Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Would You Entrust this Mail Box with Your Post Ballot?


Dear You, 

I read Joanne's vibrating post about the American election and that she distrusts the post to deliver the post ballot

Here in Germany we hear about that distrust a lot, and if I were you I would walk miles to the next polling location to give my vote personally to be sure that it counts. 
But what of the old people, the infirm, or people who have or fear to catch Corona? 

In the Sunday paper "Die Welt am Sonntag" I found an interesting article about the American postal system. 

The United States Postal Service was founded by Benjamin Franklin because the 13 British colonies strived for independence. "The postal system" so the journalist Matthias Heine, "thus was older than the 1776 founded country which it served." 
And, he emphasises, it is the office the contemporary Americans trust most. 

When president Trump and administration chief Louis Joy, who was assigned by Trump,  now remove many, many mailboxes and lay up post sorting machines, Trump's political opponents see that as an attempt to manipulate the election. 
Instead of 33 million Americans who voted 2016 through mail, now - because of Corona, so Heine, it could be the double number of mail voters. 

As literary scholar (and always loving "the little peculiar things") I was amused to read that
 William Faulkner and Charles Bukowski worked in post offices while preparing to become authors. 

Faulkner opened his store only if he wanted, he played cards in the back-room while people waited outside, read the letters of other people and threw away what he thought unimportant. 
Charles Bukowski (you can read that in his novel "Post Office") worked lazily, but stayed 11 years. 
They could not fire him. 
And the journalist Heine ends his article with the words: 
"Trump would find in the novel (= Post Office) a few more good arguments for his distrust of the Postal Service." 

But don't get that journalist wrong: he is not pro-Trump. Some lines before he writes: 

"Trump has manifold insinuated that through post ballot on a massive scale it could come to massive election fraud - against him, of course" (Matthias Heine, tongue in cheek). 

Yours Truly,

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Language, Decency and Manners


Dear You, 

if you look attentively at the picture above - which shows the Victoria-Luise-Platz in Berlin, one street away from my home - you might notice a little turret with a wind vane. (I do have a much sharper photo - but can't find it in the "cloud" of my computer among those over 16.000 photos... ). 

The turret is on the house number 9 where Victoria Luise, only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II (he had six sons) lived before her marriage on 2 storeys - there she went when she wanted to be alone, without the surveillance of the Imperial Court. 

I could tell you very much about that place (and the idea of the garden design; or the inhabitants of the gorgeous houses)  - but I do not know whether you are interested in historical details. 

Half a year ago, inspired by Rachel, I started reading biographies - and find it very rewarding. 

At the moment I read the autobiography of Victoria Luise. 

I don't want to judge the interesting and well-written book in regard to the deep prominent partiality and glorification of  the Emperor and the aristocracy. 

But remarkable is the "bon ton", the decency and deep respect in which this autobiography is written. (Easy, you might say, if you live on two storeys and are the daughter of an Emperor)

But that is so different from our hysterical media-world, where in serious broadcast discussions people use words full of hate and derision and vulgarity. 

Yesterday I heard a prominent young woman call the president of a well-known country (who also uses hateful foul language) "a bag of shit" - the fact might be true - but one could word it otherwise. 

What I mean is - though I might sound very old-fashioned: I miss something:  reverence for nature, for people, for ideas (also if they aren't mine). 

I am grateful to live in a democracy where I can say everything I like - but "It's not what you say, but how you say it"

The Media in the last 20 years gives more and more attention and voice to the vulgar. That might bring higher viewing figures - as bad news do (how they gloat each evening like vultures over little ugly morsels of corona!). I honestly want to be informed, but I don't want to be incited - thus I often choose to read a good newspaper instead. 

Sorry that I moan so much this time (which I seldom do, as you know). 

But I wish: 

Let decency, respect, democratic thinking, tolerance, awe for the beauty of creation come back

Mankind is fallible and weak - always was - and power and greed corrupts many.  I am not naive. 

Yet I hope. 

What is your opinion? I am really interested! 

Yours Truly 


Sunday, 23 August 2020



Dear You, 

yes, you were right: I took the strange photo in the Netherlands, and yes: I took it because it really reminded me of Magritte. 
It is the enclosure of the huge terrace of the house in Zoutelande (the other walls are covered with plants and trees) - but I will not show you a photo of that, though I have lovely ones - I want to keep the atmosphere enigmatic. 

For me that photo also is a sort of symbol for how I feel in Corona-times: 
I know that I live in very lucky circumstances (though as everyone I have my share of sorrows). 
Yet even the nicest place - and I count Zoutelande in Zeeland as one of those, and the fine hot weather was the cherry on top of the cream - often gives me at the moment the feeling of being "walled in" (though beautiful and with sun and an almost pink sky). 
Well, I will not be the only person who feels it - 
and life goes on - as the windmill above, built in 1722! which is still in use. 

You might remember: I am a wayward taoist - believing in Yin and Yang, "What goes up/ must come down" - and 
Though Corona gives that knowledge a little kink --- the way David Bowie sings:  

(Turn and face the strange)
(Just gonna have to be a different man)
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same. 

