Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 19 May 2023

The Song of the Nightingale


Dear You, 

when I looked out of my window this morning I saw that the farmers were very busy - and one of them is a landscape-artist. 

The view is changing rapidly: it seems to be yesterday that we saw lovely yellow fields of rape (many fields - rape-oil is in demand now because of the sunflower-oil-shortage). 

In my direct neighbourhood I spotted a nightingale - I am so thrilled, never heard one before. 

When I met the woman in whose garden&wood the nightingale lives, she looked slightly unnerved. "I would like to rehouse her", she said. "That bird is nestling directly under my bedroom and sings very, very long. And loud!

"And beautiful", I added, but she hastily changed the topic... 

Moral: "Was dem einen sin Uhl is dem andern sin Nachtigall" we say in Northern Germany - roughly translated: "What is an owl to one person is a nightingale to another." 

(You might say: "One man's meat is another man's poison")

Yours Truly

Sunday, 14 May 2023

""The Mirror and the Lamp" (or Change of roles, hopefully)


Dear You

tomorrow Amazon promised to deliver a book on "Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition" by M.H.Abrams. In a lovely comment this author was recommended to me - thank you! 

I am fascinated by the title. Makes me think about my life. At work, being a counsellor, I had to be the mirror, as they rightly taught us  - though I tried to bring a little bit of light too. 

At the moment, regardless of how I turn, I feel stuck - you might hear me mumble "Rule 12: "When You Don't Know What to Say...Say Nothing!" 

That stuck-feeling can change soon. If I get more control over my life (do I hear a gigantic laughter in the clouds?) I might put the mirror on a table and - for a while - be the lamp. 

Yours Truly (training hard to become a firefly)

Thursday, 4 May 2023

Sun, chocolate pudding and perception


Dear You

today was the first time this year that I used the sun-roller blind of my large balcony. I think they put it up in the year the house was built - it gives me a certain 60s-feeling.  

We had 21° degree Celsius, and sun. In the morning I was very active: made a chocolate pudding for the triplets, my daughter-in-law and me - Thursday is the day I cook for all of us, and I had prepared Ratatouille and fillet of pork and noodles, and because pots and pans were heavy, I drove them up the hill to them, though we are only one road apart. 

Before I went to the fitness center - so, this morning I had a lot to do. Surprise: the chocolate pudding was devoured in no time - the main meal was appreciated, but not that rapidly eaten. 

                  Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Erlangen at the university - each Wednesday I am a guest student (you see a lot of silver hair :-) and it was really interesting: a young professor talked about the psychology of perception, and I learned something (which I wouldn't have believed if you had told me, but I experienced it and thus my believe in being a very good observer was a bit shaken. I fulfilled the task 100% (ha!- so I AM a very good observer) - yet they had smuggled something else into the little video which normally would never have been overlooked - we did because we concentrated so hard on the task.(And Yours Truly felt a bit cheated - I mean: if you ask me to give you apples and then say: "Haha, but you haven't given me a banana!" I would look at you a bit petulant...) 

But it made me think of witnesses and universal truth, of my own belief in being right (of course...), and perception in general. And of the highly delightful pearl of wisdom which (sometimes!) comes with age: sometimes (to be honest: only sometimes, but I hope it will grow with even more years in front of me) I am so wise to choose happiness instead of being right. 

Well, the uni-lecture was refreshing. 

The fine thing is that after two hours of intellectual nourishment those who wanted (about 30 of 120) went to a very nice café, and there we laughed a lot discussed on a high intellectual level. 

Yours Truly,  Britta 


Sunday, 30 April 2023

On "Green grass" and fences, and thumbscrews

Yesterday we all didn't feel so well - but in the late afternoon I took a brisk walk through the neighbourhood, and saw with delight that the lambs had grown, and all sheep enjoyed the pasture. 

The goat stood and watched her goatling 

which proved once again: 

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!"

PS: I just wanted to test whether I am now able again to put my own photos (and I always use my own photos) onto this blog. That wasn't possible for three days because Google decided to force me to buy 100 GB for keeping my photos in their cloud. Some time before I had refused, and it worked - but now they decided to put their screws on me. 
And they won

Sunday, 23 April 2023

A Frog Who Turns into a Prince?


