Archive | August 2009

Berlin in the Summer

Lake Tegel in Berlin. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Lake Tegel in Berlin. Photo: Ulla Hennig

No, this is not a lake somewhere in Mark Brandenburg. We are in Berlin, at the shores of Lake Tegel, which can easily be reached by public transport. And this is only one of the many places in Berlin where you can watch the swans, ducks and boats coming in and going out. Berlin is a green City, and if you want to know more about this aspect, you can visit my Squidoo lens “Berlin, the Green city“.

There are times where Berlin is dull, dreary, grey. But in the summertime, it is a wonderful city: you can sit outside in one of the many cafés and have a cool drink or a hot coffee. You can take a book and go to one of the many parks; some of them even have chairs to sit on. You can go by boat along the Landwehrkanal or the River Spree, and of course you can stroll along the famous boulevard “Unter den Linden”.

The weather forecast announces that August and September will be very nice and warm. So I look forward to the weekends with Berlin in the Summer!

A Place to Breathe

My local steakhouse. Photo: Ulla Hennig

My local steakhouse. Photo: Ulla Hennig

This is a place I like to go to on the weekend: just a few meters away from where I live there is a lovely steakhouse, managed by two young men in their 20ies, with a wonderful patio. Since Easter 2009 they have been offering delicious food, tasty wine and beer and – a place to breathe.

One of the young man is a Palestinian. He speaks German without accent. The other one is a Berliner – he also speaks German without accent. If you like to get a perfect service you have to come to that rather inconspicuous restaurant in a more than inconspicious district. Although I am living near the Potsdamer Platz and the famous Friedrichstraße I am living in a part of Berlin where the majority of the people communicate in the Turkish or Arabian tongue. They have got their own snack bars. Most of the few German people who still live in the flats next to mine are unemployed and haven’t got the money to eat in a restaurant. So both young men very much depend on tourists coming along the road and dropping in.

I admire their courage to open a restaurant in the current economic crisis. I admire the way they do business and the way they make everybody welcome. Sometimes I drop in just for a small glass of beer when I come back from work and I sit on the patio, looking at the blue sky and breathe.

By the way – the steakhouse is called “Steakhaus Asador” – in case you might come to Berlin and want delicious food, good wine, cold beer and a perfect service!

Great Expectations

Sitting room. In the middle of the room is a table covered with a white tablecloth and set with three wine glasses. Three chairs are arranged around the table. Then three people enter the room: a plump woman in her 50ies, a man at the same age with broad shoulders and a young man about 25 years old, with longish brown hair. Whereas the couple is clad in rather formal clothes, the young man is wearing washed out jeans and a t-shirt. The young man is their son, who has applied for fine arts at the university. He got “the letter” from it. The parents invited him in their house to hear the latest news.

Woman: Pete, just sit here at your usual place, please. And Mike, can you bring the wine bottle please, the one I bought today at the supermarket?

Woman and son sit down. The man goes into the kitchen. The woman is rather excited, rubs her hands, takes up her wine glass and puts it down again, tries to smooth the table cloth. The son is staring at the table. The man comes back with a big wine bottle, reading the label.

Man: reads Char-donn-ay. Never heard that name before.

Woman: It is a French wine. My friend Glenda told me that it is a very nice one. She’s got some experience with wine, you know.

Man: You can say that! opens the bottle with some difficulty. There it is! pours the wine into the three glasses.

Woman: raises her glass Well, to the future student of the Fine Arts!

Son: looks up, cleans his throat Well, wait a moment, Mom.

Woman: puts her glass down Being accepted at the university is a reason to drink to, Pete. You are such a modest person. You’ve ever been. Do you remember, Mike, when he’s got that letter from his teacher, telling us what a great artist we have in the familiy. He didn’t want to talk about it, our Pete, didn’t he?

Man: uh-uh.

Woman: And now he’s got that letter of acceptance from the university and doesn’t want us to drink to it! You know, I told Glenda yesterday, that we are so proud of having an artist in our family. And a student! The first one of the family! He won’t have to earn his money by selling cars to arrogant customers, like our Wayne has to do.

Man: There’s nothing bad with selling cars. His boss says he’s one of the best salesmen he ever had.

Woman: looks at the man and he won’t have to earn his money by putting bricks upon bricks each day!

Man: staring angryly at the woman and what’s wrong about that? We’re pretty well off with the wage I am carrying home every month! But I know you’ve  always wanted someone more educated! Someone in a business suit!

Son: Mom and Dad, please!

