Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Surprise is: Downton Abbey!

Britta Huegel


Dear You, 
friendship is about trust. And Anne trusted me blindly when she came from Darmstadt to London, waiting for me at the feet of St. Paul's, not knowing what would happen, or which destination was waiting for us. 
I arrived in time - though in Berlin it seemed that circumstances had plotted against me: 
first the alarm-clock of my cellphone didn't work (and husband lectured in Hildesheim). Luckily I had packed everything the evening before, and as I am an early riser, I got wary in the early morning and looked at the clock in the kitchen. Crumbs! Crumbs of time left, to be precise - only half an hour instead of a leisurely one... 
So my eyeliner wasn't quite as perfect as usually, but RyanAir was gracious (yes - it can be!)  and took me nevertheless - when I finally arrived. Which was at the last moment: having fetched the right underground and changed into the right overground (which needs about fifty minutes to go to the airport) - I relaxed. Looked dreamily out of the window. Suddenly I  wondered: 'Hermannstraße' was announced. 'Hermannstraße???' I hurried out of the overground - got a train back: I had forgotten to change at Südstern!  
There the next train to the airport was announced (and innerly I apologised to husband, who had advised me to arrive 90 minutes before the flight-departure at the airport - I had laughed a bit condescendingly at this proposal - but followed, and boy: was I happy that for once I had listened to the voice of reason!)
Imagine my horror when suddenly the plate announced: "The next overground to the Airport is cancelled". 
WHAT? WHAT? 
I hurried to the information desk. Yes, there was an alternative: a real train, coming in ten minutes. 
Well: "All's well that ends well" as your dear William S. remarked so wisely. 
From the moment I sat in the airplane (10 Euro more to be RyanAir's special guest - hahaha - meaning: you get in first, and have a seat with a little more room for long legs) everything was OK. 

And there she was, in London: my friend Anne. My friend since the time we studied together in Mainz. Who had now written her thesis on a German poet and had earned a doctor's degree. 
Such a joy! 
I wanted to give her something special for that. 
Only when we sat in a restaurant and I gave Anne a pair of long golden earrings with a (fake) emerald, she guessed our destination: 

Highclere Castle, belonging to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon - to most of us better known as "Downton Abbey". 


Britta Huegel


Enough for today (Now I will dip into your blogs, so I will write the sequel later).  
  

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Will we bloggers meet in London - spontaneously?

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
Double surprise:
- one for my friend Anne, whom I will soon meet in London - she comes from Darmstadt, I from Berlin. Difference: I know where we will go then - she doesn't. (She finished her dissertation this year, and as a present I booked the ???.in ???? for 3 nights. Ha: I will not tell you now, because she or her husband, who will stay at home, might read this blog).
- second: surprise for me, because after that I will stay in London for more than a week. Surprise - because I had already booked the return flight... Now I have a second return ticket with a more generous airline than Ryanair. The first flight is my problem: I am stubborn and will - for the first time in my life - use only one boardcase and a handbag. Ryanair allows only a boardcase with 10 kilogramm, so I went and found a light boardcase from Bric, (only 1,92 kg - my other - loved one - has over 3kg) and a handbag from the same inventive Italian manufactorers which has exactly the allowed measurements. Now I weigh my clothes, I weigh my cosmetics (oh my, oh my - that's the tough part).
I feel as if I am a 7 year old child again: then I drew lots and lots of caves which I decorated in the most fashionable way with sophisticated - cardboxes. Why? I don't know - I was on the Minimalist's trip very early (in theory). I'll have to be a minimalist with my clothes now - in practice.
Though maybe Ryanair will think I am the Marshmallow Man -once in London I will become instantly slim again. .

Now two questions: 

- Any suggestions what I can/must/should see in London in the next weeks? IThank you!

- Is anybody interested to come to a spontaneous blogger-meeting in London? We can meet in a café. If you are interested - best days for me: Saturday 6th September or Sunday 7th September - then please write it quickly into your comment - and I will see it till Monday, after that I'm off.

