Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 23 December 2017

I Believe in What I See

©Brigitta Huegel

I always knew: HE REALLY EXISTS! 

Admitted: he works under a few aliases - in the Netherlands he calls himself SINTERKLAAS, and as a man with a full agenda he visits the children earlier than in Germany or Great Britain.
Netherlanders will not tire to tell you about their historical influence in America - think of Niuew Amsterdam (later changed to New York) - and so you will easily see the metamorphosis from Sinterklaas to SANTA CLAUS.

In the Netherlands he arrives at December 5th, and he comes in a steamship from Spain - in pakjesboat 12.
His companion is de ZWARTE PIET (the Black Peter) - and in our hyper-politically-correct time poor Piet (being black and stereotyped) has a lot of hostilities to endure. He tries to convince his adversaries that he is only black because he comes through the chimney, and only all that soot, this fine particulaired matter, is blackening his face, but a lot of grown-ups shout: "Don't pull that black wool over our eyes!" The Mayor of Dordrecht, where Sinterklaas' boat landed this year, manly forbade a demonstration against Piet.
(Nothing new under the sun: in Delft (Netherlands) in 16th century all Sinterklaas-festivities were prohibited. But then, in 19th century, the man in the red cloak with those cute silky white long curls was everywhere accepted, and utterly loved by the children).

My childlike soul still believes in decency, trustworthiness and uprightness.
And in love.

And so it is no surprise that I saw HIM:
Sinterklaas walked through the heavy snow that fell on the Netherlands (as in England).
Walked towards the North Sea to his ship.
And: He was alone.
I could not see de Zwarte Piet.

But then, admidst the heavy snowflakes, a second person materialized - and I understood: SINTERKLAAS, the saintly and sly old fox was so much smarter than his adversaries!!!

Look -- yes! -- trust your eyes: his new political absolutely correct companion is ---

                                                               A WOMAN! 

©Brigitta Hügel

(Ok, Ok - I see that he is also a faithful man: there is a black person in front of him - and yes: it might be de Zwarte Piet...) 

Dear Bloggers, whereever you are in the world: 

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Yours, Britta                     PS: Believe me - wonders do happen! 

Friday, 1 December 2017

How to Catch a Dutch Owl (so necessary in December)

©Brigitta Huegel

Dear You, 

for me one of the most fascinating aspects of learning a new language is that it allows me glimpses into the character and poetic heart of another nation and culture.
The idioms, the proverbs, the sayings - daily life dances in new clothes!

So I learned a lot Dutch expressions for "THE NAP". (An endangered pleasure...)
Of course you can use the common word: "een dutje" - BUT: how much more vivid and colourful is the older phrase: "een uiltje knappen" - and though the experts quarrel about the first meaning (maybe something with catching a "butterfly"), there is no denying that "uiltje" is the owl that the exhausted man or woman is trying to catch... feathery...soft...tiny...and evasive...
There are many more ways to say (or hide) how you will spent your time after lunch -
but even my Dutch docent was flabbergasted when I served her my finest find:

"Ik ga een Engelse brief schrijven"
- isn't that a very genteel way to hide the truth of napping?

To write an ENGLISH letter (or better: write a letter in English)
is evidenty such a difficult affair

that absolutely nobody should dare to disturb your concentration!

          zz .. 


Friday, 24 November 2017

Bungee-jumping at the FU Berlin?

©Brigitta Huegel

I agree.
This building looks as crazy (and funny) as my newest project. It is a building on the campus of the FU Berlin. Where I study now:
yes - since October I study at the Freie Universität Berlin.

"What?", you may ask, "what???"

I hope you ask what is the subject of my studies.
It is the philology & languange I think so very cute, surprising, powerful, studded with humour - and very, very sexy. I am speaking of Niederlandistik.
I love, love, love it.
3 times a week (and very early too) I learn to pronounce the "cchhh" and all the other interesting sounds, fricatives and spirants - and that, Dear You, is only the tip of the iceberg - I have to learn many many hours, and you see me mumbling Dutch words in the subway ("Ja hoor" - I use every occasion to practise).

