A Summer’s Day in Berlin

Green. I’ve said it before and I say it again, Berlin is very green. Trees everywhere, offering lots of shade and making the urban air somewhat breathable. If I were in charge, meaning if I were either God or Donald Trump, cars would be forbidden altogether. Except maybe for Aston Martins, Bentleys, and la déesse. But that’s a completely different story. Anyway, on a hot summer’s day, Berlin’s trees provide enough shade for strollers and flaneurs to survive global warming, its architecture offers some diversion, and in the same spirit, its restaurants are contributing some nice sunshades to dine under.

A Lake, a Sunset and a Drink

When you live in Berlin, you’re far better off than when living in Zurich. Zurich has just one lake, not even a very big one, whereas Berlin has lots of lakes, just lots. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, but I’m not one to compare, is the Wannsee. It’s really close to the city while giving you the impression of being far off anything remotely architectural (I feel transferred to Finland at times), if it weren’t for the Funkturm, Berlin’s iconic radio tower. That tower’s height of 368 metres, Germany’s heighest building, just doesn’t allow it to disappear in the skyline, and helps keeping your feet on the (ever so urban) ground. There are many places to go to on this very ground, but Wannseeterrassen offers the best view with your happy hour drink or your Caesar’s Salad or whatever you’re having. Anyway, I can assure you won’t ever regret coming here at sunset, when the light turns everything incredibly beautiful, romantic and just, well, stunning. Even Rusty couldn’t take his eyes off of that lake… it’s just too good to be true…

Zurich’s best coffee.

The best thing about my Zurich apartment was the coffee downstairs at Totò’s. Whenever I would leave the house and feel like taking it slowly, I’d sit down and order a double espresso before taking my tram, heavy stuff, bitter and strong, awfully good, and while I was sipping it, I’d watch my neighbourhood, that beautiful Seefeld scenery, from a different angle, not as usual from my third floor balcony, through my olive trees’ leaves, but at ground level, quite a change, it’s true what that teacher in Dead Poets Society says, you should change your perspective from time to time, it’s quite invigorating, and thanks to Totò’s, I didn’t need to climb on anything, I just had to make it three floors further down.

Italian Crime Story

On September 6th, 2018, at 10:17 p.m., I ordered pizza. Autumn was somewhat near, and something called “Early Leaves” seemed appropriate. The leaves were made of bresaola, something I have always loved, and so I ate the three leaves, accompanied by some roasted pine nuts, first, after taking a picture of course, and then something quite peculiar happened. For some inexplicable reason, I didn’t finish the rest and left over most of it; I got distracted, I suppose, but by whom? By what? The next morning, I forgot to put it in the fridge and so the maid disposed of it. Why I am telling you this? Because this is an untold crime story, a most foul one, as there’s no crime more sinful, more inexcusable, more unforgivable than Italian food waste. A crime of which I’m guilty of in the first degree. Please save a prayer for me…

A town by a river, full of salt and music.

The old GDR, and I’m giving my age away by saying so, has so many beautiful spots to visit. East Germany is full of historic places yet to be discovered and I’m way behind. I haven’t really used these last 29 years since the Wiedervereinigung all too wisely for a German who considers himself into art, history and architecture, I must say. Please don’t tell anybody. Anyway, Halle on Saale in Saxony-Anhalt, much more known for being Georg Friedrich Händel’s place of birth than its history as a salt-harvesting city since at least the Bronze Age, has a lot to offer. I visited only for a day, but hell, it was worth it. It’s only one hour by train from Berlin, and close enough to Thuringia to have some great Thüringer Klöße on the menu, the best dumplings you’ve ever had, so I’ll be back soon, I guess…

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.

Zzzzzzzzzzzurich.

That’s no typo, no derailed touch on my iPhone’s screen, it’s just the proper way to pronounce Zurich when you visit the town in the summertime. You have to do it voiced, quite sensually, tune it with all the softness you can come up with. Zzzzzzzzurich. It will put you in the right mood. Zzzzzzzzurich. Give it a try. It helps you adjust to the circumstances. The sky is nowhere bluer, the sun is nowhere brighter, the trees are nowhere greener, the air is nowhere softer, and your drinks are nowhere pricier. Zzzzzzzzzzzurich.

On Instagram handies and goat cheese.

There are selfies, and there are handies. This is a handie. Handies are even more obnoxiously vain than selfies, that’s the whole and awful truth. I posted this handie a couple of times on Instagram, using a variety of filters, trying to make my hand look irresistable, it does look quite young, considering it’s 47 years old, doesn’t it? See, fishing for compliments again. The tan is totally fake, by the way. It’s just the filter. And these rings, what a joke, I never wore them. Not once. The one on my little finger is by Tiffany & Co., I bought it at Tiffany’s in Hamburg and after discussing it at large the same day at dinner over some yummy tartes flambées at Jimmy Elsass, an Alsatian restaurant in Hamburg, with my friend Nina – the tarte with goat cheese, honey, rocket and rosemary is the best, by the way, it’s called Grüne Ziege, green goat –, I totally lost interest in it, even after ordering the other one by Maison Martin Margiela at Mr Porter’s some time later in Zurich, just like you are always to buy two guinea pigs so that they don’t feel lonely, it didn’t change, I considered them a stylish pair, but not for me, and never ever wore them. Classic tragedy. Heroes, doomed from the start. So, judge for yourself, does the photo tell that story? No, of course not, handies are all fake, even faker than selfies, they’re the fakest on Instagram, undoubtedly, believe you me.

Having coffee with F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This is 14, rue de Tilsitt. Tilsitt, by the way, is that place in East Prussia where Napoleon signed a peace treaty in 1807 with the Russian Czar Alexander I and Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm III after winning the battle of Friedland – of course, there is an avenue de Friedland, too, quite next to it actually, as both streets belong to the architectural ensemble of Paris’ star-shaped Place Charles de Gaulle, with the Arc de Triomphe in its very middle. Anyway, numéro 14 of rue de Tilsitt was the address of none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Zelda’s, of course. It was quite fine an address, some embassies around, avenue Foch as well, Paris’ most exclusive démeure, though at that time still called avenue du Bois, as Maréchal Foch, whom it was named after, a French héros of WWI, had only died in 1929, quite fitting for this fine couple, and especially for an author who has always felt so much at home with the rich and famous. Hemingway, ha!, Hemingway not so much, he and Hadley lived on the other bank, in the quartier latin on Rive Droite, the area intellectually dominated by the Sorbonne and fine old schools, their first apartment was on rue du Cardinal Lemoine, far less elegant, ever so far less, his tiny apartment had its loo in the staircase, to be shared with others, Gertrude Stein came for tea nonetheless. It was so small a place, Hemingway had to rent a room close-by, on rue Descartes, to have some space, or more precisely, some peace and quiet to write his stories, including the ones Hadley lost when traveling to Switzerland, they were never found, they’re lost forever, the lost generation, however, stays on, having me for coffee at the café downstairs on 14, rue de Tilsitt.