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

Monday 30 November 2020

Contact Restrictions of a Special Sort


30th November --- The supermarkets silently have raised the sum you can spend with a credit card without using your PIN - (45 Euro now). Till The Plague Germany was the country of cash - the Flying Dutchman always aghast, because in the Netherlands you even pay for five bonbons with your card (Memo to myself: should avoid self-censorship by turning harmless use of "five acid drops" to even more harmless "bonbons" - fearing unwelcome associations .. the Netherlands with their free grass politic...) If you pay cash in NL and the sum is "0.36 Euro" they round up to 40 cents (the Dutch always were great merchants!)
In Germany you had to spend hours in the queue before the till because a person tried to hand over the exact sum of money - "Wait!", fumble, fumble, "I think I have it exactly fitting..." fumble, fumble, then, after felt ten minutes: "Oh no, doesn't match!" and uttering a little (lonely) pearl of laughter hands over a 10-Euro note. Now Grim Covid educates the Germans moneywise... 

See that little wallet-safe above? I bought it for my credit cards, but didn't use it - until some weeks ago Francine and I sat at Ishin, the Japanese restaurant. The waitress took my credit card - and stopped midway: "What? I did not even put it on the cash-reader - and yet it has already deducted the sum!" 
Oh! - I became quiet...thought... I mean: I live in Berlin... to avoid a shit-storm I want to phrase it politically correct: we have a very mixed public... thimblerigger playing their criminal games on the Ku'damm, though it is legally forbidden ("C'mon", laughs permissive Berlin - "that is piffle, look at our clans which work in other dimensions, think of the recent Great Treasure-Robbery in Dresden...) 
But "Many a little makes a mickle" (or as we Germans say: "Small livestock also make dung-shit"). 
The thimbleriggers do not care about contact restriction, they search contact -"Oh, sorry!" - having this little cash reader in their pocket which can work without the contact of a card - hoho. 
From that day of satori, Enlightenment, I use my beautiful Wedgwood-blue security cardholder - you bet!



Sunday 29 November 2020

How to Stay Supple Through Pre-Christmas Season


29th November --- Got this funny drawing per WhatsApp. (Query: Why? Is it tongue in cheek - or just funny? Muse on humour as a funny thing...)

Translation (utterly superfluous for Yoga-afficionados): Die Tanne = the fir; Der Braten = the roast; Die Waage = the scales; Die Kerze = the candle. 

Take out my appointment book and write: "Cancel Fitness-Studio", though I would love to be there, being unsporting since February. Before work-out with weight 3 times a week. Now my muscles try to impersonate a jellyfish (Memo to myself: Try not to overdramatise - at least I do around 10.000 steps a day. With FFP2 as an extra-weight). 

So:                        Happy Supple First Sunday in Advent! 

Saturday 28 November 2020

Let There be Light - but not too much, please.


photo by Britta, chandelier 10 times brighter 

November 28th ---
All morning busy. My "Good-man-for-the-house" (have to remind me to become more careful with language: first I wrote "I was busy with" - which might be a quite harmless half-sentence, but as today I made a big blunder (in German language!) my confidence is shaken. 

I said to him: "First we'll have to have a test-run in the bedroom" - thinking  of my beautiful net curtain and KNOWING that I spoke of them before - but of course he grasped the chance for a wicked manly laugh.

So: he is an all-round talent and helps me with those things I myself do not dare to tackle - which are not many, but I my rooms are about 4m high and there is no one around to pick me up IF... I learned - late in life, but better now than never - to require help if I need it. (Memory to myself: The art is to have the insight that I need it - I am still a bit megalomanic). 

But a very high ladder intimidates me. 

It was the third time he moved up to change the chandelier bulbs - they were still too glaring, they bit into the eyes - 18 bulbs gave me the brightness I missed before - but their intensity was too much... 

Now it is better, but still not good - so a moment ago I ordered via Amazon chandelier bulbs that I can dim. I did not know that they exist - I mean those you can work with a remote control - because before I had looked at the fine stucco on the ceiling and thought: I do not want a cable above! 