As much as I love (and laugh with) Virginia Ironside, I disagree with her in one point (when she writes in "No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub"):

"But it is too late!" I argued. "That's what's so great about being old. You no longer have to think about going to university, or go bungee-jumping! It's a huge release! I've been feeling guilty about not learning another language for most of my adult life. At last I find that now, being old, I don't have to! There aren't enough years left to speak it. It'd be pointless."

She is 59 when she writes that.
I might agree with her on bungee-jumping (though last Sunday I danced together with other models for two hours over the catwalk; will tell you soon) -
but learning a new language is pure bliss!

A whole new world is opening up!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Travelling for almost one and a half month,

... but I do not want to bore you, so just follow me on a little photo-tour!

1. The Narrow-Boat-Tour in England,

         ... beautiful and with a lot of exhausting locks:

                  Big fun with many international good friends,
                                                      and culture as in Cambridge and York:

                       ...and breathtaking landscapes:


2. Then from a cottage in the Peak District

                        Wonderful trips to gardens, castles and parks,

                           ... and an Edwardian Opera House in Buxton:

3. Then visiting the beautiful Netherlands:

4. Followed by the Book Fair in Frankfurt:

5. and a visit to Darmstadt:

6. and the Allgäu:

Now I am home again in Berlin -
and will tell you of my new adventures soon!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Customer-friendly? I wouldn't bet on it!

©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,
yes - of course I have a more precise photo for this blog-post, but the proprietor of this shop for framing pictures might complain - he is very good at that.
Never in my life have I met a shopkeeper who repels his customer more than he does.
Three times I have been in his shop - and each time I came out without service or a frame, but half-deaf ears and lost time.
While he was grinning in a way that I can only describe as "satisfied, triumphant".
First time: "No, we could not repair that frame. It would cost you too much."
(Honestly: he only had to paint a bit of black shelack on it - I could have done that myself - and might, come to think of it: a few drops of black nail-varnish might solve the problem).
He did not even name a sum and then ask me, if I would be willing or able to pay it!
Second time: "No, we do not mount (is that the word?) cinema-posters anymore - it is so much work!" (Honestly: in my youth I have learned to do it myself - it is a bit of work, but not that much - and: this is a handyman's shop for framing! He owns a press!)
And the third time he said to a little photo-framing-job: "But you have to come till tomorrow - after that we are away for holidays, hahaha!"
AND THEN he started to complain: that the Internet is ruining his shop.
And that people and times are no longer what they once were...
And that all the young people would learn in a horrible way how their internet-fixation will ruin the world, their life, and then they will see and regret - "too late, haha!"!
(At that time I had reached the door and slipped out of this dear olde shoppe).

I might have mentioned before that one of my favourite quotes is:
"Turdus ipse sibi malum cacate" -
"The thrush shits her misfortune herself", loosely translated -
and yes: it sounds more elegant in Latin   :-)
The quote means, that birds eat the sticky white berries of the mistletoe - and then men make birdlime of this shit and catch them.

He does the same, yet blames the shitty Internet!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

I Feel Over-Protected!

Dear You, 
in these political hot times it might sound VERY strange to complain "I feel overprotected!" - but I do, in Germany more and more. The "Jugendwahn" now leads to infantilism - and people are treated like half-wits... 

Look at this: 

Speechless... (I just see: it is difficult to read - though: in three languages...). It is a detailed manual how to put on your tights/ pantyhose). 

I am inclined to write a sarcastic Thank-You-letter.  

"Dear Sir, 
thank you oh so much for your help to put on this enigmatic garment! 
Without your instructions I would still be standing in my master's bedroom, vulnerable, freezing, all up in tears! 
"How", I would ask myself, "how will I ever be able to manage this?" 
A thousand thanks! 
A deeply contented customer. 

PS: Might I ask your permission to offer seminars and tutorials on this delicate subject? 

On Facebook I found this (sorry, do not know who did it or where it came from):   

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Quest for Beauty

©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,

when I took this photograph in the Botanical Garden in Berlin, I was a bit agitated because a guard of the museum had behaved very, very strange. 

