The eye has to travel, so said Diana Vreeland once, and Gleb Derujinsky followed that instruction of hers quite literally. His fashion photography for Harper’s Bazaar did not take place in a studio, with perfect lighting, and a bar-tabac or a diner nearby that comfort zone, but outside in the world, in the streets, in the urban and not so urban jungle, his eyes travelled everywhere, and as much as we might know some of the locations, let’s face it, we’ve all strolled along the Seine and took shots on or under its bridges, some of Derujinsky’s destinations I have yet to discover myself, like the wine cellars of Maxim’s, I haven’t even ordered a steak au poivre there yet, nor have I been to the Nara Deer Park in Japan with its thousand-year-old trees. This photographer demanded a passport from his models and broke boundaries all over the world, he took them to nature, you’re born free, he seems to say, so act on it. Sometimes you can’t tell whether you’re looking at some exotic scenery in an old issue of National Geographic or at Lanvin-Castillo’s ideas for the next summer. With “Capturing Fashion”, Flammarion and Derujinsky’s daughter Andrea make our eyes travel over and over again, I just hope they won’t suffer from jet lag.
Germany is covered with Christmas markets from Berlin to Nuremberg, from Hamburg to Munich, from Dresden to Cologne, and back. None of which, however, has the serene, calm and happy atmosphere of Zurich in Christmas time. In Switzerland, nobody’s in panic or a hurry or both, everybody’s enjoying life and the delights of this blissful season. Zurich’s just the most wonderful place to be this time of year. (On a side note: I was paid 20,000,000.00 Swiss Francs to tell you so, so you better believe me. Otherwise, I have to pay it all back.)
There was this brooch, worn by Princess Michael of Kent, showing, well, something all too obviously perceivable as an object of racism, the world was outraged, I, however, grinned, maliciously, not being totally smitten by the woman Harry chose to marry like the rest of the world, for different reasons like Her Royal Highness though, I just would like to have somebody of royal blood marry into any of the royal families of Europe, just for a change, at least serene, the next generation of kings and queens are all married to girls and boys from the middle class, lower or upper, who cares, definitely all next door, not next palace, all these Kates and Daniels and Mette-Marits may all be nice and sweet and loveable, but if I were a subject to some family chosen by the grace of God, to a family allegedly superior to me, I‘d prefer them to take their task seriously and marry appropriately within Europe’s courts (even Princess Caroline managed to in her third attempt, and although she was no pure breed either, her mother was at least the finest Hollywood royalty), or resign and de-HRH themselves, as I don‘t feel in any way inferior to any of their current in-laws. So, in order to quote Princess Michael of Kent, still grinning maliciously, I decorated the Christmas tree with a man I made in school in Luxembourg at the age of eight, just for a politically ever so incorrect laugh.
On June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy gave one of his most memorable speeches, here in Berlin, on the steps of the town hall of the Berlin suburb of Schöneberg, some 400,000 people gathered in the square as he spoke the words that are so deeply embedded in German history: “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!'”. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated later that same year, the people of West-Berlin came again, shocked to their very core, and gathered at Schöneberg’s town hall to mourn their hero. Today, over 50 years later, on a cold and grey December morning, shortly before Christmas, I became a Berliner myself, by finally getting officially registered at the very same town hall, way too late, the town hall girls made fun of my holding back for all these months, but alas, procrastination is my second name, and now, somehow quite moved by the location, very much moved, actually, I take pride in these same words, “Ich bin ein Berliner!”.
Just look at them. Brunsli. Basler Brunsli. That’s what they are called. They are my favourite Christmas cookies in the whole world. The Swiss definitely made it into my heart with these, although, truth be told, I’ve only ever had the ones from Zurich, never from Basel, actually, I’ve never been to Basel, I’ve just changed trains there, but they can’t be any better than these from Sprüngli’s in Zurich. It’s basically nothing but ground almonds and brown sugar, fifty-fifty, cocoa and chocolate and, let’s not forget they’re Swiss, an unreasonable adding of Kirsch. Oh, that Swiss Kirsch! It’s in everything I like. Bâtons Kirsch. Zuger Kirschtorte. Cheese fondue. By the way, I’ve never been to Zug either, although their cherries are so very famous, Zuger Chriesi, best cherries I’ve ever tasted, it’s on the way from Zurich to Lucerne, Lucerne, however, I’ve been to, beautiful city, completely taken out of time, a real world Disneyland, spectacular lake, too, Lake Lucerne of course, anyway, these cookies are quite heavy, you need to wash them down, with a glass of milk, or even better, with fresh pressed pomegranate juice, just use your citrus juicer, it’s an awfully good combination of flavours and aromas, the slightly bitter and matte taste of the thick juice compliments the dark, smooth sweetness of the cookies quite wonderfully. Anyway, Basler Brunsli are essential to the holiday season, you should better get them right away to have them for Christmas – or call it off altogether.
They’re everywhere, the KaDeWe in Berlin is filled with these little Santa Claus martians, some kind of old school futuristic kitsch, post-midcentury monsters making it to the homes of metrosexual hipsters, giving me the creeps in any of their various colourings, I want to get away, make it to the fifth floor, to get my favourite cake from Lenôtre, but I’m mesmerized, their shiny empty faces seem to captivate us, we’re spellbound by some vapid features, purposeless design, free of any expression, faces void of character and emotion, insignificance galore, like the people from these TV shows in “Fahrenheit 451”, pointless triviality starting at €39,90, so that everybody can have one, but why would anyone want one? Why? And why do I want one? Why?
The Thirty Years’ War ended here, in Münster. With a peace treaty signed on a sunny day in 1648. France, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Sweden and the dozens of little states now known as Germany had finally come to their senses. Many centuries later, in early December, 2017, my best friend Katja’s and my worst hangover ended here, too. After a long walk through town, we decided never to eat, drink or smoke again. Coincidence? I think not. Despite being a very prosperous town, there are fine jewellers at every corner, pearls and diamonds, Meissen and Prada, Rolex and Gucci, Eames and Louis XV, you get it all, Münster is such a modest town, calm and serene, wise and virtuous. If you want to end anything, feuds or vices, any kind of addictions or sins, just do it here where it comes naturally. But the very moment, boredom sets in, you better leave in a hurry.