Woman: You’re right, Pete. Your father and I won’t quarrel on such a wonderful day, won’t we, Mike! I am so exited! When are you to begin your studies?

Son: To tell you the truth, Mom and Dad…

Woman and Man: Yes, Son?

Son: Not this year.

Woman: not this year? What does that mean? Next year, then?

Son: No. He gets off his chair. Well, I can as well tell you all about it. They told me that they could not accept me. No artistic potential what so ever. Should not try again. I am no artist, Ma! Never will be! runs out of the room.

The End

I wrote this piece because I wanted to try something I’ve never done before – writing a kind of screenplay. I don’t know anything about writing screenplays, I must admit. I just have a vague and amateurish idea how to write it. I can only publish it on my blog because I know that you, the community of my blog, are kind and capable of tolerating such an attack on any standards of writing. I promise: I won’t do it again!

This is a contribution to Mission(ImPossible) over at Joanna Young’s blog “Confident Writing”.

One Week and three Baltic States – A kind of Conclusion


This post is the last post of my “Travel to the Baltic States” series.

What you can see on the above photo is a wonderfully made door which caught my attention somewhere in the city of Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. We went there on the last day of our one week travel. From there the plane took us back to Frankfurt, Germany.

It had been a week packed with new impressions and beautiful views. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, Riga, the capital of Latvia and at last Tallinn, the capital of Estonia – each of them had their own character, their great architecture. Of course we also had learned  much about the history of these three Baltic states.

But when I look back on that week some weeks later now I get the feeling that there are so many things which I still don’t know. We didn’t have the opportunity to speak with “normal” people – the people in the cities, the people on the countryside. Well, our guide was a young Latvian woman, but there was not much time to talk to her about things beside architecture and history.

So if I had the time and the opportunity I would visit these countries again and on my own, or with some friends, but not with a travel group and a fixed program. I would try to leave the tourist paths and go to where the people living there go, and try to talk with them, hoping that some sort of communication would be possible.

What I learned from the Death of my Bonsai

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Bonsai. Photo: Ulla Hennig

One of my colleagues and friends owns a Bonsai shop. You know what Bonsais are – those little trees, planted in decorative basins. Some of them are only for your garden, but some of them – so it is said – can be happy inside your flat.

Last September Melanie (that’s her name) gave to me one bonsai as birthday present. She told me how to water it, where to put it. I chose a place for it, and it was the first thing in the morning for me to look at it. I must add that my experience with plants up to that time consisted in dealing with cut flowers. I liked to arrange them in a vase, carefully cut them, and I usually managed to have them quite a long time. So I thought I would be able to care for my Bonsai.

Well, after some weeks, my Bonsai was not feeling very well anymore. It changed its leaves to a first yellowish and then brownish color. I told Melanie about the state the poor plant was in and she mentioned the possibility of it having not enough light. So I put it on my window sill.

September had changed into October at that time, and it had become cold outside. So the heating was on, and the heating was – you might know it already – under the window sill. Poor Bonsai now got light, but also the heat rising from below. It clearly did not like that, and it showed by throwing away slowly but continuously more or less all of its leaves.

Of course I tried to find out what I could do – more water? Less water? Removing the dried branches? Nothing helped, and in the middle of November my Bonsai had decided to die  (I had the impression it really wanted to go, somehow). I was left with the feeling of having killed it and I felt rather bad for quite a time.

What did I learn?

  • There is a difference between looking at plants and enjoying them in their surroundings and having them in your own flat.
  • There is a difference between the handling of cut flowers and bonsais. Having a “green thumb” for the first doesn’t mean you’ve got one for the latter.
  • If I wanted some green plants in my flat I should try hydroponics first before experimenting with something so difficult like Bonsais.

This post is a contribution to the August Group Writing Project “What I learned from the Plant World” organised by Robert Hruzek over at

A Piece of the Old City Wall in Tallinn

A Piece of the Old City Wall. Photo: Ulla Hennig

A Piece of the Old City Wall. Photo: Ulla Hennig

Tallinn is the capital city and the biggest city of Estonia. It was founded in the 12th century, and you can still see many medieaval buildings.

In 1219 the Danes conquered the city. After that it became known under the name of “Reval”. Tallinn has a long history – if you want to know it in detail, there’s a long article on Wikipedia about it. There are two dates however which are most important to all Estonians

  • In 1920 Tallinn became the capital of the first independent Estonian state.
  • And in 1991, after long years of being a part of the Soviet Union, it became independent again.