Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Saturday, 27 February 2021

DELIGHT Two: SHOPPING in small towns and villages

 

photo by Britta Hügel 


No travels to little towns and villages at the (long) moment, AND the shops are closed everywhere in Germany. 

The only living person a lot of people nowadays see at all is the Amazon delivery man. Or the postman - which makes me think of the time when little shops in villages were also the post office... 

But I agree with Mr. J.B.Priestly: shopping in small towns and villages is fun and a delight. 

"We begin (to shop) as small children clutching our pennies and staring over the counter in a sweet agony of indecision." 

Oh yes: I remember Mr. Meissner, the chemist's, just over the street - you could go there with 1 Pfennig (!) in your little hand and he would take down an enormous tin can, open it (ahh - that heavenly smell!) - and took out one heaped teaspoon of black sharp salty rhombic salmis - mmmmhhhh! 

"We who begin to buy only when we are at the mercy of our instinctive drives do not want a whole floor of neckties or saucepans, with lifts to take us to cushions or tobacco. It is when shaving brushes and cheese, toffee and potato peelers, liver pills and socks, are heaped together that we go berserk, shopping like mad." 

Every time I see the scene in the village shop when watching "Saving Grace" with Brenda Blethyn, where the two elderly ladies, having drunk a very special tea, hide behind the counter, pop up with big goggle eyes that pop out of the spectacles from the joke items - I have to laugh out loud, every time! (Well, you could put me beside an old-fashioned laughing bag and I would roll around with laughter 😂) 

What do you think about shopping in little villages - or do those kinds of old-fashioned shops still exist in your area?


PS: As Tasker and Joanne asked ... here I will try to explain what "Salmis" are. One picture says more than hundred words - though in this case I doubt it. 

See why: 



"Ah, liquorice!" you might say. 

Yes and no. They add something that sounds horrible: sal ammoniac - which gives a sharp tang and taste (liquorice is more sweet, salmis are WHOW! Salty-sharp). 

People in northern countries love them and have many varieties: the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden - and the region where I come from, Bremen in Northern Germany - countries that are more cold. 

It drives up your blood pressure - maybe this is why we Northerners love it (though I searched for it in Edinburgh in vain.) 

I cannot say more to it - you have to taste it. For a lot of people ONCE is enough forever - the others I would call dangerously addicted  :-)    (you can buy it in every chemist's shop...) 







30 comments:

  1. A few years ago my son and I had a stall at a flea market. We ran a lucrative business selling novelty items like whoopie cushions, stink bombs, fake vomit, and other fun things. I never tire of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Emma, flea markets are so fascinating! We have many in Berlin - though at the moment of course not. Sometimes one can find exceptional things - and the markets are very different in what they offer. Some sell really antique treasures, some everyday things - it is the excitement of the search and the talk with the stall owners which is so nice!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. Dear Tasker, I am not surprised that you ask. I made a photo and will try to add it as a PS - though at the moment blogger does not let me enter into the Design section.
      But one thing I can say: there are only two ways people view Salmis: with love or with hate - nothing in-between.

      Delete
  3. I second Tasker's question. Then, yes there are such small villages. I wonder if the shops have remained in business.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, it worked: I try to explain what "Salmis" are. Think you might love them...
      At remaining in business: I wonder too. Nowadays people drive to supermarkets - and only very specialised extraordinary shops remain - not the typical general store.

      Delete
  4. I would prefer shopping in little villages, because the atmosphere is so normal and the coffee shops are filled with friendly faces. This is fine for food, drink, clothes, shoes, chemist shop, travel agency, doctor's office, hair dresser, bookshop etc.

    Perhaps for large, expensive items or services, a small village may not be ideal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Hels, you have a point: luxury goods are best to be bought at rich stores (like the KaDeWe in Berlin - when I translated a baking book I sometimes went there into the glorious food department to find out whether they had a special condiment - of course one can buy almost every thing via internet, but if the KadeWe didn't have it, it became difficult. They even sell real clotted cream!

      Delete
  5. Good afternoon dear Britta,
    The small shops are wonderful to have. It brings me back to my childhood. But the in many towns the small shops disappeard. What I miss is that we were making our own cloth's. It was lovely in that days to see all the fabrics and colors of the buns of wool and than planning what we could make of it. But times has changed. It's cheaper now to buy your cloth's.
    Have a wonderful sunday and a new week ahead.
    Marijke

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Marijke, true, often they are a thing of the past, though especially in the Netherlands I still find quite many. Have you noticed that I took the photo in Holland?
      As to making one's own clothes: I agree. My mother could do wonders with a sewing machine, and for some time I tried it too. I found out that it is only worth to do extravagant, out of the ordinary garments - those you cannot buy. As you say: it is very necessary to FEEL a cloth, see the colours and the way the cloth falls. There are only a few of those shops - even in department stores they vanish - and if you need a a small spool of thread, you have to buy a pack of 15 -- even I need a lot of time to use 15 spools in PINK up :-)

      Delete
  6. We have very few of those still left in our area. But one that draws from hundreds of miles around is in a town called San Angelo, and it is an incredible place. I could spend all day in there -- and spend all my money. It has so many items, large and small, and unusual items. I loved going there. Eggemeyer's General Store. It's a national treasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Holly: I googled it, and yes, yes, yes! that looks like paradise! Incredible is the right word - I am eager to put on my explorer hat and walk right in! Then, weighed down by exotic goodies, I would walk on - the Passport Office looked nice too...
      You made me think of J. Peterman - and his splendid catalogues...

