Poland sketches #1 Train to Warszawa

train, Katowice, Warsawa, Poland, travel, traveller
Compartment carriages are the best!

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

“It was pretty early that, in my mind, the act of travelling was coupled with that of sketching, at least since I had the habit of reading and re-reading my father’s decades-old copies of Corto Maltese graphic novels. When they started publishing them again a few years ago, they included a few dazzling watercolors of the romantic soldier of fortune, set in exotic atmospheres and locations. It further spurred my will to travel and sketch, to record in line and color that which I see, taste, smell, hear and feel, the people that I meet, or that I don’t meet, but for one reason or another, compelled the pen to scratch the paper of yet another page of a sketchbook.

Travelling and sketching are two of my favorite activities. The first, fed by the mystery of the unknown and the curiosity that the other awakens, drives me to walk the globe, finding similarities and oddities, the different aspects of the human experience, that help me build a mosaic, an idea of what in the world are we doing here.

The second takes care of recording what I feel about all the things I come across while travelling. Sketching is an interface with the outside world and that which results from distilling the I and the other together. Maybe the second is the answer to the big question of the first: to find our own way of merging with the world.

A few days trip to Poland doesn’t seem to fit next to the esoteric and romantic wanderings of the sailor, and it’s certainly not the key to the secrets of the human experience, but I think that even in the shortest trips or the least exotic locations, sketching serves the purpose of interpreting and assembling tiny bits of wisdom and knowledge to the pool of oddities and patterns that makes us unique.

Further on, for more prosaic matters: sketching while travelling is a fine way of filling 3 hours of railroad travelling. It’s a better ice-breaker than wódka. It’s an excellent long exposure camera, capturing all the things that are happening around the sketcher, with more clarity and verve than a camera (or a cell phone for that matter).”

train, Katowice, Warsawa, Poland, travel, traveller
Cheap beer and wódka welcomes travellers to Warsawa late night. Pijalnia is a franchise of polish wódka bars that doesn’t feel like a franchise.

 

Mushrooms on Österlen

Pizza making

Österlen’s coastal landscape is beautiful indeed. But it looks even better after a nice dinner with friends and a good night’s sleep.

Pizza at Kivik

The picturesque crooked roads that lead from Lund to Kivik opened our appetites to the home-made pizza that our swedish-spanish hosts had prepared for us. Champagne and good wines flowed, mouldy cheeses and spicy olives were devoured, the drums rolled.

Nyans

Board games were set, pseudo-punk spanish kids TV-show music chimed in, bringing in weird childhood memories for those who hailed from those parts. Even a sketching workshop for children was going on, until it was way past bedtime.

Landscape at Vitemölla

The morning after, all residues of the tiniest hangover vanished at the sight and smells of Skåne’s east coast. In Vitemölla Strandbackar nature reserve, just north of Kivik, the calm waters of the Baltic touch the dunes of sand, the dirt of land and the trunks of pine trees, simultaneously. Something didn’t add up, and yet, it was very pleasant to walk around, up and down from the field to the forest and back to the beach in less than a kilometre. It’s as if three different landscapes came together in the very same spot, like three different sentences that don’t belong to the same paragraph, punctuated regularly by the pre-emptive concrete bunkers of the WWII-era. Later, I learned that this type of landscape is known as sand-steppe – something very particular to this area of the Baltic sea, and that the pine forest is actually planted. Our hosts explained that this area generates some discussion because it seems that the pine forest is conflicting with the native sand-steppe landscape.

Cooking fresh mushrooms

Oblivious to these reflections on the conflicting landscapes, Jesus picked mushrooms for lunch. And they were slimy-licous fried in garlic and coriander!

White chocolate vs Black chocolate. Medronho wins

Västra Hamnen and a dinner party in Malmö

 

Walks with friends prompt shorter and smaller sketches, like the one from Västra Hamnen in Malmö, overlooking the sun setting behind Copenhagen’s coastline.

