laughter happening amongst the stones. This seemed somewhat strange to me, considering the context of the thing, but there was actually something strangely refreshing about this kind of atmosphere in such a place if I’m honest.
I then walked to the Brandenburg Gate itself. This is a big disappointment, not with regard to the gate itself. But they may as well charge entry and called it ‘Das Disney Welt’ if you ask me. There’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a big Teddy Bear, breakdancers, a sexy soldier girl with a flag, and Darth Vader! I can totally understand why the performers are there, they need to make money, but why on earth people would want to see these things here is another thing entirely! I soon made my escape from the circus and took some peace and sunshine from the Tiergarten. I sat by a little pond, people buzzing past on bikes and with their cameras. I saw what was only my second red squirrel ever! I sat for a while and wrote some of my thoughts down before heading back towards the river and past the Berlin Philharmonic hall and a few of the larger galleries, one was shut, the other open, but rammed with people so I decided to avoid it. I don’t know why but ever since arriving in Berlin I’ve actually lost my appetite for looking at art!
Onto day 92, Tuesday. Shops are open again! This lead to a celebratory visit to Lidl to buy chocolate! Then, with the first day for a few that can actually be described as warm I ventured back into the city centre, with no real aim other than to enjoy the sunshine. Today was Abigails birthday, so we had spent the morning chilling out and eating the chocolate before she went to see Sergej who had unfortunately had to go and work on a pitch for the next day. So I took myself out into the sunshine and just people watched. I did visit Berlin Carre, a funny little shopping centre with only a few shops on the inside (most actually face the street, but head inside if you want what I imagine is a reasonably authentic East Berlin experience!) I bought a snack in the supermarket and then went back outside.
There was a tiny protest happening at the Neptune Statue next to the Rathaus and the TV tower. It seemed to be about banking and they had a lot of colourful umbrellas all painted with slogans. There were less than ten of them, but still had the beady eye of the police on them constantly. It was a strange protest with no chanting or marching around or anything, they just seemed to make little structures from the umbrellas, which the police then told them they had to keep behind a certain line that he drew with chalk. Very odd. Anyway, I let that play out for a while before wandering a bit more, visiting a huge second-hand clothes store, then I bought myself a new pair of sunglasses and went back to the apartment.
Day 93, and I’m sorry to say no photos of today. Abigail and I had to put our heads down good and proper for the day, working on the Hello Collective, getting the plan of action down ready for the summer residency / studio program. And also trying to figure out what will happen if we don’t reach our sponsorship target. But hopefully we will. http://kck.st/GD326Q Click the link if you are interested in the project and can maybe help by pledging a little. If you let me know that it’s through my blog that you have donated I’ll send you some tea as a thank you!
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.
Tea 83, Hot Chocolate (another tea deviation!), A cafe whose name I can’t remember, Warsaw
Happy April Fool’s day (belated)!
Today was, very sadly, my last day in Warsaw. It’s very strange to be leaving, I am still really loving the city and the people here.
We decided to go for a wander around the Praga district, to have a proper look around on the other side of the river. We managed to get one bus all the way from Wilanow to Praga, so that was pretty good. The day was very cold again, with loads of snow once more, but very sporadic with beautiful sunshine in between, very British style weather (though that would probably be rain instead of snow which is worse I think). We got off the bus in central Praga and just began to wonder, the streets and back courts are dotted with murals and Madonna’s, some of which are kept in wonderful condition, whilst others have slightly more bizarre surroundings.
We wandered around a little more, our original intention was to visit the Vodka Distillery, but this is shut at the weekends, though we knew that before we set off. But we got a good look at it from the outside, before heading into an entrance way where I took one photo that then resulted in a slightly fraught conversation with a security guard about the private property aspect and not being allowed to take photos. Marta managed to hold her ground pretty well though, then we made our escape. We wandered around the outskirts of this same area of derelict land, coming around the opposite side we could look through a gate and see what all the fuss was about, but it was all just literally piles of rubble and the remains of one last building. We took some more photos just to spite them!
We then popped to the shopping centre nearby to answer a call of nature. I managed to enter a situation where a man appeared to have locked himself in one of the cubicles and was possibly doing more than his fair share of drugs, the cleaners were calling for security to come and sort the situation.
