Upstairs, downstairs

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“I’ll have to get the blog post done on the train home or I’ll never get around to it”, I told my friend Joraine with whom I spent last weekend in Luxembourg. Well, I did not post anything because already on the trip, my health deterioated (again! still?) and by the time I got home (spoiler alert: you have to take regional trains almost all the way, four hours, to Luxembourg, that, with their commuter train interior, are not beneficial to anyone’s health), I was so sick. The next day the doctor told me I wasn’t allowed to go to work all week in order to spare the co-workers my virus. So my days have been a blur of sleep and going to the pharmacy, starting to clear up somewhat by now – I actually know what day of the week it is today, but I am still coughing like a crazy person.

What can I tell you about Luxembourg?

It’s small. Like, really small. I somehow thought the country’s 600 000 inhabitants mostly lived in the capital, but no. We actually were looking for people all the time and only in the main square we found some while the other streets were deserted at almost all times. Looking for Luxembourgers is generally a difficult game because there are almost none – the population is made up of three thirds foreigners.

It’s high and low. I have never seen a city like this, there’s a upper town and a lower town and I don’t mean this in a socioeconomic way. The difference in altitude is impressive when looking at the whole city and navigating is tricky because Google can’t tell if you are upstairs or downstairs, showing your little blue circle on the same spot even if you just walked 15 minutes uphill. A better way to get up and down is the mountain railway which brings us to:

It has amazing public transportation. I would say I have had a mild interest in public transit even before I met Emily but it is surely due to her enthusiasm that I also got rather excited about getting around in Luxembourg. We used all public transport accessible including the brand new tram with its futuristic light design and a different melody played to announce each stop (however, no written information about the stops was to be found), the elevator, and the mountain railway which we got to use all alone late at night.

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It likes to strictly forbid things. It seems that the dominant language in the country is French. However, when we got to the hotel, I noticed that the prohibition sign was in German. I guess they pick their languages best suited to the desired effect. In Luxembourg, many things are forbidden, judging by the many signs I saw, and it’s not only prohibited, it’s always strictly forbidden. It’s strictly forbidden to play soccer in the yard or not to sort the trash. Lux and Order!

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The national dish? Yeah, not that great.

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Luxembourg is the seat of many EU institutions but it really does not feel as EU as Brussels

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In the MUDAM, the Modern Art Museum

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Maybe my favorite exhibit at the MUDAM, a moving carousel

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Yes, they also exhibit potatoes.

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Kate was in Luxembourg on a visit recently and since she seemed to enjoy the Luxembourg City Museum, we gave it a go too.

Christmas Lowlight

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Not the church we went to, but the one I went to for “Christmas singing” the night before. It was packed, didn’t get a seat or a lyrics leaflet. Luckily, I am an experienced Allsångs-veteran and quickly googled the lyrics each time a song was announced.

My friend Ingrid and I have a habit of texting each other reviews of church services we went to. This morning, I received her verdict on the Catholic Christmas Mass she attended in the U.S. last night. I went to a protestant Christmas service late last night, because he is protestant. We both agreed afterwards that this was a true Christmas lowlight. Not only did the church’s Christmas tree lack every other branch and they ignored the Christmas classic „Tochter Zion“ on their song list.

The service was apparently gauged to the needs and expectations of the people who go to church exactly one time a year. The entire liturgy was trimmed and cut to not indispose visitors. The Creed? Not really neccessary, eh? Confession, it’s not actually essential for Christian faith, is it? The reading was, funny to me, not about Christ’s birth but about the Three Kings getting lost. The pastor managed to steer clear of any sort of spiritual depth when delivering a sermon that barely referred to the Scripture she read. Instead, in the spirit of clientele mass, she read out a story about a family father who feels the Christmas Eve with all his offspring and all these presents – and oh, so much food – is just too much. But when he goes for a walk with his dog, leaving his wife with the dishes and his sons to freely express their populist right wing opinions („he didn’t say anything in response“) – when he finally gets out to the empty streets, the family father feels „that moment of silence that’s Christmas“. Just what Christmas is all about, the annoying family, the presents and the Christmas dinner. „Well, I’ve seen things on Netflix that had considerably more philosophical depth“, A said next to me.

