Traveling in the company of forgotten delicacies.



The weather outside was frightful, but the company on my journey aboard the ICE to Berlin was really delightful. The seats behind me were occupied by two elderly ladies with totally different backgrounds: one had spent most of her life as a nurse in Leipzig in the former GDR, head nurse, she insisted on that distinction, the other one in Cologne as a professor’s wife, Frau Professor would have been the correct way to address her if today’s women’s equality hadn’t outdated this nonsense, anyway, they had totally different views on politics and the GDR’s spying on its own population, strangely, the woman from Leipzig didn’t have a problem with it, to her, all the films Frau Professor mentioned were capitalistic propaganda and wild exaggeration, she rather had a problem with elderly people suffering from their highly insufficient pensions, nobody had to search trashcans for returnable bottles in the GDR, but both had one thing in common, the love for delicacies from their youth, regional specialties that are no longer available: some sort of apple cake with crumbs and a special icing that she loved as a child, for example, or Lungenwurst, a sausage made of calf’s lights, and geräucherte Schweinezunge, smoked pork tongue, all these local recipes sadly seem to be long forgotten, they didn’t stop talking about it, instead of traveling to Berlin they were traveling back in time, to a place where you knew your butcher and baker by name, a much happier place that was offering all of your favourite delicatessen. I wonder if their husbands had kissed them good bye wishing them bon appétit instead of bon voyage.

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…

Dinner on my journey to the Orient.

Tonight’s trout wasn’t trouty at all, pardon that lame pun, but it sounded really quite witty when Eva Marie Saint played with these words when suggesting trout for dinner in North by Northwest, a film I particularly like because of the scenes in the restaurant car, I love traveling in restaurant cars, it’s the closest you can get when trying to evoke the glorious times of the Orient Express, the most storied set of carriages in the world, although, sadly, you’re not living in the 1920s, neither are you on your way to any oriental place, it’s not Stamboul and the Ottoman Empire you’re heading to, just your parents’ place in the provinces, anyway, I love the restaurant car’s little table lamps, just next to the window, turned on as soon as the sun starts to set, when the landscapes you’re passing by are being dimmed to a secondary role, the spotlight’s on the fresh white tablecloth, and for a moment, you are expecting your vichyssoise being served and some Russian émigrée making her entry in diamonds and black Chanel, but, alas, there will be nothing to marvel at, just pea soup and a cranky waitress. So, you better skip all that, order green tea and wait for dinner at home, for that ever so crisp truite meunière.

I love Paris when it drizzles.

One day, or rather one night, in February, 2016, I decided to go to Paris, right away, I mean, I’m talking taking the first possible train, quite spontaneously, so to speak, actually, that’s no big deal, the TGV makes it from Zurich to Paris in less than four hours, and there’s no reservation needed, they might tell you it is, but it’s not, even when it’s really crowded you do still find a place, at least, I always did, anyway, on that morning, it was already raining when I left the house, but I didn’t give a damn, and when I arrived in Paris, at Gare de Lyon, nothing had changed, it was still raining, but I am not that easily defeated, and, for some strange reasons, I always carry an umbrella, those tiny foldable ones, black in a black plastic bag that looks just like the black plastic stuff from Prada, for far less money as there’s no logo, try this with one of those big ones which nowadays are only seen on state funerals and such, laughable constructions, so very cumbersome the moment it stops raining, anyway, my point is, I made it through the rain. I walked and walked and walked, and doing so, I praised not only my umbrella but more importantly, my sneakers’ soles’ reliability, soyez loué, Pierre Hardy, obviously, we are the only two people left on this world with dry and warm feet, the others are hiding, some place sheltered, wimps, all of them, and they are missing the best about Paris in the rain: you have it all to yourself.