Day 59, Krakow, March 8th 2012

Tea 59, Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, Czajovnia, Krakow

So, the unavailability of internet has wreaked havoc on my postings, a terrible, terrible neglect and I must apologise, but sometimes that’s how things go…

So, I think my last post was on the 7th of march, it is now the 13th!!  :.S  oops!

So, going back into my memory banks to the 8th… This day started slowly, I stayed in the apartment / dorm of my hosts for most of the morning.  Malgorzata stayed home too and we spent most of the time talking and I also helped her with a script she is writing at the minute.  She wants the film she intends to make to be in English and so I helped her with word order and the usual things, such as expressions and the simple way of how to say things, or how not to say things….one notable example being the English expression of being ‘pissed off’ with someone, this had become to ‘piss on’ someone!  This provided a lot of laughter!  She also showed me a few films she is into, and we watched bits and bobs of all of them.  In the afternoon I had organised to meet another traveller and to go to this tea house called Czajownia.  This is a very similar name to a place in Glasgow called ChaiOvna.

We met at about 3 and went straight in.  This place is really amazing, it is divided into different loose themes, Japan, India, China (I think) and with different decoration and furniture in each.  We were in a more Chinese styled area.  The menu is really massive, a comprehensive list of teas from all over!  I was in tea Nirvana!  We were given the menus and a little bell to ring when we were ready to be served, a neat touch, though we both felt a little rude about ringing for attention!

I initially chose a really exciting sounding Putuo Fo Cha, a rare and exclusive tea from the island of Putuo Shan.  To my disappointment this tea was so rare they had run out of it!  I was a little upset, but then asked what would be a good alternative.  I was recommended Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, and I took this.

It was a good tea, delicate, light in colour and flavour.  Extreme clarity came with the tea, both in appearance and in flavour.  The guy who prepares the tea does so with extreme care and consideration, he really knows what he is doing and he has turned his preparation into something of a show (albeit unintentionally), timing, pouring, heating, all the proper processes to make each and every tea according to each and every teas requirements.  This is really a great, great place, unfortunately I never made it back there before I left Krakow, but the next time I’m there I will make that my first stop.

After this tea we were both still chatting about life and travel, and tea of course.  So we ordered another.  This time it was not strictly a tea, but a traditional Turkish drink called Sahlep.  This is a milky warm spiced tea that is only served in the winter in Turkey apparently.  Isabel (the woman I had gone for tea with) had had it before, during her various trips to Istanbul, her favourite place in the world it would seem.  She was very excited about trying such a drink outside of Turkey.  She assured me it was quite a good one, so I’m confident I had a decent Sahlep experience.

EVENTUALLY we left the tea house and I went to meet my host.  We were meeting around the corner in Kazimierz, near the famous Zapiekanka stall on Plac Nowy.  We then went to a little bar, the name of which I have forgotten.  We ordered a beer each and waited for Malgorzata’s friend to arrive.  She had organised that we meet so I could talk to her about Glasgow School of Art, she was hoping to go there on her Erasmus exchange, and wanted to find out more about it (I studied there).  She arrived a while later with a friend, and we spoke for a while about it and about travel and all those things.  Then they both had to leave and so we all went.  Malgorzata and I went back home via the Zapiekanka stall, this was my first experience of it.  Put very simply it’s a bit like a Polish version of Pizza.  Bread, cheese and a mushroom sauce base on which you can have different toppings.  I had spinach and onions, and it was a very good choice.  They taste great!  And the serving is MASSIVE!  Really, really great!  Especially so when it’s 11pm and you still haven’t had dinner!

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Day 57, Krakow, March 6th 2012

Tea 57, Japanese Green Tea, with Cherry, Lemon and Honey, The apartment, Krakow

So, today was my first day in Krakow.  The cold has returned a bit today, which is a shame as I had begun to get used to the warmth again!  Hopefully this little cold snap won’t last too long, though looking at the weather that is happening in what will hopefully be my next stop (the Ukraine), maybe it should stay so I can get used to being cold again.