Bättre kan ni“, I thought when we left, „I know you can do better than this“. So when we got home, A pulled out my Bible to re-read the passages, and I downloaded the Swedish Protestant’s Head of Church’s Christmas sermon. And it was all there: the joy, the comfort, the calling.

Don’t worry, the service did by no means spoil our cosy Christmas Eve. But Easter we’re going to a Catholic mass.

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First Christmas at (my own) home

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A got mini dancers for Christmas. Well, and a dancing lesson with me. (No, not as the teacher, obviously.)

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How to know it’s Christmas at the post office

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Christmas Time is meeting friends time, and that’s maybe the best part of Christmas. Tabea and Marita came by to see me, and I had dinner with Michelle in Berlin.

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A look back at Berlin: location scouting took me all different kinds of places…

 

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At Berlin Central Station, they have a Christmas service. IN the very station.

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Can there ever be too much Lucia? Attended Lucia at the Embassy…

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…and the Berlin Cathedral which was filled to the very last seat

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Locations on water…

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…and with a view

Speaking of Berlin! I have been wanting to share with you a recommendation to my friend Annelie’s blog about her life in Berlin, Hemma i Berlin. We met when we both worked in Stockholm and moved to Germany at the same time, but somehow she managed to integrate more quickly and now has a whole German family with two small kids to show for! Chances are you have heard me talk about Annelie so here is your perfect opportunity to follow her:

She started blogging about Berlin a while ago and you should check out her take on the best restaurants, learn about her “Swede of the Month” or read her musings on things typically German (might be my favorite blog entry, esp. the part about Kuchenbehälter).

 

Citatsamlingen lever än…del, let’s say, 38

Du weißt doch, wie mein zweiter Name lautet. – Danger?

Sweden? Norway? Hamburg!

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Last year, I decided not to spend Lucia without a real Lucia concert again and when I don’t make it to Sweden, the closest is – of course – Hamburg. “It’s basically Southern Sweden”, he commented when we went by all these stores, Indiska, Clas Ohlson, Sosterne Grene (yeah, I know that’s Danish). Because this weekend, it was once again time for #showhimthenorth.

When you go north from Dizzeldorf, you often have to take a Swiss train. They are older than the German ICE-trains but I since last Friday I know their unbeatable competitve advantage: their train restaurant! The interior is different, round tables, real tablecloths, the prices are directly converted from Swiss francs to euros, and the food is amazingly good. I had a risotto that was delicious. From now on, I will always have to eat onboard this train.

When you were sick for a week and couldn’t work and “just quickly” want to send a few emails at midnight upon arrival at the hotel…

We had booked a hotel in my former neighborhood (because nostalgia) and when we got there at midnight, it was full of Norwegians. Seconds after we closed our door, someone pounded on it and when I opened, a middle-aged, tipsy Norwegian couple looked at me, staggered. “This is where we live”, I told them in Swedish which, astonishingly, did not surprise them. Instead, they happily told me that the reason for the Norwegian crowd was the women’s handball world cup, “and we’re in the finals! Norway is in the final!” I wished them good luck and they rewarded that with being noisy in the hallways late at night. Oh, well.

Hamburg treated us well. Sunshine and cinnamon buns, Lucia concert and dinner with friends and family, stationery shopping and “Bereden väg” in the Sunday service (that he willingly accompanied me to). Now I am en route to Berlin where I will be working the next two days. Hamburg – Berlin is one of the fastest train connections I know, so I just had to seize to opportunity. Now let’s just see if the train internet is good enough to upload this post…

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Hamburg also has the funniest bulletins: this one says someone has lost their “sweet little bird of paradise that I danced for for 13 years, last year I stopped and now my bird has flown away”. Asking for for help finding it again, “I promise I will never imprison my birdie in a cage again!” (In German, bird of paradise mostly means a flamboyant person so I don’t even know how to interpret this notice, maybe it’s a story of broken love.)

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Here, someone is looking for his lost camera, saying, the finder will be rewarded “obviously!”

 

Snow!

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In Sweden or at least in Stockholm, it’s not a surprise that advent comes with white flakes that – at first- excite everyone. But here, in Dizzel, I have never seen real snow and when it started snowing a few days ago, I was like, “Whatever, it’ll be gone before I manage to get outside”. That was true for the first time but now, now it’s been snowing since this morning, and it’s falling down softly on the ground, covering all of Dizzel in magical white – and it’s not melting! An amazing advent miracle.

