Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Merry Christmas!


Tomorrow I travel to Berlin, so I will use the opportunity to send you, my blogger friends, the best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Stay healthy and in good mood, be thankful for family and friends. I hope to see you all in 2022! 

Yours truly




Monday, 13 December 2021

So useful - once...

I try to write a post on my cellphone - not easy. Thus it will be (unusually) short. 
I found a photo of the cart I gave to my grandchildren one and a half year ago - so useful for triplets! It has a motor, which is very necessary as we have more than "hills" here. 

Nowadays it is seldom used. The triplets are 2 years and 4 month old and prefer to walk - long distances for little legs. The cart stands in the garage, and I look at it with a sort of nostalgia. 

Saturday, 4 December 2021

In Cold Blood


The last days we had snow in Bavaria. A lot of snow. 

Beautiful and picturesque. 

Which I enjoyed tremendously. 

BUT (there is always a "but", I found out): here in the rural area you have to do snow shovelling. 

A "funny" card hangs in the entrance hall that every tenant puts one hook further under the name of the next tenant - after a day of a lot (!!!) of hard shovelling. Cold Comfort Farm.

Fair deal - though I, city-spoilt, am neither used to clean the stairwell (we are 4 tenants) - including even the washhouse (and honestly: the stairwell, cleaned weekly is spick and span, so why bother every week - yet, of course I do (every fourth week) - nor shovelling snow. 

It might substitute my fitness-centre (closed thanks to Corona): it must be done at 7 in the morning (I am a lark - that is not the problem - but they do so long and unnecessary parts in front the house (never used paths, Where Angels Fear to Tread) and in the street - shiver, shiver). AND it must be done as often as snow comes down (how can people do that who are at work in the nearby town?) till 7 o'clock in the evening. 

In Berlin we have a janitor, who does the snow-shovelling, and two men who clean the stair well of the huge house built in 1902. 

But I thought a while. Lady Chatterley sprang to my mind. NO - not what you might expect - but one of the tenants is a young forest ranger. So: quite strong. We made a deal: I pay good money for him shovelling the snow on the day when The ICEMAN my turn Cometh

So we are both happy  - and I am free to go to Berlin without having to speculate whether snow will fall or not. Perfect. 

Monday, 15 November 2021

"Look for something and you will even find something quite different"

 This is one of my favourite quotations of Karl Foerster, the famous German breeder of herbaceous perennials. A powerfully eloquent man and writer, born 1874 in Berlin, he died 1970 in Potsdam, and was an universally sophisticated man - my idea of a Renaissance man. 

And yes: he wrote "will" and not "might" :-) 

True: I looked for something different on that slightly rainy Sunday in Bavaria. I pushed myself to join a guided tour of the town (I hate guided tours! but do a lot to fight November-Blues) with the title "On the traces of the Hohenzollern in Langenzenn". 

The town Langenzenn (10.652 inhabitants in 2020)  was first mentioned in 945  as "cinna", a royal court by King Otto I.) and belonged since 1248 to the mighty Noble House of Hohenzollern

And this is what I found: a jewel of a church. The then wooden church is supposed to be built in 945, burnt down 1388 in the City War from Nuremberg. Only a wooden Madonna survived, now "The Black Madonna", which became a pilgrimage destination. In 1467 the cloister was built for Augustiner monks, a three winged complex, built with sandstone and cloister and gothic cloistered courtyard  wonderfully preserved. 

In 1533 the cloister was shut down by the Lutherian Reformation (though they had the decency to wait till the last monk died - of course no novices were allowed).  

Imagine: this beautiful place is in my very neighbourhood - just one stop with the little red train! I can even walk through the fields to get there - such a joy! 

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Inspired by Rachel's Heinz Beanz post I remembered the Afri Cola Werbung 1968 by Charles Wilp

When I read Rachel's highly interesting post about the death of Maurice Drake, creator of the Heinz Beanz slogan, I thought about advertisement - as funny as in Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey - novel "Murder Must Advertise" or as impressive as the above one - created by Charles Wilp

I looked that one up on Youtube and beg you to watch it till the end. It is - and there I am utterly sure - one that will bring the political correctness-police into the arena - well: we enjoyed it immensely (and drank Coca Cola - the artistic video did not change our habits). 