Managing to escape another strange situation we headed out of the shopping centre and then found ourselves wandering around some more old, old streets. We managed to find an open door to one old tenement which we explored a little, with some beautiful old railings and a butchered bike on the top floor. Then we found a nice little cafe selling lots of cookery books too, and with some great photographic and fashion magazines. So we sat with a hot chocolate and read whilst we waited, in vane, for the weather to improve. Back out into the cold we wandered some more, bought some crisps/chips and then got on a tram back to the old town on the other side of the river.
We got off at the first stop in the old town then made for the University Library building. On it’s roof is a huge garden, which anyone can freely and easily explore. It is pretty cool, even at this time of year when not too much is growing, though it is great to be able to see the buds on the trees starting to bulge with leafy life. We then decided we were getting a bit hungry so we had a look in a few of the university cafeterias to see if anything took our fancy. There didn’t seem to be too much, so we walked for a while along Dobra and in and out of a few shops, a great bookshop/cafe where I managed to convince Marta to buy a copy of Alain De Botton‘s ‘The Art of Travel‘. I hope she will enjoy it! This place didn’t have much savoury food on offer though, so we carried on walking. We eventually made it to a branch of Rue De Paris cafe. This one was decorated pretty roughly with lots of colourful lampshades and bare brick walls, a nicer atmosphere compared to many. We had a Goats cheese tart and a Camembert and Walnut tart between us. These were good, though were a little disappointing when you are literally just presented with a tart on a plate, no salad or garnish even for visual effect!
We ate and people watched for a while then had a slow and relaxed wander back to the city centre and then home.
We were late leaving the flat today, as Marta decided to have a bit of a spring clean. When we did leave it was time for a late lunch, so we headed out, into the freezing cold, and SNOWING (!) air, we jumped on the metro to central and headed for Kebab King. I had a huge craving for Falafel! So we went to the large branch of Kebab King on Jerozolimpskie and basically stuffed our faces, I had Falafel, Chips and then we both shared some Baklava for dessert! (One Pistachio and one Coconut sweet treats)
We got totally stuffed and then headed back outside. Whilst we had been inside eating the sun had been out, shining through the window, but, as sod’s law so often dictates, as soon as we left the rain and hail began beating down on us. We ran around the corner, cut through Empik and then waited for a bus from Foksal. We took the bus to the stop nearest to Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, the centre for contemporary art in Warsaw. We walked briskly here, the snowy hail was pouring down on us.
The main show that is on there at the minute is a semi-retrospective / archival project about the AKADEMIA RUCHU. entitled AKADEMIA RUCHU. CITY. The FIELD of ACTION. This charts the history of one of Poland’s most prolific and active arts collectives. They began life in the mid 70’s and have created numerous performative installations in public spaces ever since. The show charts pretty much every project they have ever conducted, through photography, film and text. It was really great to discover this group, who have made, and strive to make important, thought-provoking and enlightening work for their whole existence. This section of work on show at the centre took us quite a long while to tour around, so if you plan to go, definitely give yourselves time. The show ends in a small basement space where some more of their video documentation is shown and they are running a little tea stand, with free tea or coffee and a lucky dice roll to try and win a glass of wine (sadly me, nor Marta managed to roll the correct amounts to get any wine)… We did have a cup of tea and coffee though and sat and watched some more of the videos, and spoke to the guy serving the tea, who is a member of the Akademia Ruchu. There are apparently only 5 of them left now, there were 22 originally. It seemed a little odd to discover that, as I had walked around the show thinking that Akademia Ruchu was more organic than that and that maybe they had a membership that was constantly evolving across the years. It seems a shame that one day it will cease to exist…
The other parts of the building house two more exhibitions, one part is showing POSTDOCUMENT (they seem to enjoy capital letters here…) This is a show of photographs charting the Polish Transformation following the fall of the Soviet Empire from 1989. There are some really great photographs in this show, and some really interesting works and perspectives. Really worth seeing. We could have spent much longer in the show, walking around seeing everything in more detail, but we had spent so long in the first part that we were running out of time. The next part isn’t so interesting, a collection of Cognitive artworks from the CCA collection. There are some works from Yoko Ono and a work by Magdalena Abakanowicz.
After the shows we were both ready for home, so we walked in the cold air back to the Metro, Politechnika this time, via a shop to buy some juice. Then we hopped on the train home. Back home and we just chilled out basically, drinking some more tea via Marta’s wonderful new teapot and then headed to bed.