Ha - now I am wiser - and he likes to come - even if it means to climb the ladder the forth time. 

Friday 27 November 2020

Finger exercises 2: Eating at Home


photo Britta Hügel

26th November --- Wonderful lunch with my friend Francine. Wednesday "in normal times" is the day we meet at a restaurant - often at the excellent and very reasonable priced Japanese restaurant "Ishin" (sporting the secret charme of a disinfected third class waiting room), and on special occasions we book a table ("YES - for only two persons...Yes.. and please in the rear of the restaurant, we don't want to sit in that draught of the entrance door") "Colette" of Tim Raue: a celebrity cook who makes it possible for ordinary mortals to pay his bill by offering "business-lunch". (Business-lunch exists on an exceptional broad scale in Berlin). 

Cannot suppress the feeling of sadness that so many restaurants will be forced to close forever now - so very, very unfair, because they did so much to keep us safe - bought expensive air cleaners, put distance between the tables thus reducing the number of (paying) guests to half, the waiters, almost fainting, had to wear masks all day long, collected lists with names and address of the guests (among them an astonishingly plenty of Smiths and Joneses), and, and, and - yet nothing helped. 

Yes, government will support them - they talk about an 'anticipated payment' of 10.000 Euro - but that is the crux: politicians talk and promise, while administration is busy to create application forms in an even more cryptic language. 

Well, we mustn't forget: the legal profession has to live too. 

And, as the proprietor of more than one posh restaurant in Berlin yesterday on TV said: 10.000 Euro will be just  enough to pay his 80 employees for one (!) day.

Yesterday, when Angela Merkel gave us new orders how to live till Christmas and New Year,  I saw on TV Tim Mälzer (another famous German cook, the forename Tim must be a guarantee for gourmet success ) - he resembles a bear, and that fine figure of a man, always an optimist and a doer - struggled to gain his composure, chin quavering, eyes filling with tears - he left the discussion forum for a break - men still don't cry -- though we all did cry with him.  

Well, Francine and I, accepting the inevitable of restaurants closed, rushed instead to Butter-Lindner at the Wittenberg Platz - an exquisite delicatessen - because we wanted to celebrate the now so rare occasion when we can meet each other. 

Then back to my apartment - I give it three stars: very good ambience, lovely food. No draught.  

We dined and then chatted till 7 o'clock pm (meeting at 13:15). 

Not to be able to hug each other when we parted is absolutely sad. 

Thursday 26 November 2020

Finger Exercises 1: Sleep

November  25th. --- Wake up very early this morning - a quarter past 5. Why? I think, staring into the dark sky of Berlin, no star to be be seen today - Why?  

I might sleep as long as I want to, because a week ago I took my heart into both hands, or better: one, because in the other hand I carried the dustbin on my way down to the cellar where the 6 big dustbins for the whole house stand (the two for plastic constantly overflowing). 

In the courtyard a week ago I had heard steps behind me - AND THOSE STEPS I KNOW! 

The Flying Dutchman calls the owner of these steps "Pantoffeli". The Dutch have the tendency to make everything small and harmless by adding the syllable "-je" to it (a diminutive as "- let" in English) - and the Dutch use it in abundance, living in a small-sized country. 

Pantoffel might be translated to "clogs" in English (though I remember the old English word "pantofle") 

I say Hi and try to put some warmth into my eyes. In daytime neighbour is unremarkable, but at night he turns into a monster - murders my sleep with wooden clogs in the apartment over my head.  

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! I sit bolt-upright in my bed. Every night, at least two times, at least since a year - yet I cannot get used to it.  At three o'clock it's prostate-time: Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! For me the perfect moment to send out Red-golden Love to all Beings in the World - yet that often fails because I am at the same time busy with incarnating a pressure cooker before explosion. 

To cut a long story short: I spoke to him. 

