Traveling East, North and backwards

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Work and friends had me go to Berlin from Wednesday to Sunday. I was travelling from the far West of Germany to the fast East, basically from Holland to Poland. What I didn’t realize was that I was also going from 2018 to 1998. Fashion seems to return every 20 years, but really did anyone believe the ugliest items of the Nineties were to reemerge? I didn’t think wearing pants that are way too short, jeans jackets that are way too big and fanny packs would ever make their comeback. But Berlin people want to be avantgarde-cool at all times even if it looks perfectly ridiculous.

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One of the many nineties people

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I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on the Gurlitt Nazi Art Theft.

My stay included looking at locations from tunnels to tipis, attending a design event at the embassy, visiting a startup lab, and meeting with Ingrid, Michelle, Malin, and my cousin Felix. Malin had come to Berlin for our annual 2MH-weekend and we showed her the German capital for the first time. Even though I hope I will never have to move to Berlin, I will say that their second-hand-shops are really well curated, their hipster streets have the coolest cafés, their markets cater to my needs and they have Dussmann, a stationery and book store (that calls itself a “Culture Shop”) that I would go to every week if I could.

It has become a rule now that if I travel, I will catch a cold. This time was no exception, I returned sick and had less than two days to recuperate before my plane to Stockholm lifted on Tuesday, for work. It was my shortest trip to Sweden ever and one of my sweetest. Short enough to just take in the nice things, to import Västerbottenost (very important), and (more important) to spend some evening hours with my dear friend Bianca. Less than 24 hours after arrival, I returned to Dizzel, feeling like I now had travelled to the Eighties.

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This is where I worked yesterday. Can you guess where?

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Oh, Lidl…

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The Swedish news were all about children names the state refused and parents fighting against it. Who wants to name their kid superfastjellyfish?!

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Already miss this one a lot lot lot

I’ve been in Eighties-Düsseldorf for 19 hours when  I am leaving again, and again to Berlin. How much do you have to be home in order to make renting an apartment worthwhile? Asking for a friend.

The Day I gave the Swedish Prime Minister a Goat

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There are four days in my work year where I cannot be sick. This year one of those days took place in Berlin and so last week, I travelled to the German capital. Paris, Darmstadt, Berlin, Osnabrück in less than a week, including cancelled flights and other troubles. But I made it and at first, things were going rather smooth – until I, when getting ready for the networking boat trip we had arranged – made one wrong move. In German, we call this “Witch Shot” and a lumbago really feels like some evil power has seized you. But this was one of the four days when I cannot be indisposed so Diclofenac became my friend.

And actually maybe also adrenaline because I do believe the levels of that hormone are high in my body when I rush between people and places, organizing last minutes things like missing whiskey bottles or speakers stuck on airports. (What I couldn’t do anything about was the 32 degree heat that people had to endure as soon as they ventured outside of our air conditioned venue.)

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But all went well. At our dinner, we had a famous key note speaker, the former Swedish Prime Minister. Leading up to the event, I had sat in the office and wondered what to give him as a thank you present. When the evening came, my boss handed me the present and asked me to explain to the Prime Minister. “So we’ve been thinking”, I said to him, “what you’d like. But flowers are such a hassle to take on the plane to Stockholm. And you can’t bring liquids onboard. So we concluded we would give you a goat! Because that is so easy to take with you, right?” He looked at me in friendly confusion. “Well, actually it’s not you that gets to keep the goat”, I enlighted him. “We made a donation for a goat in your name for a family in need”, I said and handed him his gift certificate. He seemed very pleased – and I was delighted, too to have given a goat to a politican for the first time.

I also got to give away an award for the first time! My juniors and I have instituted a badge of honor for those facilitating junior engagement in the business community, and I, together with the chair of the junior network, got to award it.

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Very tired after a very full day in the elevator to the (unneccessarily) huge suite I was upgraded to

I went to bed at 3 a.m. but was up only a few hours later because I had the best brunch date: Ingrid! She met me in the park, me bringing unhealthy croissants and she bringing healthy fruit – and a polaroid camera!

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It might sound odd but I am rather glad to be back in my own home and to not have any travel scheduled for almost a month. Finally, I have time to catch up on things – I didn’t even have a single bottle of milk at home anymore – and live up to my long-neglected fika duty at work. Gotta run and bake that banana bread!

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?

Life in transit

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One thing people never believe me is that I don’t enjoy traveling. But really just because I do it a lot or maybe exactly because I do it a lot, I don’t like it. I don’t like packing, I don’t like being on planes and trains and I do like my own bed. These current ten days, I really live life in transit though. After the Southern Germany trip for five days, I was home one day to hop on a plane to Berlin for two days. I’ll be back tomorrow for 12 hours to continue to Belgium. Let’s say my planning skills have been better.