I realize it’s a hassle for everyone who needs to go outside (he tells me it’s terrible in traffic), but I don’t go outside a lot anymore. Since last Thursday, I’m sick. What I thought was a regular cold turned out to be my first full-blown tonsillitis. I am very bad at being sick and cannot even enjoy being at home able to watch the new season of The Crown or the (this year not exactly great)  Swedish julkalender. I just wanna get better and go back to work! But wait, now the Nobel Prize Ceremony is starting and I will take a look at what dresses the royal ladies have chosen…

The Princess Diaries

I don’t think I make a good television personality. The last time someone texted me “I just saw you on TV, how the hell did you end up in that show?” was a couple of years ago when two friends and I were in the audience for a silly game show where ‘celebrities’ tested their knowledge about Sweden. Yesterday and today, I was on television with a real celebrity, the Swedish Crown Princess, but all you see of me is a super-stressed face hurrying through the picture behind her. Talk about failing at your five seconds of fame!

What happened? There is no denying it: a big day for a royal enthusiast like me happened. The Princess came to my, okay, our gala, and I had the honor to stand at the landing and officially welcome her with my boss (oh, and the honor to hand her three awards on stage). Honestly, even if she did not have any title at all, I would have been thrilled to meet her simply for how she comes across as a person. It is no surprise at all that she is so popular.

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What do you mean, stressed look?

When we had shown her in, I had to attend to some urgent crisis business which explains my stressed face. Like I said, television appearances are not my strong side yet. Eventually, everything went well and everyone was happy, cheery and – so pretty! I was especially happy that we had more juniors than ever attending: ambitious, competent young professionals in glittering dresses and glamorous smokings, such a sight! Right on time for the gala, we had produced pins for the juniors that only they got to wear, making it easy to identify who was part of the club. The only ones possibly outshining our emblem were the court staff who had the king’s monogram as a pin on their sleeves.

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As if the gala didn’t already almost kill me energy-wise, I had arranged a junior day the next day where we held a workshop. It’s those encounters that make me want to go to work on Mondays. The atmosphere in the network, the great people, the mutual understanding, the shared references, it’s what makes all the toil worthwhile. And yes, I will admit, also the Princess.

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The juniors. I love that crowd.

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Late shift

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“I will be so exhausted after the gala”, I thought. Well, turns out I am already half-dead before it. These past nights, I’ve woken up thinking about the seating arrangments. Worked late, ate what was left in the fridge or asked him to get food. Today, I spent countless (!) hours sorting name tags. We’re almost 100 people more than usual this year, there is a lot more protocol, and I feel as exhausted before as I usually am afterwards. But it will be worth it tomorrow when the most glamorous event I attend in a year brings together everyone again!

Wide awake

My body has a tendency to be out of sync with the conventional ideas of sleep and awake times. Sometimes, I can’t get myself to fall asleep before 2 or 3 a.m.. More often than not, my eyes refuse to open before 9. The solution would be, people tell me, coffee. Unfortunately, I just don’t like the taste of coffee and my experiments with black tea have felt more like a placebo than a wake-up call.

So when my co-worker told me about this new cocoa that is supposed to be a coffee alternative, I was hooked. Vegan, sugarfree, fairtrade – I immediately suspected that this hipster product must have come out of the German “Dragon’s Den”, and I was right. Under the tag line “The world needs you awake”, the founders of koawach have mixed guarana into cocoa and now sell it for quite a lot of money. I had to do some research and zickzack a bit through Dizzel but finally found one of the chains that sells the hot chocolate.

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Day 2 of koawach: Alert and awake at work despite lack of sleep

For two mornings now, he made me koawach instead of tea and yes – I am awake. It seems to work. It takes just like hot chocolate (well, bitter without sugar) so it’s an energizing treat. My self-observation has concluded that I need regular refills though if I am to perform well as the effect lessens after three to four hours. I am going to ration this drink very strictly but boy, do I have high hopes for this pick-me-up for my 48-hour-work-shift during my upcoming gala days!