Richtung Ost: Suwalszczyzna & Podlasie

I enjoy building small repositories for my foreign friends about my country of origin, and the nearest bordering country to Berlin at the same time: Poland. So far, I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about the city I was born and grown up: Poznan, the capital: Warsaw and the North-Western coast altogether with the city of Szczecin.

This time I’d like to focus on the North-Easternmost region of Poland: Suwalszczyzna and Podlasie, which is the home region of my boyfriend and thanks to whom I managed to discover this beautiful remote landscape this summer.

It takes between 13-18 hours altogether to reach Suwalki, the capital town of the region by train or bus from Berlin, so it made sense to visit our friends and family in Poznan and Warsaw on the way, especially that the summer was extremely hot this year and the journey was tedious. Then, the train took us to Bialystok, the capital of Podlasie, and all the way up to Suwalki, surpassing one of the largest woods in Poland and making way to the region of countless lakes.

It was my second time in Suwalki, since I’ve visited it on my way to Lithuania when I was a teenager. It’s actually quite close to the Russian, Lithuanian and Belarusian border, which naturally brings various culinary, linguistic and architectural influences to this region, including having banyas for the long and cold winters. Actually, Suwalki is considered the most remote and cold city of Poland. The weather forecast always places it as the frozen North Pole of Poland, and during winter it’s not uncommon to have the temperature drop to -25 or -30 Celcius degrees.

This is probably why the current tagline of the city is ‘Pogodne Suwalki’ which can be loosely transalted to ‘cheerful’ or ‘sunny’ at the same time. I could experience that for real. We were discovering the city on bikes thanks to the currently expanding infrastructure. It’s not entirely possible to visit all the surrounding lakes by this means of transportation yet, but it’s a great leap forward for the region to preserve the nature.

We were also very lucky to participate in the jazz concert from the series of the local cultural society SOK. We watched a jazz recital by the Silesian pianist Krzysztof Kobylinski, a founder of the Silesian Cultural Centre Jazovia where he invested most of his earnings from his previous life as a business man.

During the remaining days we were mostly day drinking, daydreaming, eating out at local Tatar vegetarian (yes!) bistrot, and birdwatching. The silence of the woods and the lakes made us spot such rare species as Osprey Eagle. My boyfriend could not believe such species exist, i.e. eagles that hunt fish from the lakes. And now while I write this blog post, he’s binge watching the osprey channel on YouTube.

On the way back to Warsaw we have stopped by Bialystok, the largest city in the Eastern part of Poland, the capital of Podlasie. Contrary to its current fame of being the most right-wing city, and that it’s not very welcoming to strangers, in the past it was one of the most multicultural cities of Poland, bringing together Jewish, Tatars, Orthodox and Catholics. Even its city hall is grinning all the time, despite the controversy.

Bialystok has as well a very impressive Branicki palace complex and a cosmic-shaped opera house. Speaking of birds again, we wanted to visit Silvarium – a unique, forest-based shelter for wild animals that need rehabilitation but we did not manage to find time this year.

Altogether, it was a great insight to the remote part of Poland which is a secret well-kept, so if you ever explore these natural wonders, do it with consideration, which is my usual ask for the places I write about. Even though, as the last rumour I’ve heard, the airport is built in Suwalki, and the remoteness of the place might be gone soon…

 

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Balkan Hot Step

It took me a very long time to put together my impressions from various travels around Balkans. The diversity, and the amount of beautiful pictures I took was simply overwhelming and I couldn’t really decide should I be crafting a single blog entry or multiple ones.

Truth is, it’s been over a year ago since my last visit to Croatian Zadar, Nin, Plitvice Lakes and Ugljan island and I am officially ashamed of procrastinating publishing these gems.

To start off with, visiting Zadar in April 2017 was a great idea, since the springtime in Berlin didn’t really kick in, and the amount of sun, friendliness and music coming from the famous Sea Organs were literally a bliss to me, after a few intense weeks and healing after some operations I had to take last year.

I decided to take a day trip to Plitvice National Park, where the spring was only blossoming, as it is located further up in the mountains. It was still not so crowded, so I could enjoy myself visiting at my own pace, not worrying about the massive groups stepping on my shoes.

I can imagine though that Croatia, being one of the most popular tourist locations, attracts thousands of visitors to their national parks during the high season. To avoid getting too much crowds, there is a daily limit of entrance, which seems a valid thing to do to protect this stunning nature.

Some other sites around Zadar’s area I’ve visited include the picturesque town of Nin and nearby island Ugljan, where you can explore various hiking trails and peace of mind. I didn’t manage to visit the islands of Kornati where thousands of bird species are nesting, due to the lack of ferry service around the lower season.

Looking back to 2016, I spent over a week in between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, as I was invited to speak at a conference in Dubrovnik.

