Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 8 August 2018



It is summer, and it is hot, hot, hot. 

So hot that people wear little nothings - men open their shirts and their huge bellies have the freedom David Hasselhoff was fighting for; and extremely well-nourished women wear mini-shorts, and thousands of them display huge tattoos. 
Everywhere you look at their generously exposed bodies. 

The University of Leipzig estimated that 
19 million people in Germany have Tattoos. (A third of the people under thirty has at least one). 
And these tattoos are not the teeny weeny Chinese ideographs (how come that I first wrote "idiograph"?)
(The photo above I found in a glossy magazine) In Berlin you can admire hole landscapes on legs, arms, shoulders, backs and sometimes even on  faces. 

Tattoos are not without risk. 
Everybody (!EVERYBODY!) in Germany who owns a "starter kit" is allowed to tattoo his victims prey  customers. 
- You risk an aesthetic disaster (just look around!!) 
- You risk your health:  There might be poisonous parts in the colours which are not designed for tattoos, but for car paint (honestly!). 

And if you want to get rid of "I love you, Annicka!" for "I love you, Babette!"? 

Well: You have to pay: sometimes thousands of Euros if her name was a long one (choose Babs instead next time!)

You can a) let somebody cut it out (iiiiih!); or b) let them use chemical etching lotions (ouch!)  or - and that will be the choice of most: c) laser. 

I hope that these three painful methods are used by doctors only. 

So, don't hum Bob Dylan's song "Don't think twice - it's alright!" when you enter my tattoo study --- it might be the wrong song.  
Better hum: 

           "Needles and Pins!"

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Some Cannot Boil an Egg!

I saw it - and I wanted it.

It will save so much space  - and time - and it  looks so cute!“ 

Though I live on 180 square meters, I bought it.
In the Netherlands I had learned The High Art of Boiling an Egg.
Which implies not just boiling- oh no: boiling the egg for precisely 4 and a half minute - after asking  myself: „Am I -  just now - above or below sea level?" How come that at that point I always had to think of M.F.K. Fisher and her fabulous book: „How to Cook a Wolf“ ?
In Berlin I found a few flies in the ointment of my new kitchen device:
- it takes an awful long time
- the outside which you have to touch to stop the high pitched "stop!"-button gets really hot
- AND: it is not only designed for a dwarf´s kitchen (hope that I do not use a political incorrect word - I’m speaking of fairytale dwarfs) - it also needs dwarf fingers (for my 1.78 m I have astonishing little hands, and they are very capable for everything in craftwork),
- no: it also demands utter precision (also no problem for me - for some time I wanted to become a pharmacist because I like using pipettes and tiny scales).

But worst of all: It cannot boil a soft egg!
Golf balls: yes, thank you: here it manages well.
But soft eggs -  whatever I tried - NO.

When comes the day when you ask yourself:
Is it worth all the efforts?

In this case I decided after three weeks: NO!

(PS: Does anyone remember the hype in the Nineties (I think) about „Feng Shui“?
Change your fate by just moving some things around - and if you want a happy partnership, NEVER buy a single item, always (!) buy pairs.
A single-egg-cooker - I am sure - would have meant „bad Feng Shui“, even a thousand years ago.
Though I cannot verify that - I tossed out all my Feng Shui books a long time ago.

As I will do with that cute little egg-boiler!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A Connoisseur of the Art of Living

The German word "Lebenskünstler" - which  literally means "an artist in/of life" - has no real equivalent in English.
The dictionary offers me "hedonist" and "spiv" and "person who makes the best of things" - but that's not quite "IT".

Well - here you see one of my neihbours (no privacy intruded) - he is a real "artist" in life, meaning he works in varieté and does many, many surprising things with his body (walking on a high rope is only one of it).

And he kows how to live his life in the most creative and happy way.
He does not own much - but he has ideas. Sees chances - and grasps them.

A year ago he put two chairs into the wildernis of our Hinterhof (our absentee landlady does not permit to use it or make a garden out of it).

Then one of the chairs (if you stare hard you might find it at the left side) became what I will call  "the poetic idea of a chair", a mere quote, because  it misses the important part of a chair: the seating surface.
It is very Zen-like, very Buddhistic, this chair!

But our artist used it the other one today - the second chair, which still is sort of ok - and as we have the third day of summer in Berlin (28°C! in mid.May!), and he, different from us, has no balcony - uses the wildernis in a very creative way.

And, as you might have noticed:

He follows the sun!

Friday, 6 April 2018

Houses in Berlin

People buy and buy property in Berlin (as they do in other big cities) - with the result that the prices (and rents) go up like skyrockets...
People think of it as an "investment", they often do not intend to live there, but use it as a holiday flat once or twice a year.
I know rich Italians who did not even come over to look at what they buy - they told their estate-agent what they were looking for and he bought.

They might be in for a big surprise :-)

Oh YES: the beautifully renovated house is right beside the KaDeWe, our imposant top luxury department store. (OK - maybe the estate agent forgot to tell them that from 6 o'clock in the morning the less stylish vans and trucks come and bring fresh goods for the gourmet-floor...)
And it was better that they did not see the house before the renovation, which was done in a surprisingly quick and superficial way by poor people from Poland (or beyond). Who wants to know that it had looked like The Castle of Otranto, or something taken from a Gothic movie...
No - now it has the certain je ne sais-quoi (though ...I do ... know... :-)
And yes: it HAS an elevator.
What they do NOT know is a speciality of many old Berlin houses:
you have to climb many many stairs too reach the first floor - where the elevator starts! -  (if it consoles you: the many many steps are very steep, but made from marble!)
Above I show you the photo I took at my dentist:
I am convinced that some people will need no anesthesia, when they reach the elevator at the first floor... they might be very sedated, utterly numb...

This is the antique elevator:

Nice - really! - but it comes along with a large manual how to use it. ("I never in my life have used it", said the doctor's receptionist and shuddered slightly, and then added in a dark low voice: "You are really courageous!" ) 

I am not courageous, but I am curious. It was a very funny rideI And ended with a heavy bump.
(Yes: I was a bit scared when I had to try and try and try to close the strange doors 'the right way' until  finally I got the old chest moving...

The huge old mirror inside reminded me of those in the funfair, House of Mirrors, where some mirrors draw you thin and tall, or as here: compress you to plump and stout...
But this woman takes up her cross and banishes her vanity ... all in the pursuit of an interesting photo.

And then you are down again (hopefully):

And you stagger down, and step outside, into the lovely sunny spring air, and you see the first blossoms on trees, and you are
                                                            YOU ARE FREE AGAIN!
                                                              YOU ARE OUT!
                                                             BACK TO EARTH!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Wishful Thinking

©Brigitta Huegel

I took better photographs of the big starfish I found in Noordwijk, Netherlands.
But I cannot find this photo at the moment - the only choice now is between NOT to write this post or use this not so perfect photo.
Reality versus perfectionism.
Sign of beginning wisdom that I let realism win?

Why "Wishful Thinking"?
Well: about two weeks ago, walking at the shore of the North Sea in Holland, I thought:
"I want to find a seahorse."
(It is always good to aim for something high: genus hippocampus is nowadays so rare in the North Sea, that a few years ago the fisherman Manfred Sophra in St. Peter Ording (Germany) who found a litte seahorse among the caught fishes and crabbs, brought it instantly to a breeding farm).
Yet I wished.
And No - I did not find one.
But I found something else (though took it not with me): a starfish.
When I showed the photos to Wietske, who is in Berlin my Dutch "tandem" and friend, she said: "I NEVER found a starfish, NEVER."
I did. Expecting something extraordinary sometimes help. (Advice: Never be too specific if you are looking for something - all women know that: if you err through a department store in search of the cobalt blue blouse, you will find lots of pink, white and green ones --- but cobalt blue? Sorry..).

I love this little story about starfish:

A young man and his friend walked along the sea, and on the shore they saw many many starfish after a storm, still living. 
The young man bent down, threw a starfish back into the sea, bent down again, threw another one back into the sea - until his friend asked:" What are you doing?" 
"I throw them back to the sea, so they can live." 
"But", said his friend, "look at the shore: there are hundreds and hundreds on it! Honestly: it will not make any difference if you throw a few ones back to the sea!" 
"To this one it does!"  answered the young man and threw another one back. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Arthur & Claire

Now I am well again - a little feeble maybe after being sick from undercooling, as the blossom of this magnolia, but underneath I am still "steel".
I lost two kilogram and weigh now 59,4 kg - not so much for my 1.78m.
But one visit to the Netherlands will change that again... :-)

The film "Arthur & Claire", with Josef Hader and Hannah Hoekstra was a very funny, black comedy (nowadays they would call it "bitter-sweet") - two suicidal persons spending a night in Amsterdam.

"Do you always invade in someone else's room? Do you Germans still do that?" cries the young Dutch Hannah outraged, when Arthur enters her hotel room to hinder her to swallow an overdose of lethal pills.
"No idea", he replies, "I am Austrian."
"Even worse", she replies.


When she asks him why he choose the Netherlands and not Switzerland as country for legal assisted suicide, he replies:

"By no means I would die in Switzerland. There you will not even realize that you are dead."

Mmmmh, mmmhhh, mmmh. May be I should eat a cream tart to gain weight and glee. mirth and cheerfulness again?

But honestly: the movie was great!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Horror trip with train(s)

©Brigitta Huegel

We have here minus 12° (or, as they describe it nowadays on the Weather App: "feels like minus 17°).

Can you imagine that at these temperatures the Netherland and the German Trains broke down on Tuesday. 1. March, (I came from Amsterdam) - a breakdown of energy - so we had to leave the train in Amersfoort, and stood there - hundreds of people! - for over an hour in the biting cold - without shelter, without information, and all they said was "There will some busses come to take you to Bad Bentheim".
The people: very civilized - the busses came not quickly one after the other, yet almost nobody pushed in rudely.
The busses brought us to - Apeldoorn. Out again.
Then a small train to Hengelo.
From there busses to Bad Bentheim - Germany. The only official person there saw us - and buggered off!! No waiting room for us, no toilets, no informations -  but half an hour icy wind.
Then came out of Nowhere a little train. Someone said: "Those who want to go to Berlin should leave in Rheine - a slow train will bring you from there to Hannover, and from there you can go by taxi to Berlin." 
The distance between Hannover and Berlin is 286 kilometers.
And I said: "Oh no. I will not leave in Rheine. I go to Osnabrück and take a hotel there."
The others left the little train obediently in Rheine, I clung to my seat.
In Osnabrück it was weird: a station like a Hopper-painture - and a small empty glass-box in dark colours: the Information-Point.
I pushed the glass door. It opened! 
Behind a desk hid a little man.
"Do you see any chance to go to Berlin tonight?" I asked him (more a rhetorical question, to be honest).
"Nah!", he said, and scrolled listlessly through his computer.
Then - after a pause - he exclaimed:

"I can't believe it. Never ever before has an ICE stopped in Löhne (40.000 inhabitants!) - but now one will. Take a little train to Löhne, you will catch it." 

To cut a long story short: I did! Arrived in Berlin a quarter after midnight at the main station.
That was my very private "Miracle of Löhne".

PS: The ones in the slow train could not catch the ICE when it stopped in Hannover.

PPS: Although there were many, many trains affected by the breakdown of energy - in the Netherlands and in Germany - there was not one word in the newspaper about it. Which I think very, very strange...