Britta's Letters from her life divided between city-life in German's capital Berlin and life in a Bavarian village

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.") 
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. 


  1. If you ever go blind - and I hope you don't! - you can always return to Sylt.

    1. I don't hope that either (for safety's sake I cross myself - though I'm not a Catholic it might help). The thing was, that the island this time due to the storm was almost odourless.

    2. I should think you would be quite safe now, dear Britta. Though if you were to lose your other senses it seems your quite capable nose would not lead you astray. (Or it might, deliciously.)

      Your description of scents in this post was nothing short of subtly glorious.

    3. Dear Suze, I will not lose any of my senses (some are complaining that I hear like a bat, and see like a lynx. My father always said that he mixed his strong red worker's blood into the overbreeded aristocratic blue blood) Losing my patience, that what I fear more :-)
      Thank you that you liked my scent description!

  2. Smells really do evoke strong memories, don't they Britta ?
    ….. and, I smoked up until I was about 40 and, I sometimes get a whiff of someone smoking and it's wonderful !!! I shan't take it up again but, I do love to sit next to people who smoke !! XXXX

    1. Dear Jackie,
      scents are so evoking memories - give me the smell of boxwood in the sun and I am three years old, visiting my grandparents... I wonder whether I will take up smoking when I am very old - just because so many people are trying to tell me what is good for me... on the other hand: one doesn't smell nice.

  3. I pass a dense stand of spruce twice a week, on the way to exercise session. Some day I may be late for standing there, inhaling deeply. I like the smell of a cigarette, too, though not the smell of a cigarette smoker. And I used to smell like that.

  4. Dear Joanne,
    spruce are smelling so fresh and resinous, lovely.
    As to the smokers: yes. To think how we carelessly ("You don't mind if I smoke?" swish - on was the match) filled with smoke many a home...

  5. It sounds heavenly. I think the smell I like most is the smell of fresh mown hay. Cedar trees are right up there too. An occasional whiff from a breeze can bring such pleasant memories.

    1. Dear Emma,
      fresh mown hay has such a green and enjoyable lightly smell - it would be definitely in a perfume creation of summer. And cedar will mix in a deeper note - bliss!

  6. You call up so many lovely associations here I feel I can almost smell the aromas you describe. How sad those aromas were missing this time from your visit to Sylt, though I do hope, despite their absence, there were other pleasures to be had during your time away.

    1. Dear Susan,
      it must have been the storm (wind is almost always there, but this was really a challenge). Yes, we had a good time and did not regret the voyage - but when we left a day earlier, we didn't regret that either :-)
      Of course that whole week Berlin had sweated under the sun (being so far East - the only spot on the German map that was high and dry - in Munich they used central heating first time this year!)

  7. I know that dreamy response to someone else's ciggie! No way do I want to smoke again (I gave up nearly 30 years ago) but I still like the smell of certain cigarettes being smoked.

  8. Dear Sackerson,
    of course it is the healthy way to stop smoking (and I did it a long time ago). But it always was a sensuous experience - not only the smoking, but holding a cigarette (I often had dark brown slim ones, and deep red nails, ha) and it gave one a pause to think before one answered.
    By the way: I have difficulties to leave a comment (via Google profile) on your blog. Will try it a third time.

  9. The perfume of salt water and wild roses is incomparable. One of my favourites - I stop nearly every week on a bluff above the ocean as I drive to a work site, just to inhale deeply. Of course the seaside is prone to all the shifts of the wind, and there are times when there there is no salty tang - so sad that, with everything else you also had the disappointment of being on Sylt at one of these times.
    Who is the gorgeous person on the dune?

  10. Dear Pondside,
    I saw some of your photos on a ship - you are lucky to be so near to the sea!
    I prefer the North Sea to the (mellow) Baltic Sea ( which is only a stone's throw away from Berlin, but, for the daughter of a mariner that is only a puddle). So nothing against a rough storm or a roaring sea, for a while - but meadows weren't what I expected.
    Thank you for your kind compliment - the 'gorgeous person on the dune' is (you might have guessed :) husband. He is not vain - so we are yin and yang - but he will be happy when I pass your words on!

  11. Scents are so evocative and the ones you conjure up from your past visits extremely vivid.
    I am reminded of the words by John Masefield - Sea Fever - I am sure that you know it.
    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

    I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
    Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
    And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
    And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

    I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
    To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
    And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
    And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

    1. Dear Rosemary,
      this is one of the wonderful mornings when one gets an utterly unexpected present - thank you so much! I didn't know John Masefield's poem - and am so glad about it, that I will publish it on my poem-blog 'Happiness of the Day'. Of course I will mention you as the gracious donor. Thank you so much! xxx

    2. Dear Britta - so pleased that you enjoyed the poem - I can both smell and feel the sea when I read these words♡

    3. Me too - I gave it an 'extra' on my poem blog. Masefield is really interesting.