I was amazed by a daily trip to Mostar in Herzegovina region, where the cultures truly melt, and years after the war, the city is shining. Driving through the country, the signs of the painful times remained, making me wonder how come such terror could have happened in this beautiful land.

Dubrovnik itself is a special city. Located in a land strip between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, is typically more expensive than the rest of Croatia, but is a gem nevertheless. Old town, villas, riveras and wonderful neighbourhoods are spread around the hills and various bays.

I also took an opportunity to visit the Kotor Bay in Montenegro, which stole my heart, especially taking a boat trip to a monastery located in the middle of the bay, and exploring the sleepy and not so crowded town of Kotor.

Even though Montenegro is not a part of EU, due to an economic post-war treaty, it is possible to pay in Euro currency.

Taking time to drive around these three countries was a great experience, as I wanted to learn much as I could about various cultures, religions, conflicts and its resolutions alongside the history.

Last but not least, I explored the area of Split, where my flight was originating from and I had a great time both in the city and on the surrounding islands of Hvar and Bol.

Split is a lively port connecting Croatia and Italy, and Dalmatian history is very well preserved there. Besides the old town rich in historic monuments, there’s a lot of city beaches and relaxing spots.

It is very easy to travel from Split for a day trip and hike around the magical islands, like Hvar and Bol, with its turquoise waters and golden sands, some of them rated as a top sites according to the beachtesters.

Since Croatia has over thousands of islands to visit, I don’t think this is the last time I’ll be exploring that place and can’t wait to be back in the warmth of these regions. I still would love to visit the inland part and countries of Serbia and Macedonia, but sooner or later I know I will, especially knowing I have some great friends coming from these places. Hvala!

Dessau (not) depressau

Before the spring came to Berlin with its continuously perfect sunny weather, I was craving for a short and inspiring getaway. For years, I’ve been interested in visiting Dessau, a capital of Bauhaus with its university centre and original settlements created in between 20th century’s 20s and 30s. As my trip in February got cancelled, I spontaneously decided to travel on my own to spend a day off in Dessau and its museums.

 

The University centre and museum offers a thorough experience and journey through Bauhaus history, life of the Directors and ideas that came into live during the period it was settled in Dessau. Currently, talented designers ranging from conceptual to interactive disciplines are studying there and further bring inspiring ideas to live. I was very happy to see one of my friends from Brasilia pictured in the graduates hall, as she’s moved to Germany to pursue her design career.

 

What I found especially interesting is how Bauhaus influenced the further development of the city, even after WWII. One of the highlights and recommendations for visiting would be a stay overnight in one of the original Bauhaus houses of the Directors! It’s available throughout the year, but I’d definitely recommend visiting Dessau on a sunnier day, due to the variety of parks, bike paths and its surroundings.

 

I am naturally curious person and I don’t necessarily discover only the classically beautiful sites of the world. After my visit in Eisenhütenstadt or Rügen, I strive for getting a better understanding of a complex history of Germany. Often, you find the most interesting stories in places which seem depressing, gloomy or unwelcoming at a first glance. Still, what you learn from its history, art, architecture and often industry, is priceless.

Before visiting Dessau, many people warned me it can be truly ‘Depressau’ especially on a winter day. I did not find it depressing at all, rather refreshing, after long winter in a dark, big, yet super intense city as Berlin. A short getaway (less than 2 hours on a train) can boost one’s creativity more than long hours inside your den, and even though I spent just a couple of hours in Dessau, I’m tempted to come back in 2019, for the 100 years of Bauhaus anniversary.

Skalar – mirroring light and sound

Let the pictures speak for themselves – this weekend CTM’s 2018 installation Skalar has opened to public for the last time in Kraftwerk, an emblematic venue of Berlin Atonal.

The installation by Christopher Bauder and Kanding Ray is a one hour journey through human perception of light and sound. It has gone viral all over Instagram and social media, and not without a reason. It is simply stunning.

CTM’s theme of 2018 was ‘Turmoil’ and definitely, Skalar was its highlight. Long after leaving Kraftwerk last night, I am covered by goose bumps. Looking forward to the forthcoming The Long Now in one month, as the Berlin sunny, even though freezing days, are here to stay.

Radiohouse

Funkhaus stands for a broadcasting station in German, and is also one of my favourite venue in Berlin. Not surprisingly, this building is a former GDR radio broadcast centre built in the 50s. It’s located far East of the city, overlooking River Spree and it’s already quite a challenge to get in there, especially if you do it for the first time. In 2017, it was a venue for events like TOA, Loop and various concerts labeled as Funkhaus Sessions, such as Francesco Tristano’s, Jan Jelinek’s & Kaithlyn Aurelia Smith’s or Lamb’s 20th anniversary tour.

Since music is one of the primary reasons why I’ve been living in Berlin for over 3 years, both in my professional and in my private life, no wonder I spend a good chunk of my time off at gigs. I’m no longer keen to put long hours in partying, I focus mostly on the concerts these days.