PS: Burglars: No chance: Husband and a bunch of well-trained visitors stay at home :-) 



Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Botanists, Gardeners - I need your help!

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel


Dear You, 
this might better belong into my blog http://gardeninginhighheels.blogspot.de/, but here I might reach more people.
In August on our stay on the German Northsea island Sylt I found a little flower that I have never seen before.
It is tiny - the blossom is about 2,5cm in diameter, hight of the whole plant about 5 - 6 cm, and on the second picture you can see its dentated leaves. It is strongly blue (almost like the colour of gentian - which it definitely is not). Striking white round stamen.
It was very stormy, so the photos with my macro are not as sharp as I wanted them to be.
I found the flower in the village Keitum - the tideland side of Sylt. Only one single plant, near a pathway. Might have escaped from a garden (in the 19th century there was a captain in Keitum who was famous for collecting exotic flowers).
The next day I first thought that some nitwit had nicked it - but it was still there, torn by the storm that had raged in the night.

Britta Huegel

Now: I know quite many wild and garden flowers - but I am baffled here. Can you please help me?



Thursday, 21 August 2014

Blush... it's so becoming...

Britta Huegel


Dear You, 
Not so easy to blush nowadays, at least I don't.
But you could see deep crimson creep about my face in the underground, when my cellphone started to ring. More precise: it started to moan. To be even more exact: it used Irene Adler's 'Sexy Moan' from the wonderful 'Sherlock' episode "A Scandal In Belgravia'. (Have to see crime TV for professional reasons - but 'Sherlock' is a treat).
How come?
Well - sheer stubbornness on my side. For a long time, I had Sherlock's Intro as a ringtone:


Then I asked son please to instal Irene's Moan for an incoming SMS. He loaded it down on my cellphone - but it didn't work. Suspecting that he didn't really try (for what reason ever :), I went to the O2-Shop. The young man was very eager  attentive, but he could not help me either. 
So I forgot about it. 
Three days ago I scrolled through my cellphone - to become more able in the use of technology - 'I will conquer it', I thought. Well, I did - in a way. Set Irene's moan as ringtone.  
The thing is: of course I wanted to change back. Pressed the right button, pressed OK. 
Irene moans on. And on... 
I blush. 
Advice: If a woman of a certain age complains that she gets invisible, she should load down Irene as a ringtone. In any old crowded underground she will stand in the spotlight. Instantly.   

PS: the photo above I took in Potsdam's Park Sanssouci. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Missing... Sylt?

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
sometimes you miss something without knowing what it is. You have a nagging feeling. You look. Think. You wonder. 
"I think they are gone!" I said to husband. 
"Who?" he asked. 
"The swallows!
"Oh, no!
Well, swallows are the very epitome of summer. In England and Germany we have the same saying: "One swallow does not make a summer / Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer.
I had seen hordes of them three weeks before - assembling. Practising. Didn't like that. And was accused to resemble poor Cassandra, not my normal self. I soon kept my observations to myself. Talked about sunshine and heat. Peeked only from the corner of my eye. Saw what I saw. Kept my mouth shut. (Pressed it firmly - but only for a while: that encourages wrinkles, so I lifted the corners of my mouth again - pure self-protection). 
And there was something missing on Sylt, too
("Finally", you sigh. "Now you start telling me of your holiday.") 
Yes. 
We left the island one day earlier than planned (and paid for). 
I have been to Sylt quite often. Met my first real great love there (he was training as combat medic in the Bundeswehr - at that time every young man had to do his military service). My mother and an aunt and my sister spent their hols with me on the campsite (my father had to work). On one photo you see me smoking triumphantly a Reval cigarette - that smell would be the base note of my perfume creation "Sylt". (I don't miss cigarettes anymore - but if someone goes in front of me, smoking Reval or Gauloises or another strong tobacco, my eyes start to get a bit dreamy). 
Then I would add the incomparable scent of the rugosa rose. Living happily in a mismatched colour outfit: shocking pink blossoms, fat bright orange rose hips, dark green healthy leaves that smell - like the sweet briars - too. That would be the heart note
And the salty smell of the North Sea water as top note
(Of course I would add a few ingredients of passion that no perfumier worth his salt would ever betray...) 
And that was what I absolutely missed this time, being there, on the very spot: the smell of Sylt. It wasn't there. 
Mind: the rugosa roses bloomed in abundance - and yes, when you bent your knees - and I did -  you could sniff a weak whiff. The heather painted the sand dunes of List in sombre violet hues - and yes, I went down on my knees to get a whiff of the dark honey-golden wooden note (I would add that to my perfume!). 


