Adventures with auntie


Dizzel got some snow this week but it didn’t stay

You know when your blog intervals have become too long when your parents write to you asking if you are still alive. I am but terribly busy. Like the kind of my-fridge-is-empty-and-I-haven’t-replied-to-my-whatsapps-in-5-days-busy.

Last weekend, I had my aunt visiting which was fun. Once again, Düsseldorf suddenly becomes much nicer when I have someone I like with me and that person sees Dizzel through fresh eyes. That weekend, I had also planned to take my aunt to Cologne because I had tickets to the radio choir concert. The Western Germany Radio Choir (WDR Rundfunkchor) has a Swedish conductor and they sang a concert called „Northern Lights“ with only Swedish choir music. Of course I had to attend!

The Deutsche Bahn whose a main sponsor I probably am by now had sent me a voucher inviting me to bring along a friend for free on a train ride. Great, I thought, let’s use that on the way to Cologne, we’ll even be able to take the fast train ICE without it costing much. On the train, my aunt told me a gripping story of a bike theft in her youth, and I looked out the window occasionally to check where we were. Köln-Deutz, very good, I thought, next stop is ours. But when the train started moving again, they announced, „Ladies and Gentlemen, our next stop is Frankfurt Airport“.

I have seldom felt so trapped in a vehicle. Most long distance trains around Dizzel stop all the time because there are just so many major cities everywhere. Not this one. This one went straight for an hour to a different federal state. And we were on it with concert tickets for Cologne.

An hour later we got off the train with pouding hearts and sprinted to the next platform to board the train back immediately. It only cost us 100 euros to go back…But we made it in time for the concert! The ”Northern Lights” were, mildly put, very modern. No „Vänlig grönska“ or anything in their programme, mostly spheric sounds. On the way back to the central station, we popped in the famous Cologne Cathedral – like I almost always do when I’m there and it’s always worth it. I don’t find the cathedral pretty or anything, but there is some kind of special energy in it. And special events. That night, a Saturday at 10 p.m., they had ”Nightfever” going on which essentially was Eucharstic Adoration. But if they’d call it that, I assume a lot less young people would attend. Now, there was lots of young adults coming in, sitting down, listening to the live music and enjoying the many, many candles.

And to get even more Catholic I am now on my way to Munich. We’re having an event there that I’ve been arranging and let me tell you calling the catering down there felt like calling abroad. ”Grüß Sie Gott!”, they would chirp into the phone with their massive accent. For breakfast, we’ll eat Weißwurst (Bavarian veal sausage).

This week we hosted a very successful after work event with our juniors, I booked a flight for a work trip to Stockholm in March and I found a beautifully lit building on a secret mission

Even on the train we work of course, here I’m proofreading / We have a new intern! We nicknamed him Lil’ Pesto and chuckle everytime we call him that. He’d rather be called praktikantjäveln but that name was taken (voluntarily) by his predecessor. (Lil’ Pesto originates from the meme that suggests your rapper name is the last thing you ate with Lil’ in front of it. Kind regards, Lil’ Müsli.)

Citatsamling del 26

På väg till tågrestaurangen: Alltså jag känner mig så kontinental som ska äta på tåget nu!

Der ist vielleicht gar nicht so farblos wie er erscheint. Innerlich ist der vielleicht ein menschlisches Holi-Festival!


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Our party location

One week from now, I will be sitting in the Old Town, attending a pub crawl that’s part of the jubilee we’re organising. “We’re been talking about this for almost a year”, our head of the junior division said today, “and now it’s almost here!” Just one week left! This week, we’re coming to the detail level and while it’s going to be a lot of work, it’s also going to be such fun. So much to look forward to. But I am also worn-out beforehand, maybe it’s because I’ve been beavering away in the kitchen until long after dusk tonight. I’m fikaansvarig tomorrow and am defending my baking reputation with a recipe that I got from Michelle’s mom in Skåne some weeks ago, it’s a variation from Sju sorters kakor and I have great expectations.

Speaking of fun, my extra co-worker persuaded me to join the project choir of the church. It’s a choir for people who can’t commit to a regular choir practice but want to sing – four rehearsals, four weeks, one performance. Perfect as a first step back into choir for me! The first rehearsal last week was already fun and yesterday it was even better. We’re singing four songs, two in German, one in English and one in, lo and behold, Latin. Luckily, there are some very strong candidates in every voice, it seems, so that it’s easy to get a pretty good sound. It affirmed my belief that human beings are made to sing.