Very very friendly (as no-one loves to be rebuked). Not his fault, oh no, I say - of course he is a free man who can do as he wants - and nothing to complain about clogs in broad daylight (which is almost the truth), but at night... could he be so kind and spare a HSP like me, a fragile little woman (here I try to hunch my 1.78m  a bit) that stomping at night? Entirely my fault, I repeat, and the fault of a typical Berlin pre-WWII-residential building with beautiful parquet (Query: do I overdo it and sound like Hyacinth Bucket?), and  could he kindly change his clomps to bedroom slippers at night? 

He smiles benignantly at me. Had I but spoken up earlier! he says. I button my lips, because three years ago I had - which gave me more than one year of undisturbed sleep, then he must have discovered his favourite Pantoffel again ... 

And away he walks, rattling with his knight's armour ... can I trust my eyes: is he emanating a weak aureole of Red-golden light?   

Whatever: it worked!!! I can sleep through till 5 or 6 o'clock, undisturbed at eleven, midnight and three o'clock in the morning! Bliss!!!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Starting a Kind of Berlin Diary

I adore Tom Stephenson's blog, and Rachel's and Joanne's and Cro's, and one of many reasons is that they all write a sort of diary. 

I write diaries since I can write. 

The first one (I still own it) is a little vocabulary book sewed (by me) with big stitches in a green & white striped paper cover. I wrote with pencil, and was furious when I discovered that my little sister had crossed out some sentences - she thought a correction of the "quarrel" between us was necessary. 

Since that day I made sure that nobody could get at my diaries - and what I try here on the blog will, of course, differ very much from the private ones I write for myself, though I will give you my personal view of my living in Berlin. 

I am curious how it will work out. One thing is sure, little sister: 

                                                                  I'll do it my way. 

The Knack of Books... And How to Get It (Them)

photo by Britta Hügel


In Covid-time I have to pull myself away from Amazon & Co... because as I do not want to shop much, I look into Amazon's offers. 

Yet often The Good in me gains the upper hand:  I call my bookshop - and next day I take a walk and have a nice talk with the bookseller, and she often presents new books, so I get ideas and skim and buy - thus hopefully supporting Berlin's economy. 

But I have to confess that the man I see on an even more regular basis is the Amazon delivery man - he really is a marvel, always laughing and so beaming that one feels the sun goes up - he is from Africa, black, shiny, and full of joy. 

We talk and laugh a lot, and I have the feeling that the world is a good place to be in.  

Which it is: I am so thankful that I can breathe in deeply the crisp fresh air when I finally pull down the mask. That I can smell the special odour of autumn leaves, savour a cookie, see and smell the fine spray when I peel an orange and read a book - so: it is so lovely to be ALIVE.  

PS: Some of you might have noticed that I twisted and maltreated my headline to make it resemble one of the very first films I saw in the cinema (as I am 1.78m tall I could smuggle in very young, a little lipstick and kitten-heels from my world-wise girl-cousin Ragnhild helped ...): The Knack ... and How to Get It, by Richard Lester.. I have it on DVD and still adore it! 

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Quarantine through Art


Dear You, 

maybe you know this video already. I was so glad when my friend Anne sent it to me! It made my day. 

Hope yours too! 

Yours Truly, 


Sunday 15 November 2020

Enthusiasm, Rapture, Excitement...

photo by Britta Hügel

Dear You, 
Recently I read that we need "enthusiasm" to feel alive - and I thought: Yeah, that's IT! 
I have always been a person who easily falls in rapture about something. 

Friends who influenced me were always people with a lot of energy. 
The prototype was Roswitha, as I four years old, calling: "Tom, Didda, tom!" (she was not able to say "Come, Gitta, come!" - - but while I talked like a waterfall, she acted - she lured more timid Me into adventures (come to think of it: I lured, but she acted that out, pulling me behind her :-) . 
And Atie - my best girl friend at school: glowing dark eyes, full of verve (my parents called that "exaltation" - and they might have had a point - some time after we had lost contact because in her eyes I was too "bourgeois" and I really grieved over that deeply - her parents, standing very high on the social ladder, had to start a search for her by Interpol, because she was trafficking cars to Libanon). 