Britta Huegel

But bended knees aside - and I was not on a pilgrimage on "Search of Lost Time" or on the look-out for "Remembrance of Things Past", honestly, I wasn't: 
it was almost impossible to smell Sylt. (And I still own a very highly developed sense of smell). 
Must be because of the storm (most of the time, throwing teasingly loads of sand into your face). Even husband did only manage to take a swim in the very rough sea once - once in five days... 


Britta Huegel

And because of the location of our rented flat. (I have been many times on Sylt - and it must have had a reason why I never ever had been in Tinnum. (I'd never even heard of it!) I had been in Rantum, Hörnum, Westerland etc - all those villages draped along the shore - meaning sea foam, waves around your feet, salt on your lips, sand between your toes. I even would have accepted mud between my toes - on the mudflat-side of Keitum. But Tinnum lies in the very middle of the island Sylt. See: I love long walks on the beach - it might even storm and rain - but here our fat BMW had to drive us, munching over 300km only on this island in five days.  You can imagine that this woman, proud owner of a Nike+FuelBand, was not utterly happy about that? The airport was very near - all things I could have known in advance - had I been as smart as Son, who confessed on the telephone: "I googled it on Google Earth, Mama - but than I didn't say anything because you had already booked." (I think that is mindful of him). So we had the advantage of a Lidl, an Aldi, a Netto very near - and if you walked over the tracks of the railway you were among harvested cornfields. And wet meadows. 


Britta Huegel



Picturesque in its way, too - but to be true: not my expectation when I think of Sylt. Or any other island. 
Of course we went by car to the cliffs and sand beaches (how, otherwise, would we have 'earned' 300km?)

But the freedom to move on my own, that I have missed. 
And the scent. 
  

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

'Where Angels Fear To Tread` or: Berlin's Building Sites - Uhrgh!

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
actually I wanted to write a post about a wonderful discovery I made on Monday - I give you a hint: Italy here, around the corner - but I can't do that now: it is too loud. 
Almost everybody - at least in Germany - knows that Berlin is a permanent building site. They dig up the roads and tunnels, they build new houses, renovate the old ones - and the symbol for all this might be the Airport Schönefeld - a billion-dollar grave, that will not come to an end, and those that are responsible get even more money instead of social condemnation or prison - and the news even reached other countries and they have a good laugh about this play from the madhouse. 
But I can live with that. 
More disturbing - because they are very, very near - is the renovation of a house at the end of our street - can you imagine that they stick on to the facade all the stucco ornaments that a mad city council paid to be destructed in the early decades of the 20th century - to make the buildings more "modern" and easier to paint (I believed that the masses and masses of these 'modern' houses were the sad relicts from World War II, but no: these houses had survived the bombs, and then the city paid (!) for 'modernisation'.  
An example: both houses are built in the same year. 