The triplets are now three and 8 month. We read a lot to them. They do not watch TV. 

I bought a simple little wooden theatre: you put huge sheets with pictures into the slot which in this photo shows the red curtain - and then I tell the story - with many comments from the audience. 

The audience was taught to behave: they show their little entrance card, sit in a row in front of the theatre, and applaud loudly before the curtain raises. 

A fairy tale as "The Frog King" is a bit diluted by the makers of the sheets - but "Nana" (that's me) does NOT let out the part of the King: "What you have promised, that you have to keep!" 

Interesting: little children, though oh so sweet, can be quite cruel: the threesome cries out loudly that they think it utterly right that the princess throws the ugly frog against the wall when he insists on climbing into their little bed... "But the princess promised...

Raucuous laughter: "We would throw him with gusto at the wall, yes, we would!!!" 

Come to think of it: good so. A very clear attitude, no rotten compromise. :-)   

Thursday, 13 April 2023

And this was the greatest surprise in "Flowers Forever": "Calyx" by Rebecca Louise Law


Do you remember the feeling when, as a child, you slipped into a pergola, an arbour, feeling hidden, protected, invisible and surrounded by many interesting smells? 

I saw so many happy faces in the huge room which felt just like that: a pergola made of thousands of dried flowers which hung from the ceiling, the special smell of dried roses lingered above all, a smell that said "gone",  "romantic" and "lost". 

Here the text of the Kunsthalle Munich: 

The British artist Rebecca Louise Law (...) made this installation of dried flowers. Together with many volunteers she dried and wired together far more than 100.000 flowers which would otherwise have been thrown away.  ...

Two aspects are the center of Rebecca Louise Law's artistic work: the conscious and sustainable use of natural resources and engaging people from a wide variety of backgrounds to create something together. 


Tuesday, 11 April 2023

The exhibition "Flowers Forever" in Munich swept me from my feet (almost literally)


 One week after Bremen I went to Munich - which, being already in Bavaria, takes me only two hours by train. 

I love Munich so much - and thus I went, because I just had decided to be more wild and spontaneous - and therefore the Gods rewarded me royally: 

On an advertising pillar I discovered the poster for the exhibition "Flowers Forever" - and whisper "Flowers!" into my ear and you will see me flourish even after a long strenuous day! 

I rushed over the Viktualien Markt, crossed the place in front of the Rathaus and "Woosh" - flashed into the exhibition. 

I walked through it as if I was in another world - so happy, so glad. I took so many photographs that I could feed you with them till Christmas - every day from now on. 

So many exhibits enchanted or fascinated me. 

Some were overwhelmingly luxurious, some brilliantly crafted, and some made all your senses jubilate. 

And some were a surprise. As the following one: 

When I entered a room I thought that I saw a collection of flower drawings - but no, it was something very different: 

And now, dear reader, I hope that you are so curious --- that I can lure you (look at the first photo of this post) at least once to my flower-blog 

Sunday, 9 April 2023

Happy Easter!

                                 Happy Easter to all of you! 

Since two days I'm back to pastoral life in Bavaria (after 6 days in teeming Berlin). I was greeted like a pop-star: the triplets stood on platform One (there is only one, but with Teutonic thoroughness it bears a  signpost) 

You remember the shrieking of teenage girls when the Beatles appeared somewhere? Well - my own fan club (by now three years and 8 month old) stood there in a variation on pink and filled the air with so loud joy in the exact Beatle Britta-mania that the whole village sighed: "Oh - SHE is back!" 

The Landfrauen (equivalent to Women's Institutes) have decorated the village water well - first time since the pandemic that they could do it in the traditional way.                         

PS: Involuntarily I organised my own search for the "golden" Easter bunny that I bought yesterday: before the triplets came to paint Easter eggs for their parents, (first time in their life - thrilling! secret! surprise! -  and I am very interested if they - three! - can keep that secret till today) I had put my Easter bunny away so that they could not get at it, "Set Boundaries, Find Peace" recommends a book - well: at least keep your bunny  :-)  and then, this morning, when it should festively glimmer under a little forsythia bunch on my solitary breakfast table - heck! - I cannot find it! 