Now Beauty is a wonderful device for me to calm down. 
I loved the clear white of the waterlilies. 
Took a few more pictures of them - and only now, at home, I saw, that Beauty was not alone. 

©Brigitta Huegel

Not everybody is endowed with beauty - (though, as we all know, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and maybe the frog here is King of the Pond, and every female frog crazy about him and the deep croaking sound of his ballooned cheeks ) - so the ugly does persue beauty intensely, and tries everything to possess it - look at the waterlily above, up in the left corner! 

©Brigitta Huegel

Well, I walked on, searching for perfection. 

I was not alone: 

©Brigitta Huegel

Sunday, 6 August 2017

You Have to Accept a Low Blow in Order to Survive

... And Stand Up Again. 

Dear You, 

in the exhibition "Third Landscape" by Volker Kreidler they show betwitching photos of the vegetation around Chernobyl.

"Reports of vegetation in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl have been increasing over the last few years. While flora and fauna are apparently returning, paradoxes in the natural gene pool have been observed. Despite the radiation, a self-generating ecosystem with high viability is forming in the area. New, healthy trees are growing and replacing dead forests. Lynx and other rare animal species are settling again."

(See the full quote on this photo):

At home I stirred pensively the girolles/chanterelles in my pan - they were coming from a country where - so they had told us - after Chernobyl the decay period would last for a time with so many zeroes following the 1 that I could neither imagine nor pronounce it...

The human mind and the human heart easily forgets, I mused.
That may be necessary to survive. Sometimes you have to be able to forget (at least: not think about it every day) - otherwise you will go mad.
Of course one can wish and pray that mankind gets more reasonable (though at the moment the world does not look like this - yet: has it ever?).
"The lynx, the wolves, the Przewalski horses, the bison, the moose, the wild boars roam through the area again." 

I might join them - I am a part of nature.

Interesting though:
when I looked closely at a leaf from a "healthy tree" from that area, I saw:
1) it was THERE, the leaf, the tree - and its existence I call a wonder.
2) Yet to believe that it survived without a wound - that would be naive.
You have to accept change   -   you have to change, you have to muster all your strength, you have to get up again, though you are tired - only then you have a chance to survive.
Admittedly: it hurts.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Man, machines, robots, scammers...

Dear You,
actually I only wanted to buy a book on Dutch, but when I walked along the Friedrichstraße I saw that there was an exhibition "Ars Electronica" in the DRIVE Volkswagen house.
You might know that one of my Moomin Valley mottos is:
"But then, noone can have more fun as he creates himself" (my translation from German, which is in my modest opinion more to the point - in English they translate: "But then, everyone has to make what he can out of life." which of course is true too)  
and I went in, Tot straks! (as the Dutch say, and here you might guess what I am learning now :-)
I stayed over one and a half hour inside that exhibition - so fascinating!
Very diverse topics - all about the idea "What if there would be no clear distinction between man and machine?" 
Here you see the penguins which moved according to your movements in front of them - only the young visitors (and Yours Truly) jumped up and down, and one of my results you see below (that silhouette seems to indicate that I must have added a few pounds in Amsterdam...)

©Brigitta Huegel

Wich I did not! 

©Brigitta Huegel

Tomorrow more from your half-robot (no, I am not sin soleng!) 

A PS especially for Joanne: See?!?    :-)

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Silent Traveller

©Britta Huegel

Hi, Dear You, 
it's me.
(Thanks to Rosemary's comment - wich you can read below - I changed now the beginning of my text, because I evidently quoted a scammer).
I have now visited  Paris and Amsterdam - both oh so lovely! - but did not feel like writing about it (same phenomenon with Venice this year, you rember?)
And so I stopped writing at all. 
I had to do a lot to work on my professional project (the world is small: while doing research I unexpectedly unearthed a blogpost of John Gray - about Hinterland!)
But now I think: I'll just skip Paris and Amsterdam (I am old enough to do as I please).
I'll remain a "Silent Traveller" (which is by the way a phantastic series of older books, written by Chiang Yee) - but will "Rise and Shine" again - on these pages of "Dear You".
See you (hopefully again).