A few days later, a portuguese dinner party in south Malmö was the setting for the next few sketches. Worthy of record were: a set of chocolate chess, which was devoured after three games; a medronho tasting session, with three different kinds of the moonshine from Algarve and a side of chocolate mousse; a few death metal band recommendations; and a recipe for punhetas de bacalhau (cod-fish jerk offs) (I’m serious!) (really!)

It’s delicious! Try it yourself:

Dip the salted cod-fish in water overnight. Dry it and shred it by hand taking away the skin and bones. Dice onion and garlic in small pieces. Mix everything together with oregano. Season with olive oil and black pepper. Serve with bread. Enjoy!

 

 

A japanese tea house, a jazzy pawn shop and other relevant matters

Stockholm tram

While travelling in and around Stockholm, the kronor spent in a several-days ticket for the insanely efficient mass transport system is a wise investment. You can get pretty much anywhere by train, bus, subway or tram if your feet are getting to you, not worrying about fares. And everything comes obsessively on time – can’t speak for the wintertime though.

Japanese Tea House

There are around 80 museums to visit in the Swedish capital city. Fotografiska, now featuring a huge exhibition by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, is highly recommendable. Vasa Museet is a must. But my prize has to go to Etnografiska Museet. It owns an extraordinary collection of objects from all over the world and it had to be three of the most interesting and fun hours we spent in the city. Featured were an overview of the native North American cultures, then and now, and a review of the devastating effects of the Carlisle School (the documentary Schooling the World – the White Man’s Last Burden provides a sound outlook on this subject) and an exhibition about Swedish missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, through whom many objects came to be at the museum today. Outside the museum sat this small, beautiful Japanese Tea House, surrounded by a proper Japanese garden. It only opens for booked groups and special occasions, but the garden is there to be enjoyed by all visitors.

Stampen

When night-time came, and as recommended by a friend, we went in search for Stampen (the Pawn Shop), a jazz club right in the middle of central Gamla Stan. We sat at the bar, drinking Swedish beer and munching chips, as a band got ready for their act. The Dixieland tunes that they played were a pleasant surprise. As the night went on, the band had a small break, and some of the members caught a glimpse of the sketch. For a few hours, all of us were the bestest of friends!

An evening in Alfama

Taverna do Vilarinho

Taberna do Vilarinho is a restaurant at the base of the castle hill in Lisboa. The menu is traditional portuguese cuisine with a focus on special delicacies. This means for starters, you’ll be recommended some juicy cabeça de xára (slices of slow-cooked pig’s head), somewhat similar to galantine. If you’re in for a safe choice, the bacalhau à brás (cod-fish with scrambled egg and straw-cut fries) much enjoyed in Spain, or the borrego com batata doce (roasted lamb sided with sweet potato). But if you keep on with the staff’s recommendation, you’ll go for the samos de bacalhau com grão (cod-fish swim bladder stew with chickpeas), an organ used by many fish to control depth. It’s kinda spongy and squishy and all the fluids add to the thickness of the sauce, but you can really taste the cod-fish flavours there. Would eat again!

Taverna do Vilarinho

The manager was a friend of ours, so we got to hang out in the small cosy restaurant after the doors were shut. Bottles of wine were popped open and leftover deserts were served. That’s when we got the chance to taste pêra bêbeda (drunken pear –  a pear dipped in port wine), the delicious and sugary tarte de ameixa (plum pie) and the surprisingly refreshing ananás de coentrada (pineapple with coriander).

Taverna do Vilarinho

More people arrived, friends, and friends of friends. All of a sudden, there was a party! The cell phone connected to spotify went around as everyone added a song to the playlist in some sort of “who plays the coolest song” competition. The accuracy of the sketching quickly waned as it was getting in the way of more dancing and drinking. As the evening drew to a close and everyone started to get the munchies, the chef, who also doubles as a jazz drummer, discreetly slid to the kitchen and brought back plates with heavily spiced raw tuna slices. Not quite sashimi, actually much better!

Taverna do Vilarinho

Here’s a place to definitely come back to.