If you like: come and sing along, and I send you my best wishes! 
Toodle-pip!    Britta 


Friday, 21 August 2020

Wednesday, 12 August 2020


Dear You, 

do you remember how exciting in Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice" the purchase of hats for the five sisters was? And so costly, that some years they must do with new ribbons to pep the old hat up. 

Yesterday in Delft I suddenly saw the sort-of-hat I had tried to order online, twice - and every time it was "Sold out" - 

here you see it on my knee (with the dress), it shows the colour better. 

and it was just in that pale blue that I wanted! 
Although till now I have kept my resolution not to buy new clothes this year, I became "hairsplitting": a hat is not a dress - a hat is a hat is a hat...

So I bought it - the shop assistant cried: "Oh, just the same lovely blue as in your dress!
Come to think of it: I was in Delft, famous for it's Delft blue pottery... 

I am 1.78m, so: tall. Which is a good thing for such a hat: I had never imagined when I looked on the photos online that it is so big! 

It is VERY helpful in this heat. What do you do to cool off a bit? 

Yours Truly, Britta 

Monday, 10 August 2020

A Walk in the Morning


Dear You, 

because of the heat I went quite early in the morning -- come to think of it: not THAT early, it's holiday time -- to the wilder part of the dunes here in Noordwijk - and again the mysterious thing happened: 
one is almost alone. 

Of course even then I remain on the paths that are allowed to be walked on. 
Sometimes the sand is thick - that's why today I had a big blister on my right foot: a little grain of sand had dropped into my shoe...  

So this morning for the first time in my life I walked on flip-flops into the village (I bought the second pair in my whole life here to use it - sometimes - on the strand, when the seashells are too pricky and cut into my feet). 
The chemist's offered "Two for one"-packs of blister-protecting plaster, which I bought - hoping that I will not need all of them -  because tomorrow we will visit Delft! 
(And you will not see me with flip-flops there!)

I walked along a little wood with many pineapples on the ground, 


saw seabuckthorne that (sadly) no-one will gather to make syrup from 

and at the end of the walk some beautiful houses facing the sea - this one is "Te koop!" - you can buy it 
(I think I can't ­čśŐ) 

Well, I love the sight of it, and that is that. 

I wish you a beautiful day - and share with you what I just found out (and maybe million of Chinese before me) that helps me when I am tired at the end of the day because of the heat: 

I drink a cup of hot green tea (which I normally do not like very much - I'm a fan of fine Drajeeling or honest red British brick-brew that you call "English Breakfast Tea", with milk and sugar ). 

Yours Truly, 

PS: Can anybody tell me how I can watch "preview" on the new blogger? I tick on it - it says: preview will be prepared - and then: nothing happens. 

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

"This is not a pipe" - but it is a Castle, I insist.

Dear You,

"This", said the Flying Dutchman with a stubborn sub-tone in his voice, "this is NOT a castle!" 

Well - well - well - 
but IT IS

This is "Schlo├č Paretz" - a classicist castle in the little village Paretz (in Ketzin/Havel) which the Prussian King Wilhelm III. ordered to be buildt in 1797 (it was a manor before, so the Dutchman is right too).  
The King used it for himself and his wife as a summer residence when they wanted to be far away from the ceremonial life at the Court in Berlin. 

The interior was designed by David Gilly - it had fine unadorned furniture, made with good craftsmanship. 
Outstanding are the very beautiful(and soon famous) wallpapers which even survived the years of the GDR. (After the Red Army the GDR used the castle for the VFB Tierzucht (= animal breeding). 
Some wallpapers were imported from China, many came from Paris or Berlin,  
painted or printed, 

Schlo├č Paretz had beautiful castle grounds (after the English model)- a lot of it was torn down after 1945. 
Otherwise I would have liked to show you that - maybe in winter? - on a tour with one of the funny sledges 

- though, come to think of it: maybe today some other iconoclasts might throw this one into a river, so it is safer to choose the chaise or carriage: 

At least we are able to see the church: 
It stems from the Middle Ages, some frescoes are still there, but the church you see nowadays is from 1797/98. 

The contemporaries called castle Paretz "Schloss-Still-Im-Land" - Castle-Silent- in-the Country". 
The charming sleepy village Paretz is still ...silent. ..

But the King and his wife Luise could rest, and play. 
So they had fun - 
which I wish you too. 

Yours Truly, Britta 

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Have You Ever Been to Brandenburg?

Dear You, 

you might have wondered where I have been - sorry to write so late - but I was lost in Brandenburg (a joke that only insiders might understand): Brandenburg is the (charming) "waste-land" around Berlin. 
Rainald Grebe, a German comedian, wrote a very angry song about it ("take something to eat with you/ we drive to BRANDENBURG"). 

But I think it is very beautiful, a lot of nature around. 

Huge woods:

and woods with fields (at the moment sunflowers) 

and ripe crops....

                                                   .... and woods .....

But they have also many castles, some I will show you next time. 

Till then:  Toodle-pip! 

Yours truly