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Beware of the Great Preachers of Nothing!

Dear You,

These three little amber flowers above were the answer to a sympton that I watch Argus-eyed when it occurs: Caution! when books with titles like this attract me:

(There are hundreds of them in bookshops - instead of being minimalistically thrown away they slouch on a bench or table - and as Tom Stephenson in one of his recent blogs ranted: They are utterly daft!)
Why are they - at certain times - singing like Loreley from the height of the bookshelves to me?
Whispering: "Throw everything away - life will be simple then - just do it!"
Maybe because at such a weak moment my life is overflowing with THINGS, like here:

How come? Me - having written a groundbreaking book on good housekeeping?
(Well - a signpost does not have to run himself, as dear Monsieur J.J. Rousseau said, when he put his five children one after another through a baby flap of an orphanage, then writing the worthy pedagogical  book "Émile ou De l'Education")
No: normally my flat is full of harmony and beauty.
But I had subscribed for the "Berliner Tagesspiegel" - a newspaper which arrives daily, even on Sunday - and I still have to find a way to turn that flow from toil to joy.
What vexes me in books on minimalism: the writer takes photos of all his objects that he discards - letters, things, whatsoever.
Mmm, mmm, mmm - here I protest: he ignores all the sensual, haptic feelings! To look at a flowers on Instagram: haha, poor sod! To look through that silly Card-Board Brille 3D Google Virtual Reality - instead of touching or loving a woman - Geez!
He imprisons all poor things - and senses! - into his posh Macbook!
Not for me, Great Preacher of Nothing, I mumble - and walk to the Bernsteinzimmer, a little shop right beside the KaDeWe. Normally it is crowded with Chinese tourists - they buy amber - as the shopowner tells me - because they believe that amber is good for their health.
Defiantly I buy three (3!!!) little amber flowers - carved out of amber, nothing to be utilised, only beautiful -- something that the GPoN would throw out immediately with a derisive laugh.
I cherish them.
And throw out the heap of old Berliner Tagesspiegel instead - singing a song of the Rolling Stones, that - luckily! - I have kept in my CD-rack: "Who wants yesterdays papers?"
Then I have room again for "Sitting on my Sofa" - a song of the Kinks on a CD I luckily kept in my overflowing CD-rack...
And leaf through a new book, with the alluring title:


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Flowers everywhere - look, Maria Sibylla Merian!

Dear You, 

May does not need me - May just is
If you wonder what I'm talking about: each day I stop for a few minutes at my neighbour's garden  - enjoying the results of her toil for free - though I pay abundantly with praise. (Once I thought that I had invented a new profession: The True Praiser. (Lauder) People, I thought, might book me and hear what they are so thirsty for: real, genuine (!) praise of things they have accomplished - things everybody takes for granted, or, worse, does not even notice). Maybe I should create a Start Up?                                Anyone interested out there?
No - May does not need any praise - it is overwhelming HERE with its abundance of roses, iris, elder.
Bathes us  in huge clouds of perfume, showers us with sun shine, dries us with hot air - and the song of the birds come for free. Such a bliss  - and life is beautiful!
As you know I have a deep interest in flowers and plants - as a gardener, botanist and ardent admirer. I take photographs of flowers - which sometimes I like quite well - and sometimes I also paint some, though here you can foolishly hear me mumble: "Not real Art. Nice, yes, but.. artisan craftwork at it's best."
Views not shared completely  by Albrecht Dürer, who retorts: "For truly, art is rooted in nature, and whoever can draw it out, has it". 
Yet often flowers were used by artists as background painting (I "collect" them with my camera - only the flower, not the whole painting).
At the moment a beautiful exhibition on "MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN and the Tradition of Flower Painting" is shown at the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Maria Sibylla Merian was an highly gifted painter of flowers - and a very remarkable woman.
She died 300 years ago. (!!)
The exhibition starts with a broad overview of floral book illustrations of the 15th century, nature studies from Dürer's time and apothecary books from early 16th century, and wonderful portrayals of flowers by the famous Georg Flegel.
As Sibylla, they all painted insects too - but as the first mosquitos and wasps have already arrived, I am not keen on them.
Yes: flower painting is beautiful, and sometimes Art. And often surprising too: you might have seen Rachel's phantastic little drawings of flowers - especially the poppies got me, done in nail varnish, and I look musingly at "Chili Bean", my voluptious dark red nail varnish - which I seldom use, because Life is too Short to spend time on repairing flaking nail varnish in my active life. There might be a better way to use it?
Anyway:  I bought a season ticket for our Botanical Garden.
Nice to meet you - hope you guess my name! (I'm just sitting on a fence!)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Paris - In a Limited Edition!

