Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Get the Creeps! (And May I help You...?)

Britta Huegel

The last day of October - might I send you a postcard to Halloween?
"Isn't it weird?", asked husband - who is a connoisseur of many things, but not of nature's wild life, "that today I still saw a swallow in the backyard?"
Weird indeed - because it was a sweet little bat - fluttering in her inimitable soft-hectic loudless way through the twilight.
Are you in the mood already? Or are you like the youngest son in Grimm's fairy tale: "Von einem, der auszog, das Fürchten zu lernen", "The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear"?

A father had two sons. The oldest one was clever and intelligent, and knew how to manage everything, but the youngest one was stupid and could neither understand nor learn anything. When people saw him, they said, "He will be a burden on his father!"
Now when something had to be done, it was always the oldest son who had to do it. However, if the father asked him fetch anything when it was late, or even worse, at night, and if the way led through the churchyard or some other spooky place, he would always answer, "Oh, no, father, I won't go there. It makes me shudder!" For he was afraid.
In the evening by the fire when stories were told that made one's flesh creep, the listeners sometimes said, "Oh, that makes me shudder!" The youngest son would sit in a corner and listen with the others, but he could not imagine what they meant.
"They are always saying, 'It makes me shudder! It makes me shudder!' It does not make me shudder. That too must be a skill that I do not understand."

May I help you? Learning that skill?
As I love the poems of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797 - 1848), and couldn't find a translation, I did (roughly - come on, we have Halloween - and I have to get that damned bat out of my hair!) one for you:

Der Knabe im Moor                                           The Lad in the Moor

O schaurig ist's übers Moor zu gehn,                                      Oh it is scary to walk through the moor, 
Wenn es wimmelt vom Heiderauche,                                       When it seethes with heather smoke, 
Sich wie Phantome die Dünste drehn                                       When phantom-like the vapours twirl 
Und die Ranke häkelt am Strauche,                                          And the bine crochets at the shrub, 
Unter jedem Tritt ein Quellchen springt,                                   Under each step a tiny fountain wells up, 
Wenn aus der Spalte es zischt und singt,                                  When from the crack it hisses and sings, 
O schaurig ist's übers Moor zu gehn,                                       Oh scary it is to walk through the moor, 
Wenn das Röhricht knistert im Hauche!                                    When the reeds rustle in the breeze! 

Fest hält die Fibel das zitternde Kind                                        Firmly the shuddering child clutches his primer, 
Und rennt, als ob man es jage;                                                And runs as if it he is hunted; 
Hohl über die Fläche sauset der Wind -                                    Hollowly the wind swishes over the land - 
Was raschelt da drüben am Hage?                                           What fissles over there at the grove? 
Das ist der gespenstische Gräberknecht,                                  That is the spooky grave-servant, 
Der dem Meister die besten Torfe verzecht;                              Who boozes away the Master's best peat; 
Hu, hu, es bricht wie ein irres Rind!                                         Whew, whew, something breaks forth like a freakish ox! 
Hinducket das Knäblein zage.                                                   Despairingly the little lad ducks down. 
(...)                                                                                      (...) 

Well? Well????

Monday, 28 October 2013

Grand Hotel Heiligendamm: We had Putin's Suite (I think)

Britta Huegel

"Being determines consciousness" says the popular version of a quote by Karl Marx (the original is: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness"). 
Well, who am I to question that - but humbly I annotate an observation of mine, where the opposite seemed to have happen - vice versa, so to speak: 
Husband worked so long and intensely on his paper about LUXURY (of all people: him -- he is the most modest man I know...) that the topic might have crept in unnoticed. 
Whatsoever: as compensation for my lovely narrow boat trip that I did on my own, he booked a 4 day-trip to the Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm. Five stars. 
Yes - THE one. Where in 2007 the 33rd G8-summit took place - with Angela Merkel, Sarkozy, Putin, Prodi, Blair and so on.  
As the stuff is absolutely discreet, I could only allure a hint of a nod when asking if we had Mr. Putin's suite - and maybe I even imagined the nod :-) 
It was absolutely gorgeous. Luxury at its best - even the weather! 
Heavenly breakfast in heaven (the same room for dinner). 

