Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Monday, 21 June 2021

The Day I got Lost (slightly revised)

A few months ago, during the height of Covid-19-time, I bought a wonderful edition of the fairy-tales of Die Gebrüder Grimm. Might have been the same longing that brought many people to start examining their family history - fairy tales are a bit the family lore of a nation. 

The Gebrüder Grimm started to collect those tales from 1819 on - writing down what till then was only told verbatim - and thus endangered to get lost. They didn't add anything, and we are so thankful for their great work. 

Fairy tales are for children, one often thinks - especially when you know only the sweet Disney movies. But a long long time ago, when mankind told these stories around open hearths or at the spinning wheel on long winter evenings, they were cultural transmission. 

Some fairy tales are outright cruel. Some are not easy to understand. As a child I only loved those with a happy end, those which made me laugh. But now I see that a lot more of the wisdom of the not so nice  tales is stored inside me too. 

What I esteem: the fairytales taught children - different from nowadays overprotective helicopter parents (no chance to become that with triplets!) - that the world is a colourful but not always a peaceful place, that not all people are interested in that proud parents' Unique Sweet Child, as lovely and pure as it might be, and that the world sometimes is not fair, although fairy tales also often tell you that virtue is rewarded. 

One of my favourite fairy tales are "The Bremer Stadtmusikanten" (The Town Musicians of Bremen, where I come from) - its mantra for living-on is : 

"Something better than Death you will always be able to find."  

I'll drink to that - and cling to the antiquated syntax! 

Now to my adventure of getting lost: 

"In the Olden Days when wishing still has helped..." (fairy tales often start like that) - so, in my modern language: the day before yesterday, I went to the next town by train to buy some bread, and, as the weather  was hot and beautiful, decided to walk back to the little village where I (part-time) live now. 

That would make about 3 km, and I thought I knew the way. 

So Our Heroine started - with lovely fresh bread and no stones in her knapsack. 

Two times she asked Friendly Strangers if she was still walking into the right direction - and got somehow muddled advice about being quicker on another route. She walked on confident.  

When suddenly the road went uphill, she started to wonder. (Having a good sense of locality, why did she go further up, knowing that the little village nestled into a valley?) 

After a while she saw an ugly Old Woman, accompanied by three barking dogs, coming out of the woods, and she asked her: "Is this the way to Arcadevillage?

"Yes, my dear! Just go through that wood and you will be right there!

Our Heroine overlooked the strange glint in those eyes, didn't notice the cackling and was afraid of those Cerberous dogs.  

WELL...   This was what followed: 


After about seven miles through the wood and then many more miles through oven-hot dry fields she finally reached home. 

"And if she hasn't died she is still alive".  (Oh yes, she is!

After a few deep breaths she looked up the name of that wood and that little river (and I swear it is the truth and nothing but the truth). It is: 

                                                               Devil's Ditch.   



  1. That is straight out of the Brothers Grimm! Was there something living under that little bridge in the woods?

    1. My friend Christine always tells me "Don't cross the bridge before you reach it!" (sometimes I am a brooder) - but in the woods I just hastened over the bridge without looking if there was some gnomes living under bridge. (Is it still allowed to use the word "gnome"?)

  2. When I look at the trees in your photographs I see other things like shapes that are not just trees and I also see a painting that I have on my wall at the moment that I painted a few weeks ago. Your adventure was a tale worthy of writing in your own book of fairy tales.

    1. Dear Rachel, I would like to see that painting!
      Yes, some trees have haunting faces, others are friendly - I do love woods, but even more so when crossing them in company. xxx

  3. Oh, Britta, I think you're in for many adventures, judging by the look of those grim woods! If you go seeking Devil's Ditch again, I'll wager you won't find it ... Your boxed edition of Grimm's fairytales is particularly beautiful. What a delightful treat for yourself, and so handy for an equitable sharing amongst the triplets when they're old enough to get their hands on them :)

    1. Dear Pipistrello, thank you of presenting me that trait of fairy tales: not to be able to find the Ditch or another bewitched location again.

      Yes, many kinds of adventures might be waiting for me. So many opposites which lure me to Wild Berlin city or back into Arcadian nature; cultural hype versus relaxation in green - and always my fear that I might have forgotten to invite the thirteenth fairy and thus are doomed to sleep for one hundred years :-)

  4. That was a long way home!
    I think you know, but I'll mention it, I have a scherenschnitte of the Brementon musicians. It is so well done I cannot bear to part with it.

    1. True, Joanne - that was not only a long walk but also a very long story (I apologise for that - while writing I lost sense of proportion, sorry :-)

      I would like to see that Scherenschnitt of the Brementon musicians - and why should you part with it?
      Getting older I meet more and more people who feel like the donkey, the dog, the cat or the cock: having toiled hard all their life suddenly they are thrown out: in Germany they think you no longer fit from 65 or 67 years on . you HAVE to quit, that is a law, even if you are as fit as Arnold Schwarzenegger - only Politicians, they stay on forever and a day. (And of course self-employed can do what they like).
      Thus: becoming a new independent self-directed team is a very good and healthy idea, much better than to sit sulking and timid behind the oven.

  5. You walked through "Devil's Ditch." The stillness and silence of an unfamiliar path in deep woods can be a bit scary. Maybe a good fairy guided you through the woods? This is what fairy tales are made of.

    1. It was a bit scary, Susan: although I knew that some time (yeah, but when?) I would find the way home.
      Instead of acknowledging defeat and walk back to the point that I came from (growing longer with every step) I stubbornly walked on...
      Fairies are such a bright idea - I love those of Cecily Mary Barker.

  6. The Brothers Grimm could not have told a better tale. I loved it.

    1. Oh thank you so much, Emma. As you might see in my remark to Joanne, after posting the blog I was a bit ashamed of taking so much of my readers' time. I'm glad that you didn't thought it dull.

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