End of October they deactivate the fountain here on the Victoria-Luise-Platz - summer is over - but for me a fountain like that is rapture pure...
photo by Brigitta Hügel 

What about you, dear friend: what makes you enthusiastic, full of life, bursting with joy? 

Waiting for your answer, 
Yours Truly, 

 PS: The glowing evening sun above is taken through the window of my room with a bay window. 

Friday 13 November 2020

Setting NO example

Dear You, 

these two guys are from the Ordnungsamt (public order office - with glee they give you a fine when your car parks 2 minutes too long - sometimes I really watched them waiting!). 

The day when the stronger lock-down measures were imposed by chancellor Merkel on Berlin, ordering among others compulsary masks on certain streets - as for example Ku'damm - Tauentzien and Wittenberg Platz - those two went directly in front of me - without a mask

Polite but bluntly I asked them: "Why do you not wear a mask?" They waved at the street sign and said: "Still 10 centimetres to Tauentzien, haha!" 

Well - that is Berlin (impossible in Munich!). 

Still a bit angry (but of course not officially complaining - I am no deputy sheriff), I wondered what you would have done? 

Yours Truly


PS: Of course I never say something to civilians who do not wear a mask (though I give them THE LOOK) - only when someone comes too near I say politely: "Please - would you mind to keep a little more distance?" and smile (which you can see around the eyes over the mask). I know that not much air especially under FFP2 masks make people really aggressive... and when you live in Berlin... 

PPS: The Look: 


Wednesday 11 November 2020

How I outwit myself in Lockdown-times (my resolution no.3)

Dear You, 

you wrote that you fear to become a couch potato in these lockdown times, and I can understand that very well. But...

photo by Britta Hügel 

To stay fit you have to eat well. 
I eat each day what Gaylord Hauser called so appropriately "Sunshine Salad". 

I am a big fan of late Mr. Hauser (though "big" might not be the right word 😀) - but also a bit lazy: To cut all these carrots, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, radishes and "all you can eat"! is Zen, meditative - but also a bit of a nuisance, sometimes. 

"Sometimes" begins around lunchtime. 
So here my lockdown rule number 3

I do that in the morning, right after breakfast - because I know myself pretty well:  around lunchtime a mysterious lethargy sets in - I just don't do it! 
So I have to outwit myself. 

I take the marvellous glas bowl (you see: it has a lid!), cut all the vegetables into pieces, put the lid on, back to the fridge (I know that I will lose some vitamins on that short run - but honestly: who wants to be perfect? And better 2/3 of all those vitamins than none at all!) 
So at lunchtime I only have to pick the salad to pieces, add pumpkin seed and feta cheese, and my homemade salad dressing 

(If you want to try it: 1 Tbsp Balsamico vinegar, 1 Tbsp Maple sirup, 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, a little dollop of Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and, if you have, some herbs - lovely - it is the maple sirup that does it...)  And always remember: 
"Vinegar like a scrooge, oil like a squanderer"

Add it 
"et voilà!

Stay healthy, dear friend - and look after yourself! 

Yours Truly, 
Britta   XXX 

Wednesday 4 November 2020

"If the Weather Permits..." (My Resolution no. 2 in Lockdown-Time)

photo by Britta Hügel 

Dear You, 

thank you for telling me how you overcome Lockdown-blues by cherishing memories of past journeys!  

My second resolution in Lockdown-time is to stay curious. It is so easy to become bored and, as the radius for walks diminishes, think: "Oh, I know it all... blah...."

No, one doesn't know it all. In Zen they recommend: Look at everything with beginner's eyes. Which of course I cannot. But when I take my camera with me, or try to draw something, I look more attentive. 

And if it rains, I just take a beautiful umbrella, and the world looks friendly again. 

And when I'm not sure IF it might rain - I take this tiny one, not heavier than a bar of chocolate, mere 100 gram.  

So: The weather (almost) ever permits. Give yourself a little push - and go out and walk, even if it  is everyday the same route - try to see what changes. 

Hope to meet you outside! 
Yours Truly