Britta Huegel

A terrace, and a vast lawn with silvery teak tables with starched linnen and heavy silver tableware that made me think of a picture in the old film version of Galsworthy's 'Forsyte Saga", and we could look from at the turquoise Baltic Sea

Britta Huegel

On the right a huge foundling with an inscription - 

Britta Huegel

it was Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin who bathed in the sea at "Heiligen Damm" for the first time in the year 1793 (his physician, Prof. Dr. Samuel Gottlieb Vogel recommended that). So the first German seaside resort was founded. 
"Between 1793 - 1870, the master builders Johann Christoph Heinrich von Seydewitz, Carl Theodor Severin and Gustv Adolph Demmler created a unique classical complete work of art out of bathing and guesthouses. In 1823, the first racing track on the European continent was officially opened bewtween Heiligendamm and Doberan and with it came the foundation of German horse racing. (...) 
Since its foundation, Heiligendamm has been the most elegant seaside health resort in Germany. The highest ranks of the European nobility, including the Tsar's family, spent their summer holidays here.  (...). In society of that time it was a must to have been there at least once in one's life." (Hotel brochure) 
Beautiful, beautiful - and now we have been there :-) 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

But I have to confess: though I really, really enjoyed being pampered: this is not the way I would want to live forever. After a very short time I would feel -- immobilized - aimless - childlike. And that's definitely not the way I want to live. 
With 17 I won a Highschool poetry contest with my recitation of Charles Baudelaire's poem 'L'Invitation au Voyage' - and the refrain was: 
"Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté 
 Luxe, calme et volupté.
(There all is order and beauty/ Luxury, silence and voluptuousness). Well, except the last point that would get on my nerves after a while, I think. 
To quote my friend Stephen (Russel): "... it is the mess of it that makes it glorious - and so are you: glorious." 
Nothing to add. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Tics (not a very serious post...)

Britta Huegel

"Would you have married me if I had looked like this?" asked my father, and distorted his face to a horrible sight. 
"No", my mother cooly answered. 
Well - I remembered this incident ("No real love!" my father said and grinned), while sitting in the train from Berlin to Bremen via Hamburg. To Hamburg it takes two hours. 
The train was too late (as often), but I found a good seat and started to write. 
"RRRR - mmh - rrrgrrr - mm", it started two rows behind me. 
Not a dog - a man. Harrumphing. And it didn't stop. 
For two minutes: silence, then it started again: 
"RRR - mmmmmm - rrrrgchck.
A man with a vocal tic in his chest. Horrible. 
I took my I-pod. It blarred "LUCILLE!" into my ears, or "Highway to Hell" - but "Rrrrr - mmk - mmk - rrrrgk" - clear and loud. (My ears started to hurt, and I didn't know whether it was the music or the tic). 
I tried it with ear plugs - 
"mmm rrrgk mmchmm rurg...
It wasn't a cough, and it wasn't temporarily. It was a habit, a tic. 
So I put my pen down. Took my jacket. Went into another coach. Found a good seat. Placed my jacket - went back, fetched my suitcase and LEFT. Sometimes you have to. 
Now I sit here and all is fine. 
(The woman three seats behind me only rasps every 20 minutes - that is OK! ) 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Susan Caines - Finds on a Flea Market in Devizes

Today only a 'quickie', I'll travel to Bremen tomorrow and still haven't packed.
When we stopped our narrowboat in Devizes, I had the chance not only to view the impressing Norman church tower and a beautiful medieval house (and the brewery Wadworth, of course), but also the 'Flea Market & Collector's Fair', and as always I bought what I liked. The picture above shows a daintily etched cat - beautifully framed by the artist herself. (The colours are more beautiful than here). It is no. 38/75  of   "Catnap." Signature: "S. Caines".
On the back of the frame I found Susan Caines old address and telephone number in Bristol.
"Well", I thought, "I like it. It costs less than a coffee in a coffee shop. If it is worthless, it doesn't matter: I will hang it as a signal that I take just that: "A catnap" (which I seldom do).
At home I learned that Susan Caines belongs to the 'Bath Society of Artists' .
 In 1995 was elected a member of the Royal West of England Academy of Art and in 1999 was given a show at the R.W.A Galleries. At around this time became a member of the Bath Society of Artists. Moved from Bristol to Brighton in 1995.
Exhibited at International Art Fairs, the R.W.A., Royal Academy of Art London. The Discerning Eye London, Brighton Art Fair, Brighton Festival. Work shown by The Ainscough Contemporary Art London. Lena Boyle Fine Art London. The R.W.A. Bristol, the Alpha House Gallery. Sherborne Dorset. Currently showing at The Russel Gallery, Putney, London. Ainscough Fine Art London and Rob Whittle Gallery Moseley Birmingham.
Solo Exhibitions: (I'll skip them, if interested, please look at