I am so glad to have been young in a wonderful time like that (even if you could take the video with a grain of salt - but look at the fashion! The make-up! You were allowed to be sexy! Men too! Me too!  😂) 

Some of the (not highly intellectual) slogans here: "Girl power - woman's lib: Marriage or no marriage - that is no longer the question" "Woman becomes woman - and free" - "People who enjoy their time consciously - being in their right mind" (hahaha) 

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Traipsing wildly round the world

"What nonsense!" The Panda gave an enormous yawn. "Traipsing wildly round the world when you could stay here with me." (Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers) 

But it was an oh so lovely week in the Netherlands! From Bavaria to Berlin, from Berlin to the Netherlands - and back to Bavaria now. 

Typical (and not only a cliché) for The Netherlands are:

- The Sea, as seen above

- a constitutional Monarchy (here the famous portrait of Queen Beatrix, mother of the now reigning King Willem-Alexander with his adorable wife Queen Máxima)

  and my favourite Queen, her grandmother Queen Wilhelmina (1880 - 1962) 

                                                   - world trade (and colonies)
       (as you know: they founded New York - formerly Nieuw Amsterdam

             - lots and lots of water and the knowledge how to make that land under water habitable 

                                            - Grachten and beautiful houses 

                                 - and, as you see here: many, many bicycles 

                                                           - the famous Appeltaart  

                                                    - and beautiful restaurants at the seaside 


Sunday, 17 October 2021

Safe! Or: How to Feel Calm in a Chaotic World. (If you believe in Father Christmas)


Since two weeks they are here. Hundred silly smiles and two hundred eyes follow you through the supermarket, and no escape: they are everywhere, in Bavaria, in Berlin - all over Germany.  Even earlier than last year. 

What is new: they point with a wagging finger. 

Maybe they will  give us a benign warning: although lots are here there might come the day when a gap in the supply chain of chocolate Father Christmas starts. Stockpile! Hoard! Squirrel away! 

Who knows what might happen? Better safe than sorry

PS: I feel more and more like Moses Herzog in Saul Bellow's wonderful novel "Herzog", written in 1964. I want to start writing letters to everyone - the first will go to the manufacturers of these untimely Father Christmasses -  telling them that I will feel much better if they also put chocolate Easter bunnies there, just in case that the world sinks into even more chaos, or a Rip van Winkle-lockdown

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Handcrafting, Hedgehogs and German Political Correctness


First frost at night - a good time to start the crafting-season with the triplets

(In German we use the term "basteln", making little things out of chestnuts, wool or Plasticine - which word do you use? The word "tinker" sounds a bit condescending to me) 

When my son was small, in Kindergarten "basteln" was looked at with the same disdain as measles - we had to do it secretly behind closed doors at home, the same applied to singing beautiful old German Lieder, these songs were replaced by malappropriate "songs" like "Hollebolleplumpaquatsch" which in the ears of the Kindergarteners sounded wildly modern. 

Kindergarteners - honestly! no joke! - you must in Germany now denominate always, always in every line of your text !!  as "Kindergärtner*Innen", to avoid discrimination of the three genders - no joke!!!  

(I do not know what will happen if the German political-correctness-language-police reads this  - this is still a secret job 😂, done by many ranting politicians - sorry: Politiker*Innen - and their supporters, so I might better not use it in my blog but mumble behind closed doors secretly - or sing (piano!) the beautiful old German Lied "Thoughts are Free" in the 1842 version of August Heinrich Hoffman von Fallersleben, - and replace Asterix's "These Romans are crazy!" with "These Germans are crazy!" - but the language police is not good at handling humour... ) 

Back to the roots: yesterday was the first day the triplets did "handcraft". They are now exactly 2 years and 9 days old - and I was astonished (as all proud Grandmothers and parents are 😀), how well they did it. 

Of course I had prepared a technical instruction: 

We handcrafted a hedgehog (or, to be precise: two). 

The funny thing is: one triplet calls herself "Igel" - meaning: hedgehog - because from birth on she had so many long dark hair spikes that everyone cried "Igel!" who saw her. And I was puzzled when she reacted a bit strange when first I called her by her beautiful Royal English Victorian name (guess - my mouth must be shut). Then I found out, that this name is only used when she is given a warning by her parents - otherwise it is admiring "Igel". 