And we got some great news today! My press release made it into Dagens industri! The newspaper, which is often abbreviated as Di, is the most influential business paper in Sweden and reported about a company that we awarded our annual award to, and that’s how my press release ended up there. I was very pleased!

Del, vad blir det?, 6 i citat-samlingen

“Jag vill ha lugn och ro”. – “Det är fan fint med lugn och ro”.

Die Katze im Sack – det låter som en hip bar”.

I attended a choir’s practice today

Alto’s Lament

It’s awful being an alto when you’re singing in the choir,
Sopranos get the twiddly bits that people all admire,
The basses boom like big trombones, the tenors shout with glee,
The alto part is on two notes, or if you’re lucky, three.

And when we sing an anthem and lift our hearts in praises,
The men get all the juicy bits and telling little phrases.
Of course, the trebles sing the tune – they always come off best –
While altos only get three notes and twenty-two bars rest.

It doesn’t matter what we sing, from hymnbooks or from psalter,
The choirmaster looks at us – our voices start to falter;
Too high! Too low! Too fast! Too slow! You hold that note too long!
It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s certain to be wrong

Oh! shed a tear for altos: they’re the Martyrs and they know
In ranks of choral singers they’re considered very low.
They are so very humble that a lot of folk forget ’em:
They’d love to be sopranos, but their vocal chords won’t let ’em.

And when the final trumpet sounds and we are wafted higher,
Sopranos, tenors, basses, all will form the heavenly choir.
When they sing Alleluias to celestial flats and sharps,
We altos in the corner will be polishing our harps.

Signed – ‘Bob the Organist’, but never published.

Hamburg singing


You must regard this blog as a time machine for the next posts. One day, I will tell you of last week’s adventures, the next day, I will suddenly report about what happened tonight. Didn’t you always want to timetravel?

A few weeks ago I heard about “Hamburg singt” (Hamburg singing). It’s like an open choir where anyone can join anytime. There is a band playing, lyrics on large screens, easy, well-known songs and no notes. Basically, it’s the Swedish Allsång på Skansen just that it’s inside a dark church instead of a open-air museum overlooking Stockholm’s skyline in the summer. And then, there might be some more differences, but both events are on Tuesday nights (is this some kind of unwritten rule, by the way? All my choirs always rehearse on Tuesdays and both Hamburg singing and Allsång på Skansen are on Tuesdays. Suspicious!).

I decided that my colleagues at work would benefit from a team building event and, the self-appointed feel good manager that I am, I asked everyone to come to Hamburg singing. Because humans love to sing even if they keep saying they have a bad voice and cannot sing, everyone joined. So tonight, I found myself in a Free Protestant Church (there were three churches within 300 metres which is also suspicious) with about 350 other singers. Three hundred fifty! The choir leader was quite a bit of an entertainer and the band surely created a party atmosphere. I must say, however, that the sounds of the bands and the clapping were so loud no one ever managed to hold the second voice, and – also due to the choice of songs – a lot was just bellowing. At least they played ABBA in the end, . “But I have a talent, a wonderful thing, cause everyone listens when I start to sing”.

The Lucia hangover

Living on the edge.

Living on the edge.

When I woke up this morning after sleeping very long, I felt like I had been out all night drinking heavily. Everything hurt, especially my head. I later spoke to my friend Malin who had also been doing Lucia all day yesterday and she confirmed that she had exactly the same symptoms. So I guess Lucia hangover is a real thing!

We performed two more concerts today. Everyone was there, the most unexpected people: the Sweden-interested journalist I met on Twitter, my former colleague from Stockholm, a lady from Skåne I met a few weeks ago.

Before and in between the concerts, we sit in the basement eating cold pizza and clementines. It is quite a funny sight, 25 ladies in white dresses and a few star-boys with pizza cartons. During the last concert, I decided it’s time to get a little crazy and sang without any text. By now, I know all the lyrics by heart anyway to the extent that I am sometimes not even mentally present but the words just float out of my mouth.


Now recovering from Lucia with lussekatter the church gave us. And the lit Christmas tree. (yes, real candles) with it new ornament – also from church – made of pasta.