      Delete
  7. I tried it once, and that was enough for me. My father ran a sweet shop in a village when I was 4 years old.

    ReplyDelete
  8. When you were 4 years old, you might not have liked asparagus or oysters. Taste changes - though, honestly I doubt that you will like it now. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. In our little sweet shop in Haarlem, just round the corner where we lived I used to buy zwart-op-wit voor 5 cent. I don't think they sell that product anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ik ben zo graag in Haarlem, Guusje! Een zo mooi stad. Yes, maybe now you can only buy "drop" in supermarkets - I tried a lot :-) - but you have a huge choice.

      Delete
    2. Oh I didn't know you have been in my birth town. I lived there till the age of 20. 2 of our children work there, but at the moment already a year from home.
      Zwart op wit was a powder, packed in a brown paper bag.

      Delete
    3. I am quite often (4 times a year) there, as my flying Dutchman lives not so far away.
      And oh yes: the stunning powder of zwart en wit was a sensation, when the first time in my life (I was 14) I visited with my parents their Dutch friends in Zwaagwesteinde. I love that powder, but cannot find it anymore in the supermarket (maybe it was not utterly healthy! :-). But delicious!!!

      Delete
  10. As soon as COVID has done with us I will look forward to shopping in small towns where you get to know the people you are dealing with. And these establishments are part of the fabric of their community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes David, that is really an aspect I cherish too: knowing the people in bookshops, little cafés, or small shops. It gives one the feeling of being at home - even in such a big city as Berlin.
      I hope that as many shops as possible will survive this crisis (here you see many vacancies, as the rents are high, and people earn nothing at the moment. And honestly: I do not understand why I am allowed with mask to the supermarket - "only 70 people allowed at once!" in a quite small (!) supermarket; but no one is allowed to enter a small boutique, though we would wait patiently outside till the only customer would come out?

      Delete
  11. I must lead a sheltered life, here in California I had never heard of salmis and would probably like them. I like tart and sweet together. Your mention of the local post offices and how they used to be in stores reminds me of Lark Rise to Candleford and how central to life the lovely postmistress is in the series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Terra, you might like them - but I think that it is no sign of a sheltered life that you don't know them - many nations don't. :-)
      I am so glad that you reminded me of "Lark Rise in Candleford" - I had bought the series as DVD and completely forgotten to view it , must have been in my English Detective-series activity - I will start to watch it this evening!

      Delete
    2. Hello Ladies,

      I'm presently working through our boxed set of "Lark Rise ..." when Mr. P isn't about! Up to series 2. I also saw a gorgeous new McMillan edition of the book in a bookshop yesterday but had to resist as it wasn't on my list.

      Delete
    3. I just saw the very first episode of Lark Rise to Candleford - I am so glad that you, Terra, reminded my of that little DVD-treasure (see - I'm easily influenced by what I see at the moment :-) I might try to do a little folk dance through my flat, Pipistrello!
      For a moment I wondered who the father of Our Heroine was - but soon I recognised : I've seen him in Downton Abbey!

      Delete
  12. I love small specialty shops. Sadly many of ours have gone out of business. In some cases, owners decided to retire as the next generation had no interest to continue. They become harder to find with each passing year. In general quality products are scarce.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Susan, yes, everywhere those little shops go out of business (and I fear after the end of Corona even more. And that is so - well - boring: a huge mall in Madrid looks like a huge mall in Berlin or London: Zara, H&M, ...
      So I hope the little ones will stay!

      Delete
  13. Sorry I am late to your post Britta. Yes, I shop in small towns and village shops. They sell groceries and newspapers. They are used by local people but struggle to keep going.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear Rachel, same here. The competition is too great - the big chains are less expensive, and now online-sale.
    As I see it the very specialised boutiques might stay - specialised in luxury - but that was not what Priestly wrote about.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Late to the party, sorry, Britta! I only dimly remember these Aladdin's Cave shoppes but longed to be able to shop in them as they featured in all the stories I loved. The closest were probably stocked mostly with groceries, which isn't quite the same.

    Your laneway photo brings me to mind of Brugge. My flatmates in London and I drove there for the weekend from London in December for a couple of years in order to soak up the Xmas market atmosphere. The pedestrian lanes were strung with lights like your umbrellas.

    Those salmis are in the same camp as Vegemite, I guess; salty as all get-out! I do like liquorice so expect a salty version would be up my alley, and anything to lift my sluggish bp would be a bonus, hahah!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Pipistrello, I just discovered your comment, thank you!
      "Aladdin's Cave" is a fine expression for those dying out species. (One shop I discovered in Hastings - a whole shop full of household utensils maybe from Victorian time, I think (though no antique shop) - so much fun!

      Xmas market atmosphere - we have a lot of those markets in Germany, maybe the most finest in Nürnberg. Berlin - one cannot believe it, but it is true - has over 60 (!!) Xmas markets!

      Yes. if your blood pressure is as low as mine (the doctor sometimes asked me: "How did you reach my surgery? On all four or upright?" - hahaha ) - Salmis are excellent to push it up (as salt always does..)

      Delete