Dear You, 

maybe I told you - and maybe not, because I am a cautious woman - that in a time not that far away I will go to Paris.
So I was very happy to find in a Berlin drugstore a "Limited Edition" of -

Extra dedicated to PARIS! 

Oh là là! 
But was my utterance correct? Am I prepared? 
In genuine concern the loo paper roll asks me, again and again:"Parlez-vous Francais?"  

"Mais oui, mon chéri; bien sur, mon chéri; come tu veux, mon chéri!" 
This last sample of my perfect French is a quote of my friend Christine, who told me of a Lady - I anonymise the nationality intentiously, but it starts with an "R" - who desperately wanted to marry a rich Frenchman.
And she found one.
And the three sentences above are all she ever utters - and, SISTERS: there are quite a lot of men - and not only in France -  (dear male readers excepted, of course)-  who agree instantly that this is all French or whatsoever you need to know!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Hello, It's Me... (Britta, not Adele)

©Brigitta Huegel
Dear You,

what you see above is - in my eyes - a little wonder.
This geranium - which a professional would call pelargonium, I know that, but using the "common word" is my way of trying to convince you that I really try to give up being perfect :-)  - well, this little "twig" of the geranium on my balcony broke off when I decided to give it more space, meaning: I took the plant out of its little pot and into a window box.
More earth to spread its little roots, more space to unfold its little leaves, more freedom.
In Germany we have a saying: "Where wood is chopped, splinters must fall"
So here I had that "splinter" with two little tight white buds in my hand.
And thought: "We'll see". (As you all know I am quite good in finding meaning and detecting symbols everywhere).
And put it into the turquoise-blue bird bath.
And then it happened - and, oh yes, in my eyes it took quite a long time, felt like two years - but suddenly it opened its little petals, unrolled them, seemed to say: "Well, circumstances are not as I  expected them to be - but hark! (I love to strew in a hark in my blog from time to time!) - they are not bad. So: I decide to flower in my circumstances as they are now." 
(At this moment I might have lost The Last Reader, hearing him mumble: What is that woman talking about?) 
Well, here I sit, "in the world of the ten-thousand things", and adjust to the truism that "life is not all neat and tidy".
I have thought very hard about my blogs - about the way I will write them. For me it is easy to talk about the newest exhibition in the marvelous Barberini Museum in Potsdam, but that is not enough for me. Yet also I do not want to write my Dear Diary into the air (or Cloud, or whatsoever, Howling at the Moon, just to sprinkle in a touch of modernity by a new pop-song) - no, I want a mixture of all Dear Life that surrounds me, filling me up to the brim sometimes, and show you what everyone sees, but filtered through my eyes.

Today promises to become the second really summerly day in Berlin - we had 27 degree yesterday, in May!
And yesterday evening I was sitting on my balcony, had lit a pale blue candle, a tiny glass of red wine in my hand, looking into the sky which was just preparing for the night: still pale blue at the horizon, and darker above - when a voice came from the flat above me: "Britta?"
As I am a very, very northern girl, coming from Bremen, I love my privacy - meaning: for me the balcony, which has a roof (!), is like a chamber to me - absolutely private.
And you could only see a hand of mine, from above, not more.
So I stayed silent.
"Britta? Are you alright?" 
No way to hide. Yes, my dear neighbour, I appreciate that you are caring - I really do, and thank you for that! - I can assure you - and  everyone:

"Yes - I am alright."  