Britta Huegel

But more awful (for us) is the drainage that 2 (!) building labourers are giving to our neighbour's house (all the houses in the street, though very posh, are joint by a wall). 
The 2 (!) building labours (though I hesitate to use the word "labour") are the typical and perfect impersonators of building labourers. 
They arrive between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. 
They turn on their radio. Having often worked with a pneumatic hammer, they are deaf as - a nut. So they need LOUD music - and they SHOUT. Why should other people sleep when they have to work? They discuss this important question before they start to - "work". And because Law allows to start this "work" not before 7 a.m., they use the time before to playfully test their jackhammers - at the wall between the two houses. When the baby of the neighbours starts to cry, they stop and bang on their big big basins - to clean them a bit - better to be done in the morning... more attention... 
But the worst thing are their cellphones. I put "Work" into quotation marks to hint at a certain mistrust on my side: half of the time (at least!) they do not work - after the big overture in the morning they rest for an hour, smoke and shout into their cell phones - (nobody told them that a cellphone is a sort of telephone that enables you to talk with a person at normal pitch - but no, not them -- Shout, Shout, Shout! You might hear them easily at the Alexander Platz). 
By working very slowly they manage to prolong their "work" till doomsday - this wonderful hot summer is definitely spoilt for those who intended to enjoy their balcony (I flee to other beautiful parts of the city, but the old people can't). 
To make it even worse: in our house the landlady has engaged craftsmen to renovate the flat on the groundfloor: wall breakthroughs (we are in Berlin :), floorboard abrasion and varnishing (smell!) and polishing and, and, and - the full monty. 
And when I looked out into the Hinterhof (backyard) I saw another couple of workmen (though they finished after three days). 

Britta Huegel

The rents in Berlin soar, because Arabs and Russians and Italians etc buy houses or flats like mad. Sometimes it is merciful that they see only the "new" flats they buy. Since last year a clever salesman let this house beside the KaDeWe be renovated (I only heard Polish sounds at the building site - I think they are good workers, but often are treated and paid not much better than modern slaves). These flats (of about 110 square meters) cost over 1 million Euros each - but with that goes the privilege to look at really sordid houses on the other side of the street, hear the suppliers for the KaDeWe in the very early morning bring tons of flour or lobsters etc - and look into the "patio" which leads to the car park of the KaDeWe. 
Sometimes it is very good to have not seen your "bargain" before in its original state... 
I'll show you the photos of "before" and "after" in another post. 
Till then we'll book a holiday on an island... I think we'll give up... 

Britta Huegel



Friday, 1 August 2014

Too good to be true?

Britta Huegel photographs Karl Lagerfeld's photo
Dear You,
in the comments on my last post "The Marvelous Toy - my Nike+ FuelBand" I said that I would to discuss Susan Scheid's comment - she writes http://prufrocksdilemma.wordpress.com/:

Now this is definitely a life lesson for all of us: "Now I lowered the goal for a third, reach it every time, am happy - and march on, thus reaching the former high goal of the past almost every time - but with the smug self-satisfaction of thinking: I hadn't to do this."

 and Suze's, who writes  http://subliminalcoffee.blogspot.de/
:
After reading Susan's comment, I would like to add that a goal which does not evolve is a static thing which loses all relevance. We must reach for goals appropriate to the moment--dynamic, meaning-intense, real.

Ha - I was so proud to have found out my new life insight about happiness through knowing where to stop... and I still think it valid - in the context I put it.
See, Suze: I wrote that I outperform the absolute intersection of all Nike+ FuelBand users - all of them, being young or old, being amateurs or pros, international - by far. Why shall I highten my goal even more? As I wrote: when I reach my lower goal points, I am happy, not stressed - and march on, voluntarily. (Most of the time).
The same in weight training: I can push quite a lot of iron at the rowing machine - and many a man at the other machine besides me get a bit pale after a look at mine, because he draws less. Should I evolve that goal even more? Is my name Tamara Press (or, for the younger ones among you: Swetlana Podobedowa)?
No - I think: goals are good, goals are helpful - but they must not be infinite - because that would discourage me.
If a goal is too high, it will make me dispirited: if I compare myself to our great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, I would not even losen the cap of my fountain pen to write a book. Of course I understand what you mean, Suze: one should not rest on one's laurels - right - but I think the way to hell is plastered with perfectionism. I know that you - of all people - didn't mean "more, more, more" - but in this direction lies the danger. When is good good enough? 
As I wrote: I thrive on praise. Maybe that's a fault - but one I learned to live with and do not even try to change - and I hope I can - as children, who have a very fine ear for it - distinguish between real praise and flattery.
And insight no. 2: it is worthwhile to praise yourself (you can do it silently): "That's good! Wow!"
I makes you glow! From the inside!