I am in Berlin for work, adding some time to see Michelle and Ingrid. This morning when I came to my meeting at the embassy, I was delighted to be greeted by my former intern who now works at the embassy. It felt almost like home!

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Just one of many reminders that we are hanging out in the East of Berlin

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The evening I got to spend with Ingrid who now lives in super hipster Prenzlauer Berg. (To get there from the embassy only takes the same amount of time as flying to Berlin from Düsseldorf. Don’t you love traffic in the capital.) Everyone here either has to have a hipster beard or must be pregnant, it seems to be a rule. 

The neighborhood is very nice with lots of pretty restaurants and cafés. Also, the park area of only Prenzlauer Berg amounts to approximately the entire green area of Düsseldorf, or so it seems. And Ingrid didn’t even show me Volkspark Friedrichshain yet.

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Stop and smell the flowers.

A walk in the park with Heling

Gala ends, Christmas starts

A last look back at a night in blue

Now that I’m back safe and sound to Dizzel, the regional capital (because that is what Dizzel is) has gone from 13 degrees to minus 4 degrees. This means thermo tights while cycling! During the work day, I’m busy with the post-processing of the gala: sending people photos, writing texts about the evening for our magazine, thanking everyone involved, mailing out speeches to journalists, wrapping up the budget, well – you get the idea. The next event, albeit much smaller, is already around the corner and needs some attention, too.

But after the gala also means: before Christmas! Upon returning, I immediately geared up for advent, buying moss, oranges and candles, unpacking Christmas decorations from the basement, setting up my Christmas star in the window and listening and singing to Christmas music on repeat. I even got a tree! Yes, you heard right, and I transported it on my bike (totally possible). The proud fir is now gracing my living room – Germans (and Swedes) will think it’s too early but I pretend to honor the American tradition of putting it up in the beginning of advent…

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Del 21 i citatsamlingen

Ibland tror jag att jag har en internet-avstötande effekt i mig.

Hon önskar sig en deckare och parfym. Jag tänker jag kanske ger henne deckaren “Parfymen”. – Gud. Vad. Du. Är. O-Rolig. Om praktikanten hade varit här hade han frustat över den låga skämtnivån!

Wenn Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel im Fernsehen kommt, weiß man, dass Weihnachten ist! – Wie heißt der Film, Drei Hasen müssen verarscht werden?!

 

Friend Advent

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We also strolled across the Christmas Market

I am not particularily fond of Berlin. I find it big and dirty, it’s seem far-away and isolated to me, and it takes for ever to go from one place to another in the German capital. But – the city changes when I am with the right people. Berlin with Michelle becomes a cozy place, a city that I can (almost) imagine going to voluntarily.

We noticed today that this is the fourth year in a row that we have spent the first advent weekend together. That’s quite something if you consider that we have known each other for, yes, exactly, four Christmasses (but almost five years). The first one we spent together in Malmö watching the first episode of Julkalendern , the second we made paper hearts for my Christmas tree in Hamburg and last year, we decorated Michelle’s advent lights in Barcelona. This year, we had planned to attend service at the Swedish Church. We got up in time, hurried with breakfast and arrived at 10.59 a.m. Service is always at 11 a.m., in Hamburg, in Berlin, in Stockholm. (Not always in Skåne though.) We were all looking forward and had started singing our favorite Swedish advent songs at home. But when we got there, the pastors were walking out of the church, the last tones of the organ played. One single Sunday a year, the Berlin church has its service at 10. Only once a year, on the first advent Sunday. There we were, disappointedly looking at the people going out. Who saved the day? The church music director. He greeted us and we told him that we apparently had completely missed the 10-am-info online. „How about we go back and I play one song for you so you get into the advent mood?“ he offered. No sooner said than done – he sat down at the organ and played ”Bereden väg” (“Prepare the Royal Highway”), one of our absolute favorites, at our request. Blessed be he who came in the name of the Lord.

 

 

Back from the eye of the storm

 

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I visited the Swedish Export Council, such fun! Also, I helped/witnessed the decorating of their office Christmas tree.

I am writing this from my friend Michelle’s couch where I’ve spent most of my time the past day. I am simply too exhausted to do anything else, even this report is somewhat meager. While I was certainly more relaxed this time then for my first gala event, the incompetent catering company kept my stress levels high. Despite all the work, it was a good evening – and it was extra fun that Michelle could attend (now she knows all the people I am constantly referring to).

Like I already said last year, when everything I’ve worked for for month finally happens at this gala event, it’s probably my favorite day at work during the whole year. But I am also very glad it’s only once a year.

Pleased with my bling-hair, successful and tasty breakfast meeting with “my” juniors the next morning and of course rebellious Berlin postboxes.

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Visited the AllBright Foundation that works for more gender equality on German boards (the photo is an original ad by a bank); trying to graciously wave at the camera with my dear colleague from the embassy; spontaneously meeting Nils who happened to be in Berlin, reminicising about our good old Bremen times.