Hahaha - so I have to leave you for a while ...rumble...mumble...rustle...


Sunday, 26 March 2023

The Parkhotel in Bremen, Germany - and "The Power of Intention" :-)

I promised Helen to post a few more photos from the Parkhotel in Bremen where I stayed for 4 days. 
(I had only my cellphone, thus the photos are not utterly perfect, sorry). 

This photo I copied from Wikipedia: 

The Parkhotel has Five Stars and is a Hommage Luxury hotel (sadly I had to pay the full price because at the same time there was a congress). 

It is situated in the Bürgerpark, (that was founded around 1860). In 1872/73 there was "only" a Festhalle: 

then the Parkhotel was built in 1912/13 after plans of the architect Rudolf Jacobs - as Wiki says: a royal manor house in neo-baroque style. 

It was destroyed in World War II, and rebuilt in 1954 - 1956, when they added East- and Westwings.  
The dome had survived the airstrike, and they lifted it 1,40 m higher, and the whole building was enlarged from 65m to 100m. 

Here you see a glimpse from the little balcony of the hotel room: 

The Hollersee - a lake - is surrounded by massive Rhododendron bushes, which are so high that as a child I often played in them: 

The Free Hanseatic city of Bremen is my Home city, and when I went to grammar school (an academic high school - I am never quite sure how the German "Gymnasium" is called in Great Britain or America - there you make the "Abitur" - an exam that is necessary to study at an university), I passed the Parkhotel every school day and thought: "I want to stay there once!" 
The Power of Intention  :-) - I even stayed there twice (first time we were upgraded to the suite in the dome, which was shere bliss). 
Today I read in Wiki who stayed there too: 

 Michael JacksonBud SpencerSven Regener, (...) Robbie WilliamsSiegfried & RoyHerbert Grönemeyer and others, as the Swedish national footballteam in 2006. .

The first time I was there they still had imposant doormen - two respectable ponderous gentlemen with red long coats with silver buttons, a black tophat and - in Bremen, which has London weather - very useful: huge English umbrellas to lead you dry over the outside flight of stairs. 
Now they are no longer there. 

But the rooms still are luxurious - and the taps are still British: one for cold, one for hot water. 

Beautiful furniture 

and impressing lamps with the mythical creature (which I collect with my camera): Pegasus, the Winged Horse. 

Luxury at its best, space, kindness and - a special bonus for Bremen: 4 days of sunshine!  

I will remember all this very gratefully - and send a long longing glance (here you see its back) to the Parkhotel: 

 this one by GJ



Friday, 24 March 2023

Snippet: "Serve Yourself Well"


In the book "365 Health And Happiness Boosters" by M.J.Ryan she asks: 

"Have you ever had truly gracious service from a waiter? (...) What if you treated yourself just as well right now? What if you gently required if there was anything you needed and then quickly went off to get whatever was required?"

Well, I had this service for three splendid days in the Park Hotel in Bremen

Such a lovely stay - they even served 3 days full of sunshine, which is VERY unusual for my dear northern home city Bremen. 

I felt pampered and really happy. 

And when coming back into pastorale Bavaria having a lot of digital trouble with the Bundesbahn (German railway) and I went so nuts that for a moment I couldn't remember my password for my email-account (I use it every day!), I suddenly thought of Mrs Ryans' question and asked myself what would help me in this (mini) crisis at once? 

Instantly I got the answer: "A nice cuppa tea - and please: not the usual elegant Darjeeling but a strong brick-red English tea with lumps of sugar and milk in it - as served in the novels of Barbara Pym for women under shock!" 

My normal tea is Darjeeling without milk and sugar, because I read in a health report that it is far more healthier to drink it that way - milk seems to disturb valuable health qualities. But now I thought: "Who cares! I need something very strong and very uplifting now!
And it did work. 

What do you think of this self-serving rule? Do you treat yourself well - as well as you would treat a friend? Do you? 