I woke up, first time, at around 8 today.  The sun was pouring in through the window, the bright blue sky up above giving more illusion of a warm summers day.  One of the people I am staying with (another Marta, not to be confused with Marta from Warsaw) made me a cup of tea, a dose of Chocolate Cake Pu Erh tea.  She then left for university, which resulted in me promptly falling back to sleep and not waking up for another two hours!  So, second attempt at being awake, and this was much more successful.  I topped my tea up with some hot water, luckily I had removed the tea-ball before I had fallen back to sleep so it wasn’t too well steeped.  Then me and my host Malgorzata sat at the table with some breakfast and some more tea, this time a cup of power tea (the one I bought all that time ago in Copenhagen), we sat and chatted about art, art schools (she is studying at the Krakow Academy of Art), art students, painting, Marina Abramovic, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Guy Debord.  Loads of stuff.  It was nice to have a good long conversation about these artists and philosophers that I’ve not had much chance to talk about for quite a while.  She seems to be going through a similar time at art school as I did, especially in my third year, the year she is currently in.

A couple of hours later we decided we should probably head out into the town.  Marta had called and asked if we wanted to meet her in a cafeteria that is part of the Music school, so we jumped on the tram and took it to the old town.  We wandered around a little, trying to find the place.  Old Town is one of those ones that is pretty easy to get turned around in and we had gone slightly the wrong way, but a quick phone call later and we were back on track.  We went into the Music school building and took the lift up to the top floor, where the canteen / restaurant is.  This little place has got an amazing view!  Both side of this floor are glass and offer a wonderful panoramic view of the entire city, one downside is that if, like me, you are a non-smoker, then one side is for smokers and the other not, so you only get one choice of city view.  But it is great!  The food is good quality too, like most student places it’s good value and good portion sizes.  I ate Zapiekanka ziemniaczana, a kind of potato based lasagne-style thing.  It was pretty tasty, cheese, potato, some sort of sauce, beetroot, salad.

After that, and by this time it was after 3pm, Malgorzata and I left Marta, who was preparing for a presentation she had to give in English later that day.  On the way out I went to the loo.  This was in the basement of the building, and there were loads of people practicing every kind of orchestral instrument imaginable.  A trombone, tuba, violins.  Then, walking into the actual toilet I was greeted by a lad practicing his clarinet, he was all set up with stool and music stand and everything and seemed very content there!  Rather surreal if you ask me!

We left the building then went separate ways, I was on the hunt for the tourist information, to raid their free maps and info.  Walking in the sunshine was lovely, the rays soaking into my skin making me feel nicely content.

Map found and I went for a little aimless wander around the city, a little while spent in the old town.  The obstacle-course of tourists leading me to the decision to head outside of the city walls (!) and explore the less touristy bits of the city.  My first impressions of Krakow are that it is a very different place to Warsaw.  I think this may be due to the huge focus on the old town that there is in Krakow, it is the heart of the city.  In Warsaw it is more of a part of the city than THE city.

I left the old town out of the western side and walked down a little street that could have been Karmelicka street.  A mixture of buildings, old and older, all with various bits of facia and / or concrete falling or chipped off of them.  I kept on walking around, heading north and then east.  I ended up in a little market area, fruit, cakes, bread spread across tables, people with brilliant faces and great characters.  They were beginning to shut down their stalls, and pack up there things, so this was only a short visit, I will try to have another look around on another day.

I then made it onto Plac Matejki, a large monument to Grunwaldi dominates the street.  I turned right back towards the old town.  I wandered through the park area that surrounds the town wall, soaking up the last few rays of sunshine as the sun began to fall below the level of the buildings.  Then I followed the wall east, popped into the Galeria Krakowska to go to the supermarket, came out and did another little loop around a few of the narrow streets.  Then back to the town wall and I followed this around and then began to follow the tram lines until I made it to the river, the sun was totally down now and it was getting dark and cold, but I stayed for a while a took some photos of the river and the helium balloon that goes up and down all day long, giving views of the city.  Then I got the tram for about 3 stops and came back to the flat.

I sat for a while, catching up with all the belated postings I owe you all, then Malgorzata and Marta came home.  Malgorzata made me a lovely cup of Green Tea with cherry (my bag from Warsaw) with added lemon and honey to try to fight off my cold and slightly sore throat.  Then Marta made a great hot chocolate for herself and Malgorzata, and which I tried a very small cup of, despite the risk of congestion I couldn’t really resist!