And the second thing I found (beside beautiful old postcards from British parks) are these: 

There were 100 of free woven silk flowers - given as a free gift of in the 1930's with Kensitas Cigarettes. I bought these above (put them here on a paper) on the cheap. 
Sometimes I surprise myself by my strange actions: imagine: I, as a true lover of flowers - I could have bought about 40 different designs. And what did this women do? Well - you might notice that I brag sometimes (wait for my next post!) - but deep inside I am was a shy person, and modest (don't give a snigger!). So I thought: I cannot be greedy. Others will enjoy them too. I'll take the three I like best. That's it
And that was it. (We had a car! I had the money! But no...) 
End of the story. 
And I love them dearly: so beautiful. Almost  No remorse.  

Sunday, 20 October 2013

For Hard-Boiled Taoists Only

Britta Hill

Sitting on a wooden teak bench, aged to silver, which is put into a balcony on the long pier of Heiligendamm, I look at the turquoise waves flowing deep under me. The ripples make me a bit giddy, and the Universal Dinner Lady, the Tao, asks me to dance.
The waves roll onto the white sand of the shore, the evening sun glistens on the salty water, a direct stream of silvery light is flowing towards me. I'm coming, my love, eternity, Tao, I'm here.
                                                                                   Many years I got it wrong:
I thought of what I wanted, tried to force it, planned and pushed - eagerly and impatient, single-minded and focussing all my will-power into one direction.
Now I still have a special dream, a very concrete aim - but I give it up to her, the Universal Dinner Lady. I tell her what I want to have on my plate - but then, after I have turned it over to her (we shoot the arrow diligently, the rest is not in our power) - I start to look at HER:
She is here. Now.
Her silk robe of Baltic Sea Water, dark blue at the horizon, changing into forget-me-not blue, periwinkle, turquoise, very light blue again and then dark green. The silver of the sun is gleaming at her throat, she murmurs, open her arms - the dance begins.
Waves are our orchestra, cormorans open their wings in bizzare rectangles -- black shadows crotcheting black lace at the seam of her dress. The beeches, her burning copper blond hair - ebb and tide - the dance go on.
I learn:
The DANCE with her is the important part - not the aim that I strive for -- (though I believe she will offer it to me, being in such a splendid mood now).
But wether she does or not: it really doesn't matter.
It really doesn't matter (in the end).

What really matters is to DANCE with her. 

Britta Hill

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Stop the Fire Alarm on the Narrowboat - PLEASE! (Part 2)

Britta Huegel

Thank you for being so patient (in the meantime husband and I have done a wonderful four-days-trip to the Baltic Sea) - now our engineer has solved the fire-alarm problem: he simply removed the batteries.
Silence is golden... 
Though life on the canal is quite busy, sometimes: a lot of boats are moving up and down the canal: they have to - nowadays you are not allowed to stay longer than 14 days in a place.
Different canals have different energies - and different people. Our canal, Bradford-on-Avon towards Bath and then Devizes - and back - was the way to Enlightenment, populated by a lot of esoterics.

Britta Huegel

There were people who lived on their boats for years, boats with tourists, boats with cats, with single persons, couples, daughters with aged mothers, and if a crank had lost his crank, we helped.
We saw precious boats (designed to the proud owner's wishes, for 110 000 Pounds), we saw normal boats which, used, were offered for about 42 000 Pounds - but then,  if you keep your eyes open, you might even find a real steal:

Britta Huegel

What impressed me?