And Funkhaus is one of my top-notch venue for large-scale electronic and experimental music events, live performances and installations. It’s also a house for MONOM, an experimental performance and spatial sound studio, equipped with a high-spec 4DSOUND system, a spatial instrument that enables a physical and interactive sound environment.

What I love the most about concerts at Funkhaus, is the great fusion of 50s architecture taste, great sound acoustics and a special, intimate bond between the artists on stage and the audience.

I am already looking forward to some of the Funkhaus Sessions in 2018, as the line up looks equally exciting as in the past couple of years.

In the summer, especially when the events such as Tech Open Air take place, one can reach Funkhaus by a boat, in the winter, it often means a long ride in the darkness by a tram 21 and a long walk by the misty banks of Spree. The feeling of arriving in the cosy, stylish and wooden House of the Radio Sound is one of it’s kind though.

So even if today I’ll miss Nils Frahm’s concert I was waiting for a long time (sold out 6 months in advance or so), simply because a January flu knocked me off my feet this week, I hope others that can participate in this event, will enjoy it on my behalf!

 

Kosmische Klänge

Exactly 3 years ago I started off writing this blog with a very ambitious plan to describe the most remarkable happenings in my life, starring the city of Berlin as a main hero(ine). Since then my life took various twists, turns and I focused on different things. You could read about the clubbing peculiarities, concerts and music performances, contemporary art and dance, and last but not least: about my getaways within Germany and more distant corners of the planet Earth.

These days I am running behind my backlog of the events, socializing and trying to balance it out with getting away from Berlin at least once per month. To remain ever-changing fresh perspective, look for inspirations and discover the unknown. At the same time, I get older and enjoy living healthy, sleeping a lot and binge reading good books.

 

And there are still places I have not yet discovered! This month’s spotlight goes onto the Planetarium (Zeiss-Grossplanetarium in Prenzlauer Berg). Ever since I saw it’s colourful, illuminated copula I was curious about the events happening inside the eye for the cosmos. Still, I had no expectations, like with most of the new places I visit.

 

For my initial visit, I picked an event which involved not only spatial views, but also cosmic sounds labeled as ‘Contentious Constant‘ by M.E.S.H., Sapphire Slows & Moonwheel.

 

The blend of music, sound and space was breathtaking: I teleported myself on another orbit, and found it difficult to come back. Especially that I developed some light motion sickness while travelling without moving in planetarium.

 

The Zeiss-Gross Planetarium is celebrating over 30 years of existence and offers various events: from typically scientific presentations to concerts and classical music. A mixture of drone music in space was probably the most amazing choice to combine my own tastes.

 

To finalize the food for thought for this month’s highlight I realized that my expectations from art and events have risen greatly for the past couple of years. There are spaces in Berlin which almost always guarantee truly high-quality art experience, and there are some good surprises from the new places too. However, in the jungle of art and music scene events that this city lives and breathes, sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the truly amazing gems from mediocre stuff. Since I made a conscious decision to only dedicate time to good things in life, art is no exception.

Oishii Osaka

Around this time of the year thousands, if not millions, of tourists head to Japan to see cherry trees blossoming. And even though Berlin could compete with the number of cherry trees with any Japanese city, my mind travels back, especially that my social media is full of photos made by my friends currently exploring this beautiful country. So, here I am back with my Japanese travelogue, 6 months after my trip! Today’s turn is for Osaka – the city of guilty pleasures.

It was a third city I visited on my way through Japan by the Shinkansen speed rail, after Kyoto and Tokyo, and I chose to arrive there on Friday evening. Only 30 minutes away from Kyoto, I spotted an instant difference (or my expectations were set very well): a city which never sleeps, which is more relaxed and modern at the same time. As a harbour city, it has more foreign influences and has been considered as the most open-minded in Japan.

Smaller than Tokyo, yet equally dynamic, and considerably cheaper Osaka is a perfect place to explore the dining pleasures – both street food and various restaurants. I was also lucky enough to find a secret party place on the backdoor of a vinyl store – only to find out that one of the residents have lived and played in my neighbourhood in Berlin. The world of techno & house has no borders! While exploring the city by day on its light rail, I was amazed by the architecture and the skyline – including the futuristic Sky Building.

But Osaka is not only concrete and glass outta space architecture, it is also very kawaii, diverse and colourful. Exploring the city at night is crazily fun, especially when you are open to a possibility to get lost under the neons or ‘meet’ the walking street lights. Osaka is a Japanese home for the Universal Studios, where I was lucky to meet a lot of cos-play teenagers.

Having played with iguanas, listened to street music of various genres, eaten things I can not name and trying various types of Japanese beers at the local brewery festival, I was ready to move on to the South.

But before that, I made sure to combine the city craziness experience with the stunning nature and I woke up early to visit Koya-san. To be continued!