Tea 80, Loads of Yunnan Green Superior for study support!, the apartment, Warsaw
Day 79, well, what happened on this day? I guess not a great deal, we did go and pick Marta’s coat up from the dry cleaners and then wandered around in the sunshine, it was a little windy today so much of our time was spent trying to avoid the wind tunnels between buildings. We wandered around Jana Pawla for a while visiting the places we didn’t manage to go to the night before, the little tea shop, which is a bit expensive, then into the XX1 gallery to see the show that is on at the minute, although I think it might be shut now. ‘Transfusion’ by Pavel Novak, apparently the Polish version of a super common name such as my own! He had presented a few paintings alongside a sculptural glass installation of clear glass heart casts. The work looked good in the space, especially with the sun beating through the window, glistening from and through the glass casts. They weren’t exactly presented perfectly in the space though, somewhat ‘plonked’ on the end of white poles. The press release seemed to say they should appear to be floating at heart level, but they weren’t floating.
Day 80, Thursday, we didn’t really leave until late, later than we had intended really. Marta was studying for a job interview most of the day, I did pop to Galleria Mokotow for a short while to buy some eye moisturizer stuff from the pharmacy, as I had managed to lose my other one somewhere between Torun and Warsaw. When we did eventually leave we headed straight to central and to a photo development shop where we dropped off Marta’s first ever medium format Holga film! That was very exciting, and they had it ready in an hour, which amazed me, stuff like that in the UK usually takes about 2 weeks! While we waited we went back to Zacheta, to see the newly installed sculptural installation show called ‘New Sculpture?’. The show is good, I’m glad I got to see the other spaces in this gallery. There were various large scale works by a number of artists including Martin Boyce (giving me a sentimental thought of Glasgow) and Mai-Thu Perret, as well as others. We wandered around in there for a while, attracting various suspicious glances from the guards. The security guards in Poland are pretty hardcore, even more so in the health and beauty stores, Rossman’s is the worst, they may as well handcuff you as you walk through the door, and don’t even think about going in for a simple browse, not unless you are a massive fan of the serial voyeur!
Show seen we headed back outside, then had a whistlestop run around the old town to try to find a shop we had been to before that sells a great almond cake, we found the shop but sadly no almond cake! Then we had to rush back to the photo shop to collect the film, but not without a quick diversion to the donut place on Chmielna to fulfill our sweet cravings. We were both quite excited about the Holga results. We really didn’t know what to expect, especially as the film that Marta had bought was such a cheap one that we didn’t even know if we had put it in around the right way to begin with! But we were not disappointed! The results were very pleasing, though we both realised that we had been a bit foolish, Marta had been using the different colours of the flash when she had taken the photos. But it turned out we had both totally forgotten the film was black and white! Needless to say coloured flashes are utterly pointless in this case! Two of the photos are below, so I must credit Marta for them!
Day 81, the last day of employment for Marta! And also a job interview for her too! She had headed for this very early in the morning, I just about remembered to wake up and wish her good luck, before crashing back into sleep again. When I eventually awoke I spent some time on the computer before deciding to head into town. This was made a little difficult, I had been locked in! Marta had accidentally taken the keys with her to work. I sent her a message asking where they were, she looked in her bag and there they were. Luckily she managed to get permission from her work to come back and free me. Once that fiasco was sorted I went into town and walked around the shops for a while. The biggest thing on my mind was (and is) a hunt for this camera, a DIY lomo (yes, Marta’s Holga experience has inspired me). But this is a little different, one you build yourself from total scratch and that uses standard 35mm film. It’s called a DIY Recesky Twin Lens Reflex (or TLR), and looks like it could be good fun. I spent a lot of time searching around in the camera and gadget and toy shops, but to no avail. I think I am going to have to buy it online when I am in Berlin, the problem is the delivery times, but I will still keep looking for the next few days I think.
After the fruitless search I went and met Marta outside her work. She arrived carrying a load of stuff including some leftover cake from her goodbye cake collection and a goodbye present she had been bought, the fantastic teapot you can see above. The cups are double-walled to keep the tea warm for longer! A really great present, in my opinion! We christened it with some Sencha Sakura, a floral, delicately flavoured tea (she had been bought this as well as some Chinese Sencha and two flower teas). The tea was good, delicate and green, a very good sencha, and the flavoured aspect was very well balanced and didn’t take away from the tea too much!