The best worst coffee of Paris.

The Flore. This is the place where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre worked on their essays, plays and novels, literary milestones that made them rich and famous (well, not really rich, but very, very famous), all while having lots of coffee and even more cigarettes. As for the cigarettes, I cannot say which brand they were smoking and if I would have liked their taste, I’m a Dunhill kind of guy, the blue ones, but as far as the coffee is concerned, gee, no wonder they were so embittered about society. I hate that brew. It’s so nicely presented, the coffee is served in a jug, you got another one for your milk, hot milk on top, you pour and mix it yourself, according to your taste, you get an extra glass of water, so all in all one really can’t complainbut still, I do. This coffee is just awful, it‘s way too strong, it tastes like overdosed Nescafé, strangely bitter, brutal, a simultaneous attack on your taste buds and your stomach, you take one sip and you immediately have to light a cigarette to recover from it—and it takes a lot of time to recover. But that’s actually the only good thing about it, as a convalescent, you spend your time soaking up the atmosphere while watching the passers-by, just as long as it takes to let this wonderful spot called St.Germain-des-Prés sink in really deep. I can do this for hours at a time while that nasty coffee is getting cold. And if you should feel like re-reading “Les Mandarinsor Les Mots“, there’s a bookshop just next door on Boulevard St.Germain, so you can start right away, right there where it was written.

Fashion on the road.

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.

Berlin in winter.

It’s cold, obviously. You see, the nearer you get to Russia, the colder it gets. And I’m not referring to the post-communistic and neo-capitalistic allure of Putin’s empire, just to Siberia’s increasing proximity. And it’s windy, too, although I don’t have a geographical (or political) explanation at hand for that. It’s definitely not a comfy town to visit, but the Berliner Schnauze will make up for it: Berliners are all very grounded, and everybody grounded is to be trusted, aren’t they? Just make sure to wear woolen socks when visiting.

Spaghetti all’eternità.

Many, many years ago, I was still at university, my parents spent some time in Rome, they visited churches, had gelati and Campari, once settled in, they still had gelati and Campari, but visited fewer churches – dolce far niente, what can I say – and wanted to move as soon as possible, which is quite understandable, in my opinion, people who don’t want to move to Rome when in Rome are not to be trusted, or are they? Anyway, at that time, a former colleague of theirs was living in Rome as a correspondent for a German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and invited them over to his place where he changed my mother’s life forever: he made the first spaghetti my mother would not only tolerate, but would prepare in the exact same way as soon as she was back home. You have to know that my mother’s spaghetti bolognese were actually quite good, as a child I even loved them, but she would never have some herself, too boring, she’d say, Klaus’ spaghetti all’amatriciana, however, were different, they were sensational, all that bacon, the fresh sage, the chillies, the grated pecorino, all that was much more to my mother’s liking, she brought home vast amounts of DeCecco pasta, the brand Klaus used, in these days totally unknown in Germany, totally, I very much blame Klaus for that brand’s international success, and the design and colour combo of their packaging at that time, yellow and turquoise, which I loved, but that’s another story, anyway, for these last 25 years, we’ve had this dish over and over again, it’s still called The Roman Recipe, and I have absorbed it so well, one might say, it’s part of my DNA. What can I say, everything Roman seems to be eternal.

Happy Christmas in Switzerland.

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.)

Heaven on a plate.

Sometimes, when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold, I feel a glow just thinking of Sprüngli’s Himbeertorte and the way it once looked on my balcony’s marble table in Zurich. The raspberries were red and firm and tasted like real raspberries, grown on a real field, not like these wannabe raspberries from God-knows-where, that just look good, but taste like, well, nothing, like chewable air if you do need a reference. The rest of it was sweet and soft, a creamy delight with a hint of almonds, and just to be fair, I’m giving you a similar reference: to me, it tasted like a chewable 1998 Château Yquem.

Castles in the air.

I guess, when you’re a king, you won’t ever have to built a single castle in the air, instead you might even built them out of thin air. Just for fun, for a laugh, ha-ha-ha. To be fair, Frederick the Great built some of them, like the Neue Palais, for other reasons, for real statesmanly reasons like entertaining other kings or have a ball with diplomats, ambassadors, and such, but Sans Souci, he did built for nothing but pleasure. In winter, the joyfulness of it all might be less visible, but the architectural finesse of the ensemble is to be experienced at its very best.