So now it’s over for this year and while I am relieved (I love Lucia but there is only so many times you can sing the same songs without losing the feeling. Except for Koppången. Never losing the feeling for “men jag bär de gamla orden i mitt hjärta som förut”), it is also a weird empty feeling when you have focused to much enery on one thing that is then over. Let’s just hope tomorrow’s Lucia hangover is not as bad as today’s since it’s a Monday…;-)

Lucia times

This week, we started singing Lucia songs in the choir. You might think it is early to start singing Christmas songs (Lucia is an advent tradition), but really it is only four weeks to our first concert.

I really like the Lucia tradition. Last year I made it to six concerts in 40 hours. The Swedish choir in Hamburg sings Lucia every year so many choir singers are very experienced with the songs. When our choir leader asked us to start off with “Sankta Lucia”, we all sang along and suddenly, I got such an extreme Christmas feeling that I started looking for snow to fall outside. (And right now, sometimes, temperatures still range at 20 degrees!) Music and certain songs always put me right back to the time they belong in. When I hear Värmlandsvisan, pictures of Spring Ball 2013 pop up in my head, when someone plays Händerna mot himlen, I am back on my way to work in Stockholm 2012. And “Nur noch kurz die Welt retten” puts me back into my Bremen apartment.

We are singing seven Lucia concerts during two weekends. Yesterday, our choir leader said IKEA had asked if we could sing two more at their store on the day we already sing three concerts in the church. I said I’m in. Because it is my mission in life to bring Lucia to everyone! 😉

Do you want to come? I think you should:

I want to you come for your own sake because you need to experience this.

I want to you come for your own sake because you need to experience this.


Hamburg is Germany’s Gothenburg


Last weekend, Lisa visited me. Lisa and I used to work at the Chamber of Commerce together and since she studies a distance degree in Linköping, she frequently stops at my place in transit. She had never been to Hamburg and sadly, I still live in a state where people coming to Hamburg have mostly seen Heimwerker markets and my living room after their visit. But luckily, Lisa was fine with that, and after all, she did see a bit of the city anyway. It was the night of our big concert which even one of my new colleagues attended (I take that as a good sign, thinking of how my former German colleagues thought it was quite funny of me to sing in a choir). We were joined by the children’s choir which currently consists of two girls. It might just be the smallest choir you’ve ever seen. But nevertheless they were adorable, or in the words of my colleague “One was a future Germany’s next top model and the other charmed everyone in sight”. I can admit I had goose bumps when those two girls’ voices sang how God made the hand of a child and smiled. (Yet again a translation and paraphrase that does not capture the beauty of the original text…)



After the concert which lasted quite long I took Lisa to the Landungsbrücken, the hoods where I spent 80% of my time awake. (It is both where my work and the Swedish Church is located.) We looked out over the harbor, I explained as much as I could (which is basically, “That’s a ship”. “That’s a large ship”. “That’s the Lion King venue.”) and after a view minutes it struck us: this looks like Gothenburg! Hamburg is Germany’s Gothenburg! Now everything falls into place, especially the constant rain. Joraine, my Gothenburg-based friend, is coming to visit soon. I am looking forward to hearing if she confirms my revolutionary insight.

This is actually not at Landungsbrücken, but in my part of town, kind of.

This is actually not at Landungsbrücken, but in my part of town, kind of.


If you want it to, this even looks at little bit like Djurgården, just that this Mälaren (i e the Alster lake) is smaller. On weekends, there are countless boats and I really wonder if they only go in circles because I don't think you can get out of the 587 square metres.

If you want it to, this even looks at little bit like Djurgården, just that this Mälaren (i e the Alster lake) is smaller. On weekends, there are countless boats and I really wonder if they only go in circles because I don’t think you can get out of the 587 square metres.

P.S.: Pretty much every day, I startle at work because a loud honking comes out of nowhere. That’s the boats right outside our building. Today, the honking would not stop and all heads turned. “Now look at that, she’s here!” my colleagues exclaimed and I – as usual the new in town new on the job new in everything one – looked puzzled. “The Queen Mary”, they explained. Queen Mary 2 is a big cruise ship that regularly visits Hamburg. Every time she comes in (blocking our windows entirely which should give you an idea of her size), the Hamburgers get really excited, apparently they go down to the harbor when they know she is coming to greet her and you can even buy postcards with her. I assume she only comes in summer, so maybe the excitement in reality is simply an excitement for summer. (More on German summer in another blog post. I am not a German summer person, I fear.)