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Britta Tried and Tested: How to Avoid Dehydration


Well, maybe you think: "Ah, that old chestnut!" 

Because we all know that we shall drink more water, that this is very beneficial for our health - and yet, the older one gets, the easier one forgets it. 

Well - me at least. I never drank much, and I am a non-believer in those huge amounts some doctors or health-gurus propose. 

I believe in the Japanese sight of things: drink water in moderation, listen to your body, when thirsty: then drink water. First. Or: with something else. 

But sometimes I just am lazy. Or forget it and do something else instead. 

Now my (simple) trick: I put a reminder,  "a fountain of water" on the kitchen table -  a glass pitcher and a tiny (!) glass always remind me to drink something (and the glass shows me if I did). 

It helps. Me, at least. 

Query: Do you drink enough? What do you do to reach standard recommendation? Do you feel an effect when you drink enough water? 

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Orchids on Your Budget


Three years ago Michou, a friend of mine, gave me a tip for the right caring for orchids. It is simple: put them once a week for 10 minutes into a bucket full of water (and give them fertiliser as recommended) - and they will thrive. 

At least mine do - two in the Bavarian kitchen (window facing North) are flowering a second time this year, and that very vigorous on the photo above, a present from the Flying Dutchman, is doing that too abundantly in my East facing study. 

Do you remember the sleuth Nero Wolfe, a private detective created by Rex Stout (first appearance in 1933), all his adventures are told by his cheeky Assistant Archie Goodwin? When Wolfe had to think he went up (with an elevator because he was incredibly fat) into the large attic and spritzed a mist of water over his huge collection of orchids. They were very valuable. 

Since years orchids (at least the phalaenopsis) now have become very cheap. 

In Hildesheim where I lived for 20 years in my Art Deco house (still mine) on a half island I always visited with joy one of the oldest orchid nurseries of the world, Hennis Orchideen (since 1891, which always was a treat (now they also sell online too).  

In 1937 a little book was published: 

Orchids On Your Budget  
Or live Smartly on What You Have 
( by Marjorie Hills, a Virago Classic now). 
This book is full of wisdom how to economise and still have fun. Valuable tips as: Don't economise on butter, that will make feel you miserable - cut costs where it really saves money, such as moving from the place you live in now to a smaller one or a less posh neighbourhood or a smaller town). 
I love "Live Alone And Like It", the first book written by Hills, a Vogue journalist, and published in 1936, even more: 

"Whether you view your one-woman ménage as Doom or Adventure, you need a plan, if you are going to make the best of it."  

Both books elevate your spirits, make you laugh, but are deep down full of wisdom and can be given as a present to married woman also  :-) 

As orchids. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Britta Tried and Tested: How to Feel Bright after a Nap


Yes, I want to try something new. A Wednesday special. With tips I discovered (through reading or by friends) that really work. For me, that is. So I want to share them with you. And I am highly interested what you think of them - if you agree or not, if it helped you too - or if you have another tip for the same situation. 

Here the first one (which I tried since half a year): 

If you take a nap and wake after half an hour (the experts recommend not more than 30 minutes, so I set the alarm button on my cellphone) I sometimes came back to earth feeling a bit grumpy. 

Then I read: Drink a small espresso before taking your nap. The caffeine needs about 30 minutes to get your body into motion. Hurrah - I feel as fresh as a daisy after that! 


Sunday, 5 March 2023

Sheer Willpower


There are some days I feel like that flat tyre on the photo above. 

I took it today, when I walked down the hill (notice the double meaning, haha) and saw that a rural neighbour, lets call him Onslow, had put a lot of ancient farming rubbish a few metres further from the spot he put it on last year.                                                   

"Picturesque", I mumbled - but then I am only a romantic city-plant... 

I have been in Berlin for a wonderful week - though this time very much engaged to cultivate my friendships rather than hurrying from one cultural event to another. 

No, we hurried from one restaurant to another - and if you fear now that Yours Truly might have become fat more portly (I saw that the publishers of Roald Dahl picked out anything that might aggrieve somebody - and am still discussing what I think about that within myself) by so many meals, I can reassure you: NO WAY! 