The triplets loved to build those animals, precise and eagerly - and just in time I could save one date - halved and used as snouts, and 4 raisins for the eyes - the rest was quickly munched away. And they admired their very fine work - but the best came later: "Hamm, Hamm!" in German children language: "Eat up! Eat up!" - apple and dates. 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

And Now for Something Completely Different...


Without Monty Python's irony: my life, more than ever, is made of contrasts. 

Yin and Yang. 

In June 2021 Berlin had  3.766.089 inhabitants  (3.880 had left the city at the end of 2020 - due to the now very high rents, and some in Covid-time became tired of city life with their little children in tiny apartments). 

I am lucky to have the cake and eat it (well - it might happen that on a very stressful baking-day you can  hear me grumble over crumb & trifle. What do you expect from the translator of 'LEON: Baking & Puddings')? 

Half of the month - or a little more - I now live in a tiny but beautiful village in Bavaria - together with   511  very friendly inhabitants. Yesterday the desperate customer consultant of a big Sunday paper - which I now have subscribed to - called: "Sorry - we cannot send you our Sunday paper, because in your village we have no newspaper deliverer. We can only send it to you on Monday, by mail".  I said "Who Wants Yesterday's Papers?" - and he answered: "The Postman Always Rings Twice" . 

My sister gave good advice through WhatsApp: "Go to the bakery on Sunday and buy the paper there." 

The thing is: we don't have a bakery here. We have no shop whatsoever. The nearest are 3 km further, in the two little towns near by, but to go there you have to use the sweet red train, if you don't want to run on an A-Road - as Google Map friendly advised me: that road has NO sidewalk - but a lot of quick traffic - and I do not want to reduce the number of Berlin's inhabitants even more...  

Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining. I am utterly happy here - and I mean: HAPPY - with the triplets and Son & DiL so near, and beautiful nature all around. Bliss! 

And if I want to take a "Walk on the Wild Side", I can do that here too: 

Sunday, 3 October 2021

May I invite you to walk with me through Berlin? (first we visit the Museumsinsel)

 This is ONE of my most beloved places in Berlin: the Bode-Museum in Berlin-Mitte. It is part of the ensemble of other museums on the museum-island, the ensemble is a UNESCO-World Cultural Heritage. 

I go there as often as possible - the flair is Parisienne - many planes soften the light, the river so lovely (sorry, the photos here I took on a rainy day). 

It was built between 1889 - 1904, style new-baroque, and the dome is 39,5 m high. You might have heard about the Bode-Museum when in 2017 the 100 kg gold Big-Maple-Leaf coin was stolen (two suspects of a Berlin Clan-family were Ahmed and Wissam Remmo, they got nabbed, and Ahmed is now suspected to have robbed the valuable Dresdener Green Vault too, while out of prison during appeal). 

But I do not want to give you history-lessons - I just want to walk with you around on the beautiful museums-island: 


In the background you see the Fernsehturm at the Alexander-Platz, and yes: the underground seems to go through the museum... :-) 

(The Neue Synagoge in Berlin, built in 1866. Sorry, a mistake, look at Hels comment please) 

The Alte National Galerie (built 1862 - 1876, style Neo-Klassizismus and Neo-Renaissance (inside utterly old beautiful sculptures and paintings!) 

with Kolonnaden-Hof: in summer you can sit between the colonnades and listen to concerts or lectures, drinking a Gin Tomic and watch boats on the Spree.

The equestrian statue of Emperor Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who draw the first sketches for the building of the Alte Nationalgalerie. 

The Fernsehturm again - built by the GDR in 1965 - 1969 is with 368m the highest building in Germany (with a revolving restaurant in the "ball" - malicious tongues say that it turns quicker now since West and East Berlin is reunited, capitalists know how to increase profit :-) 

Here a glimpse into the Alte Museum (as everywhere you have to book "time frames" in Covid-time)

I collect Pegasus with my camera: 

The Pergamon-Museum (with the famous Pergamon altar), the James Simon Gallery is the new entrance building) 

and a lovely sight when you leave the Museumsinsel. 

I know that I only gave you a few superficial labels - you can read tons of books if you are interested - but my intent is to show you why I enjoy living in Berlin so much - and on other walks you will see how different the neighbourhood (in Berlin you call that Kiez) is - it's unbelievable, really.