- the starry, starry night skies

- fog on evening meadows

Britta Huegel

- dew drops in the morning

- the changing 'typical' English scenery

- the friendliness of the English people

- the 16 locks of Devizes - but they are worth a post of their own

- and, of course, my best beloved Real English Ale:

Britta Huegel

And I learned: Sometimes a woman at work is deeply misunderstood: when I for the first time steered the boat, and warbled away this sweet Moomin-quote:
'Look out for sand banks,' shouted Hodgskin. 'I want to try one. To test the hinge-and-wheel construction' ,
the two fellows of my crew got the impression that I was not doing a scientific experiment but was a damsel in distress landing on a sand bank - well, well, well - A prophet has no honour in his own houseboat   country...
- BUT I have a lot of energy, and I will never forget the face (in a distance, about 22 m apart from me) of Captain Matti, who sung soft sweet tones at the bow of our boat, and his guitar gently wept ... and I still steered, and then I accelerated, and I DID IT MY WAY - I aroused them and rocked the boat. Till then Matti didn't know me well, so he had to learn that I "never ever do nothing nice and easy / I always do it nice and rough 

I hope he has recovered from his shock and will forgive me - and, most important - will take me again to the English canals! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

River Flows In You - the Trip on a Narrowboat (Part 1)

Britta Hügel

'My houseboat,' Hodgkins said. 
'Your what?' I asked. 
'Houseboat,' Hodgskin repeated. 'A house built aboard a boat. Or a boat built beneath a house. You live aboard. Nice and practical.' 
Tove Jansson, The Exploits of Moominpappa

Catch your dream of a houseboat trip on an English canal - and you'll drop out of time. 
Yes, I'm back, my friends, but not quite - still walking a little bit above the ripple of water and waves (and fine English Ale). 
Though a houseboat is not as contemplative as everybody predicts. 
I didn't write a line, I didn't draw even one picture, I didn't read anything. 
I just WAS. THERE. In the very moment. 
(You had to be - otherwise you would bump your head at the beam of the small entrance door, or trip over the kerb of the boat - and the water in the canal was looking not that inviting...) 
Now I'll give you a super-boat-trip-recipe: 

You need
- up to 10 people (best when some children are among them, for a while) 
- travel (Holly Go)lightly 
- bring a little bit of sunshine with you 
- though no driver's licence is needed (why should you? The narrowboat is only about 72 feet (= 22m) long, so who cares?) - it is good to have a person who has done it before - we all accepted our captain Matti - and in the best of all possible worlds he will - as he is - also be a connoisseur of beers - Real English Ale - fruity beers, spicy beers, soft beers, and wild beers (I'll come to that point later, Yours Truly announces with the Cheshire cat's grin on her face.) 
- You know you are among the chosen few if you have some excellent guitar players among you, a sweet ukelele, a spectacular drummer, a great saxophonist and some singers - solo singers and background singers, all are welcomed - THEN THE BOAT WILL ROCK!  
We had all we needed: a tiny kitchen, 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

beds, two toilets and one shower (but let's keep quiet about the hair"blower", which got its "energy" from a car cigar jack...). Though I saw an alternative offer on the canal, 

Britta Huegel

I decided to go to a solid hairdresser in Devizes. 
- and we had pubs (which the French friends on the boat called in their charming French accent "pöb" (as the 'ö' in 'further') -- and for the rest of my life I will always be much more drawn into a 'pöb' than a 'pub'. 
All along the canal they invited us: open doors, fancyful decorated, and offering the widest variety of Real English Ale. 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

- And the landscape: you sit and look at the meadows that slowly slide by your side, the cows look dreamily back, the swans and ducks follow your boat, and the boat people-neighbours are oh so friendly. 

Britta Huegel

But life isn't - as every Wayward Taoist knows - only milk and honey - it is Yin and Yang: meaning: locks and swing-bridges. 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Locks are very, very hard work (as I learned on that day when we were only three people) - after 7 locks I and my knee knew what we had pushed (and please remember: I am the woman who in the fitness studio proudly pushes easily over 140 pounds on the leg press...) 
First you have to open the lock gates, klink, klink, klink, then the narrowboat enters (did I tell you that it is 22 meters long? A normal lock is 22m and 10 cm long - you just fit in). Then one has to close both sides of the lock gates again - the water rushes in (All windows and doors closed?!?) 

To prepare breakfast in the morning for ten people is a challenge - one of us even made "French toast" twice, joyously accompanied by the shrill F sharp major of the fire alarm.  

While you are anxiously waiting if  our maritim engineer (we really had one among us!) will find a way to stop that infernal alarm shreeks, I use this thrilling moment to take a little break - see you soon. 

To be continued.