Around the world in 80 attempts.

All of a sudden, when shopping for a globe, they are so decorative, I came to realize that I have seen nothing of this planet, nothing! Not once have I made it all around the globe. The most western place I’ve been to was San Francisco, or Los Angeles, don’t know which town is more western than the other, basically it’s all California, let’s leave it at that, and the most eastern place was the Maldives, tiniest place, too, I made it through the island in six point five minutes, the most northern spot was Reykjavík, and the most southern location was, quite amazingly, also the Maldives, Northern Africa just sounds southern, but, as the name implies, it is quite northern a place, I never made it lower than Morocco, mapwise. So, what does that sudden discovery leave me with? Regret. Nothing but regret. I must start traveling to places that I haven’t been to before, I guess. Sounds like a good plan. I shall miss Paris in the future though, it’s such a nice place and I’ve only been there 1,472 times…

Spring in Berlin.

Finally a lunch break with some sun. Finally some spring in the air. However, let me be quite clear on that, it wasn’t spring at all, not really, maybe meteorologically, but definitely in name only, in fact, it was icy cold outside, my shawl was wrapped thrice around my neck, the sky might have been blue but there was still some snow left on the ground, ice patches made everything slippery that was left alone by passers-by, and of course I slipped taking some of the photos when trespassing the garden design, but it was worth it, Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, the old national gallery, inaugurated on this very day some 150 years ago, on March 22nd, 1876, was looking splendid with the bright blue sky and the graphics of the leafless trees, there is nothing better to bring out architecture than a tree, the contrast between culture and nature is one of the most spectacular I know, and so I wasn’t too sad about just taking pictures of the gallery itself – and none of the great pictures on display inside.

Paris and its column of columns.

These are my favourite columns in the whole world: the ones arcading Rue de Rivoli’s famous addresses, Galignani, for instance, my favourite bookshop, and some cafés offering a place to sit and sip something while overlooking Parisian traffic alongside the Tuileries Garden, the Louvre, or Joan of Arc in front of the Hotel Regina, the most beautifully situated hotel in all of Paris. If you ask me, columns are the best architectural invention since the roof, a roof might offer more shelter from the rain, but so does an umbrella, columns, however, provide us with style, maybe this is why the Acropolis was covered in columned architecture, just to show us what real culture is all about, but then again, Greece isn’t known for rain anyway, is it? Anyway, Paris is blessed with some of the most beautiful columns ever built, some of them with no purpose besides being stylish, but that’s more than fine with me, they stand alone, minding their own business or carrying Napoleon’s statue, they adorn parks and façades, churches and museums, palaces and townhouses, I once started counting them, I made it to 963, then I lost count, there are far too many. Paris is all about exuberance, believe you me.

Hamburg‘s fish market.

One day, strolling through Hamburg’s Neuer Wall, I came, quite by chance, across some deep sea fish. Despite their vivid colours they seemed to be smothering, their mouths gasped for air, their eyes were wide open in fear of death, a very realistic illustration of the stress put on fish by, well, fishing. Now, Hamburg is known for its Fischmarkt, you can find almost anything in the shadow of the 100-year old fish auction hall, but I wasn’t expecting anything like it on display in the Hermès windows on Neuer Wall, obviously, I had come across some fine ichthyology, quite haut de gamme. I was hooked, quite literally, I was reeled in, so to say, and was set free again some minutes later, a little poorer, but with Grands Fonds in its orange box, I was quite at ease, not only had I a new scarf in splendid colours, but also had I learned that there’s a lot to see in the deep blue sea, and that the depicted fish were all still very much alive.

Healthy decorating.

Last weekend, I made some minor interior decorating changes, and some major ones. As for the minor ones, my DVD player is now placed on my Hermès magazines, collected for some many a year, decades even, now finally they have a purpose, and I spare the money for the matching Marcel Breuer Bauhaus table on which the TV set is placed a floor above, so to speak. Then I hall chaired a corner in the living room, scented it with Diptyque’s Benjoin, benzoin, by the way, is the best of scents, and turquoised it with a tiny tray, wooden and lacquered, made in Vietnam, it’s from Hermès in Zurich, achat spontané, and finally, here comes the major change in style: I put apples in a bowl that has been empty ever since I bought it when spending two weeks on the Maldives in 2006. Have more apples, organic of course, that’s my new motto. Healthwise and decorwise.

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…

Paris for breakfast.

There are days when you don’t wake up in Paris, those normal days at home, in your very fine yet so very ordinary sheets, when you suffer from the same old view from your bedroom windows, the same old soap in the shower, that same old boring Diptyque soap instead of the hotel branded stuff that screams you’re abroad, far away from home, on the loose, free, it’s not so much branded with some hotel logo, but with the far more prestigious emblem of your very own liberty, whether it’s a place in the Himalayas, the Australian outback or, in my case, Paris, Rome, Helsinki, St.Petersburg or Edinburgh, as, with me, nature is almost always replaced with architecture, preferably from before 1900 AD, that late massive Finnish art nouveau and the exuberance of Brussels art deco are an exception, anyway, thank heavens there are days when your parents return from France, bringing you Proustian madeleines in form of Paulian croissants, those real ones, with that inimitable taste, au beurre, crispy as hell, as if they just came out of the boulangerie on rue de Rennes, not your father’s suitcase, and however German your homemade Sunday coffee is, you’re transported to the streets of Saint-Germain immediately. This way, thanks to fine parenting and modern transportation, your life in exile from any place abroad is worth living after all.

I‘ll have Paris with coffee.

If you’re suffering from an architecture deficiency, there’s only one cure: Paris. You better take the next plane to Paris, store your luggage at the hotel, don’t waste time unpacking, there’s really no time to be wasted at all, you may re-spritz your cologne though, and make it to the nearest bar-tabac, café, brasserie, restaurant or whatever place with a table on the sidewalk, install yourself, order coffee, p’tit noir or au lait, and there you go. Enjoy your view. Paris. Haussmann. The Middle Ages. Renaissance. Louis XVI. Empire. Belle Époque. Art Nouveau. Art Déco. Everything. You have it all in front of you. You can even touch it. You can breathe again. The agony is gone. You will smile again. You’re cured. Isn’t it great? By the way: Any additional coffee deficiency will be cured as a side effect.

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.