Toodle pip! 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Just Jump!

I always liked the motto of Mr. Disraeli: "Never complain, never explain" -
I will take the secod half of it (never was a complainer).
So: think of Agatha Christie's disappearance for a few days (and honestly: what is a month? These days it flashes past like a few days...)

I found a wonderful little sketch in the great book
           "Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered"
by (beloved) Quentin Blake and John Cassidy (

It is so useful - not only for drawing,
no: for our whole life!

You are allowed to fill this space (and the page this drawing is printed on is four times larger!) with comments on my absence.
I will read them diligently. (Though I cannot decipher them :-)

And then Í will start to write another post. As if nothing has happened. (Though it has. All is well).

Yes, I decided to jump right in. (Otherwise I might never start again).

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Last Confetti from Venice

©Brigitta Huegel

Here - to end my report on Venice - a few confetti-like impressions which I especially remember.
(Honestly: you don't really want to see my 720 photos and listen to the description of every church or painting or Guggenheim we visited - at least 13 km walk every day, not included the vaporettos - even after three pictures of the wonderful marble floors that were everywhere you would politely yawn and remember your appointment at eleven, Pooh-bear-way).

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

because, somehow, they might look all the same to you_ 

©Brigitta Huegel

I will remember:

- the smell --- water against old buildings, a musky mouldering smell - smell activates the memory of the very first time as a child in Venice
- the glitter on the often surprisingly bright turquoise water, and the very blue sky

©Brigitta Huegel

- tons and tons of gold - on stucco, on buildings, on paintings
- the beautiful old ladies in their huge furs (it WAS cold), yet wearing thin silk stockings. Venice has a very vivid timeless elegance - both: the (often old) people and this old city do LIVE, thank you very much!

©Brigitta Huegel

- the almost "fop" elegance of the men - beautiful patterned pencil-case thin cloaks they wore, utterly beautiful shoes (go in rags in Berlin and nobody will care - come as what the Berliner thinks of as "overdressed" - and they will stare).
- the long, long "Lido" where we took a very long walk in bright sunshine along the turquoise sea, crunching shells under our feet - I picking up shells -- just can't resist - which is for the grown-up persons accompaniyng me sometimes a bit trying... shall I keep the bizzare one, the interesting black one or - the pink one? And of course this child woman was utterly convinced to have found a rough piece of jade, which grown-up eyes tried to disenchant into "a piece of old glass formed by the sea" (let them talk... the lump of jade lies on my windowsill now, together with the - of course pink - shell...)
- the Venetian dialect: WONDERFUL! That is the Italian I had wanted to learn! (In Berlin I left after the second Italian course and after having visited Rome -- but now: two days ago I unpacked my Italian school books and will start again - uno, due tre!)
- My unability to laugh with all the other visitors in the Doge's Palace, when we were in the "interrogation" room.

©Brigitta Huegel

The guide made a little joke, and I, being normally a person who laughs easily, looked at those awfully low cells, the walls breathing out suffering, and icy cold. I looked longingly through the window,

©Brigitta Huegel

and silently congratulated my brother Casanova, who managed to escape. So close together: utterly horrible conditions - and golden splendour - and how easy it is to fall from the hight of luxurious abundance into this prisonal black, bleak despair.

©Brigitta Huegel

©Brigitta Huegel

- If I would live in Venice, I soon would have a problem: not much nature.Two parks, very few trees, a few seagulls. You can give me all the Tintorettos, and the gold, and the theatro Venice: after a few weeks I would heavily cry for a forest, or at least a garden.

©Brigitta Huegel

- a surprise were the quite low prices in restaurants, and even more in those funny little cafés, were "the typical Italian" hastens in, grabs a tramezzino, washes it down with an espresso - and out he is again - quick, quick!
- And with this beautiful little "discolo" - wind-bag - for only 1 Euro - and so delicious! - I leave you, my Dear You - this should have been more than enough as an appetizer for Venice...

©Brigitta Huegel

Yours Truly (a humble tourist among others)

©Brigitta Huegel