 This (nothing eaten till after taking the foto) is the meal that our famous vegetarian Chinese served me - not Business Lunch (which is always cheaper) but a regular serving at a quite horrendous price. 

New was: only two-third of the normal portion (ah, the price of gas!). 

New was: "We have to charge 2 Euro extra, if you want rice to your meal.

New was: I - and that is really new, because I am a person of small portions - I was still hungry when I had finished the mix of onions & paprika & a few chilis (which I did not eat), a few nuts and a minimalist copy of two vegetarian chicken-chunks. 

I translated a huge English cookbook for a German publisher and I can cook and I can do arithmetics and know the price of these few ingredients, and how long you have to stir them in the wok (can't be the price of gas, noway!). Chop, chop - that's what I will do with that restaurant... 

As to the flat tyre above: you know that normally I am quite active. 

But after a few days of sunshine and hope and Lebenslust it became very cold again, look at this gloomy landscape today: 


But I went out for a long walk - whether I wanted or not. (I didn't, but my internal Slavedriver painted pictures of decline and immobility). 

That gets me going. Always. On Autopilot


Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Snippet: The 2-Minute- Rule


I love helpful tips that enlighten my life. Or to express it one size smaller: bring a sort of "aha"-moment. Tips that are easy to follow - and work. 

For me "The 2-minute-rule" really does that. (Of course I sometimes forget it). 

It just says: "If a thing you have to do will take no more than two minutes - do it now!"

Interesting how much one can do in two minutes! Interesting that one's brain is so much lighter if one follows that rule! Just thinking about what you still have to do consumes so much energy - and takes much longer than two minutes. 

Seldom two minutes are not available to put the cleaner back into its place (looks so much more orderly), rinse out the used pan immediately (nice if it doesn't greet you first thing in the morning) or soak your oats in the evening for your morning porridge. 

"A stitch in time saves nine" as my Grandma used to say. 


Sunday, 29 January 2023

A Short Visit to Potsdam

When you are in Berlin, it is easy to visit Potsdam, the Hauptstadt of Brandenburg. Now it is a beautiful little town (184.154 inhabitants) - I write "now" because I have seen it before the turnaround/Wende - the beautiful old buildings were derelict and decayed, grey, and very depressing. 

Now they almost overdid the renovation - so very colourful and sweetly pretty that you might think you are in a charming scenery of a theatre.
For me the most outstanding parts are the Castle Sanssouci of Frederic the Great, and his oh so wonderful park Sanssouci. I would go from Berlin on foot if it were the only chance to see it - but no: you can comfortably use the S-Bahn and be at the main station after a cheap, nice ride of 29 minutes. 

Other views: 

Red brick houses in the Dutch quarter - King Frederic welcomed many Huguenots. Another time I will show photos of the castle, park and town - this time we were there for the beautiful museum Barberini: 

We wanted to visit the exhibition "Surrealism und Magie. Verzauberte Moderne" (Surrealism and Magic. Betwitched Modern Era").  

I have to confess that we were neither bewitched nor enchanted nor spellbound. I quarrelled with myself, scolded me that maybe an impostor  of dear Emmeline Lucas (Queen Lucia by E.F.Benson) had crept into myself...

"... while she herself, oblivious of the passage of time, was spending her last half-hour in contemplation of the Italian masterpieces at the National Gallery, or the Greek bronzes at the British Museum. Certainly she would not be at the Royal Academy, for the culture of Riseholme, led by herself, rejected as valueless all artistic efforts later than the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and a great deal of what went before."

No, I do love modern art and know that art doesn't have to be beautiful -  but these pictures were mostly really bad, second or even third rate, often Kitsch

Only some Yves Tanguys were accepted.   


But we were very happy that there was the other exhibition in the same museum: 

"Impressionism. Masterpieces of the collection Hasso Plattner" 

                              Beautiful pictures of winter.

The following one is from Alfred Sisley, "Snow Effect in Louveciennes" 1874 , from his participation in the First Impressionist Exhibition in Paris, which I loved so much: