The nicest place for breakfast.

Actually, I had already had breakfast, but when I came by Berlin’s Literaturhauscafé on Fasanenstrasse, I looked into the beautiful little garden, so lush and green, with the lovely sound of well-mannered people chit-chatting over whatever one has at 11 o’clock, and all of a sudden I had to have a second one—by the way, the Buddenbrooks, my favourite family in literature, had a second breakfast on a daily basis, and I can tell you now, it’s not a bad idea at all. I ordered Italienischer Milchkaffee, Italian coffee with milk, I didn’t expect much to be honest, as caffè latte sounds more Italian and more promising, at least to me, but it was the best coffee I’ve had in a long time, the Eier im Glas, soft boiled eggs served in a glass, were a bit disappointing, I’m used to have them a little more spiced up, but judging from the taste of the totally unseasoned eggs, I could tell they were organic, no unhappy chicken produces such good tasting eggs, I’ve peppered them intensely nonetheless, still quite modest an approach to seasoning—my grandmother and Klaus Mann’s Barbara Bruckner had them with six different spices.

A different kind of shopping experience.

The Galaries Lafayette in Paris are worth a visit even when you’re not interested in their goods as the mere architecture of this holy grail of shopping is amazing, Belle Époque splendour of the finest sort—the cupola alone is a sight and made into a very bad movie with Romy Schneider and Michel Ronet which I implore you to never watch, but I digress. The Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, however, are not, not even when you’re interested in any of their goods. And if I hadn’t needed Choderlos de Laclos’ Liaisons Dangereuses La Pléiade edition from its French book section so very badly, I never would have made into that area of Berlin. On my way back home, waiting for traffic to give me a slight chance to cross the street, I glanced to the right, up Behrenstraße, a street of no particular interest, not like Französische Straße, the street I had crossed just before with Berlin’s most prestigious restaurant, the Borchardt, you find yourself dining with Angela Merkel there, but I digress again, anyway, at the end of Behrenstraße, you see a wonderful cathedral from 1773 that looks like a giant pudding, at least to me, a German pudding, some kind of vanilla flavoured panna cotta, not to be confused with anything English like black pudding, can’t stand that one, however traditional, anyway, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral is a gorgeous church, beautifully restored, and once you stand in front of it, and the Hotel de Rome just next to it, every bit as prestigious as Borchardt’s, you suddenly are surrounded by historic grandeur, Berlin’s great palaces of wisdom and entertainment, Humboldt University, its Faculty of Law, and the Staatsoper, the oldest of Berlin’s three opera houses. And truth be told, in the end, I was quite happy with my trip to the Galeries Lafayette.

Trees galore. And some sights.

It’s hard to find a place without any trees in Berlin, they’re everywhere, even important buildings like Humboldt University in what used to be East-Berlin – the Berlin featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, a place much less horrid than the film, he must have been drugged throughout the entire production, or even at the time when he was reading the script, why would anyone shoot such a boring mess, anyone, I ask you, but I wildly digress – anyway, even this architectural gem is partially covered in leaves and blossoms of a majestic chestnut tree, actually, all of Berlin is covered in trees, up and down every place and street, they’re flourishing so opulently you can’t make out the trunk at times. I wonder who planned this urban jungle, some green spirit way ahead of its time – whoever he was, I proposed a toast to him today, with my little bird friend and my soy caffè latte venti at a very treed Starbucks.

Berlin’s grey, Berlin’s green.

Berlin’s façades fascinate me, the old ones, I mean, the ones talking of a great past, like the one above near Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden, right in the middle of Berlin. As the third floor lettering suggests, it was once a great hotel – the Splendid Hotel. But some research showed that period lasted only for fourteen years, however splendid it might have been, it got shut down in 1918, possibly due to a lack of customers, who would want to visit Berlin shortly after World War I? So its rooms were rented to small businesses, tiny offices instead of vast suites. The building survived even WW II and the GDR’s neglect of anything remotely elegant, and as it stands now in one of Berlin’s most cared for areas, it’s in perfect shape and wouldn’t have lost any of its appeal if it weren’t for spring — I can’t pay much attention to anything grey these days. And although this building as well as mine are under monumental protection, mine was not a hotel but it used to house female students in the good old days of the Kaiser, I tend to just look at the wonderful green of the trees from the very moment I open my door or a window…

Zurich outlakes any other town.

Berlin has so many lakes, little ones, big ones, small ones, huge ones, a friend of mine lived near one of the smaller ones, in a beautiful villa next to Nikolassee, but however small it was – the lake, not the villa – the neighbourhood’s real estate renommée was huge, nothing but hoary villas set in beautiful gardens, with mature treestock and a rhododendron population to die for, if these bushes suffer from anything, they do from old age, then there’s Wannsee, one of the biggest, which has become quite infamous due to a conference held in 1942, in an even costlier villa, waterside property, the lake’s image, however, hasn’t suffered much, obviously you can’t blame a lake for its residents, but I digress, all I wanted to say is, after a year of living in Berlin, I almost never made it to any of them, they are all so very far away from where I live, Lake Zurich on the other hand was part of my life, I lived nearby, a five minute walk, I crossed it at least twice a day, in the morning on my way to work and back home at night, I swam in it, I sat on its border having Bratwurst and beer, I walked along its shore, back and forth, I watched the sun setting over it, the sail boats crossing on it and stalked the ducks swimming in it, well, what does one do with a lake on your hands, I did all of those things and enjoyed it deeply. Do I do any of these things in Berlin? Some, at least? Not so much, I’d say. I don’t seem to respond to these lakes’ sex appeal. Not in the least, actually. Lake Zurich has ruined me for other lakes, that’s the awful truth.

Kaiser Wilhelm and his bad taste in castles.

Earlier this year, I made an important discovery: Kaiser Wilhelm I had really bad taste, I mean, really bad taste. Schloss Babelsberg, his grotesque summer residence just outside Berlin, is a perfect example of why you won’t find a Wilhelm I chair or ottoman or whatever in any fine antiques store, there’s Louis XV and XVI, there’s even Louis XIII if you don’t care for clichés, there’s Queen Anne, Empire, which is basically Napoleon, everything Victorian, there’s been a lot done in Victorian style, she reigned so very long, then there’s Louis Philippe, George III, the Swedes have their Gustaf, the Austrians have Joseph II and the Americans got their colonial style, I think the colonies belonged mostly to these Georges on the British throne, so it’s safe to say it’s Georgian style, but Wilhelm I? Forgotten with an effort. As if he had never lived. One must know, however, that this particular catastrophy’s architect was none other than Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Biedermeier’s Norman Foster, one of the best Germany has ever had, at least at the beginning, in the early 1830s, when they started construction. Later, after Prince Wilhelm was declared Crown Prince and to inherit Prussia’s throne, his brother’s marriage had remained childless, the budget was increased, allowing them to put more effort in it, demanded especially by Wilhelm’s wife Augusta, she needed even more Gothic bling, for some strange reason everything Gothic was fashionable at the time, an effort that Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s health did not agree with, he died during the planning of the extensions in 1841. Just take a look at it, you’ll understand.

Spring in Berlin.

Finally a lunch break with some sun. Finally some spring in the air. However, let me be quite clear on that, it wasn’t spring at all, not really, maybe meteorologically, but definitely in name only, in fact, it was icy cold outside, my shawl was wrapped thrice around my neck, the sky might have been blue but there was still some snow left on the ground, ice patches made everything slippery that was left alone by passers-by, and of course I slipped taking some of the photos when trespassing the garden design, but it was worth it, Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, the old national gallery, inaugurated on this very day some 150 years ago, on March 22nd, 1876, was looking splendid with the bright blue sky and the graphics of the leafless trees, there is nothing better to bring out architecture than a tree, the contrast between culture and nature is one of the most spectacular I know, and so I wasn’t too sad about just taking pictures of the gallery itself – and none of the great pictures on display inside.

Transporting trees.

This is a true story. Picture it, Zurich, January 2017, I had just made my mind up to leave Zurich for good and was looking for a place in Berlin, which turned out to be way more difficult than I thought, but that’s another story, anyway, facing the fact that I not only had to look for an apartment but for an apartment with a balcony, a spacious one at that as I was the proud owner of three big olive trees, two huge palm trees and one very small Japanese maple tree, I felt a certain degree of despair growing inside me. As lamenting one’s fate has never produced a solution, any, never, I tried not to and started looking out for some help in case I’d end up balconyless – and thus my parents’ garden came to mind. So, I stuck the Japanese maple tree with its terracotta pot in my Freitag bag, not so much a Sophie’s Choice kind of story as I just had to pick the one most likely to survive the trip, made it to Zurich main station and boarded the next train destined for Germany. My co-travellers during the following seven hours showed some mixed emotions, some found me lovely, I seemed to embody nature’s saviour, surely all of them Green Party enthousiasts, some hated me fiercely for my somewhat space demanding endeavour, strangely neither the Swiss nor the German train attendants interfered in any way, reinforcing my trust in mankind. Both the tree and I made it home safely, it never made it to my Berlin balcony though, it got planted in my parents’ garden, as for the olive trees, their trip is a totally different story…

Dusting Frenzy.

Years and years ago, I saw a film with Goldie Hawn, she played some rich girl who, for some reason or another, had a complete blackout, total amnesia, and for some other reason, also unknown to me, partial amnesia on my side here, she winds up on Kurt Russell‘s houseboat, he’s poor of course, for contrast, and I think they fall in love, doesn‘t come as a surprise, does it, anyway, from this film, I remember but one scene, the one where she’s cleaning that houseboat, devotedly, thoroughly, deeply, leaving-out-nothingly, and then, as everything‘s finally spotless, she sits down on a couch – and bursts out into tears, total nervous breakdown. I can relate to that. Especially today. Today, the sun came out, out of nowhere, or the blue, but wherever it came from, it started shining ruthlessly, quite unforgivingly it focused on the dust that has been hiding completely undetected during these months of greyish skies, we‘re talking massive amounts of dust, but now, suddenly, it was out in the open for everyone to see, and thus confronted me, laughingly, feeling ever so secure, that dust knows all about my sloth, so, what are you going to do, it seemed to ask. But, ha! The joke‘s on you, as for once, I set procrastination aside and started hoovering immediately, and dusting, and tidying, and cleaning, even airing my duvet, only those windows still have to wait, just a little, as I haven‘t stopped crying yet.