Introducing: Heling Agency

Ingrid's phone on the table is playing, "Så länge skutan kan gå", her favorite because of the vanitas-element

Ingrid’s phone on the table is playing, “Så länge skutan kan gå”, her favorite because of the vanitas-element

On Tuesday, we were obdiently sitting in our church benches, practising every spring song Swedish culture has to offer for our spring concert. It feels like we are literally singing every song you are supposed to sing in Swedish spring and I can say I highly approve, partly because I have to learn all the Uti vår hage and Sköna maj and partly because I think they are excellent representatives of Swedish traditional music for the concert. Because that is what we want: to transport Swedish heritage to the public. I highly recommend attending our concert on May 24th. (Yes, I mean you too, Felix!)

So as we are sitting there and I am concentrating very hard on getting the alto voice for Sommarpsalm right, the choir leader starts talking about advertising the concert. “We’ll need a nice poster”, she says and immediately looks to me. “I think you’re good with these things. You should do it”. I am puzzled that she thinks I am the best person to do it and now in retrospect, I understand: the choir leader has seen the notices we made for my apartment hunt, and she did not know that this was a joint effort of the incredibly talented Ingrid and me. I accept the task only to say, “If my dear friend Ingrid over there helps me, sure”.

After practice Ingrid and I sat in my living room upstairs in the church and started brainstorming. We brainstormed so much that we decided we should have a name for our creative duo (because who knows what else we will do in the future) and give ourselves fancy titles. So now we are the Heling Agency for Feel Good. Ingrid is the Art Director (obviously) and I am the Visual Supervisor and Copywriter. We only need to find someone who wants to start paying us, too. 😉 If you need a choir poster, an apartment video, a book on bowls, a new text to an ABBA song, or simply need to feel better, you can hire us.

I wish I was a Soprano

If Sweden has taught me anything, it is the joy of choir singing. Everyone sings, it seems. It is not something embarrassing to know your traditional songs and you earn your shots at a dinner party by singing before. In Germany, I have recently noticed, not only are there much fewer choirs, it is even seen as something kind of extraordinary. “It’s not weird, but it is special”, as my friend Anja phrased it. Or my colleagues you said, “Oh, you know, Irmgard also sings in a choir”, as if we should hang out together now with our crazy little choir cult.

Even though I really do not have any time these days (all I do is: work – look at apartments and get lost in the city – sleep and then repeat), I made time for the choir rehearsal of the Swedish Church choir this Tuesday because I had very good choir experiences before (basically, joining the Uppsala choir was the best decision I made during my Master progamme). The moment I stepped in, I already felt – schizophrencially – at home for the first time in three weeks. It is really funny to notice that outside the work place, my brain has still not tuned in to German. I still am amazed when people speak German around me, I want to draw my company nearer and say, “They’re Germans! I can hear it!”

So when I went into the Swedish Church and heard all the old ladies chatter in Swedish about the upcoming choir events, it felt very familiar. It got even more so when I went to check out the restroom which actually has Swedish doors! Now you might wonder what a Swedish door is. It’s a door with an instable handle and it is made out of paper. Kind of like this:

ImageThey don’t exist in Germany so I presume the church has imported the toilet doors.

There was another new member that night, a German old lady, who was very friendly and said that if I really do not find a room, I can move into her convent. As a sign of gratitude I acted as a her translator the whole evening because despite the complete absence of any Swedish knowledge  in her brain, she has deemed this choir to be suitable. From what I know by now she is a really cool old lady who does lots of special stuff. Like singing in a choir which is, as we learned, special. It is so special that even the pastor and his wife are in the choir and then a bunch of very diverse members, from pensioners to young almost-too-cool men.

The point of the Swedish Church is to have a choir rehearsing in Swedish and to preserve Swedish cultural heritage, or at least that is what I have understood. To find a capable choir leader who speaks enough Swedish and is willing to lead the choir must have been a challenge, but now they have a nice and strict choir leader who does it. She speaks funny Swedish with a the thickest German accent imagineable and she has apparently decided that there is only one article in the Swedish language and that’s “en”. If you meet me next time and I speak like that you know why. Years and years of trying to learn all the ett-words and now they will be swept from my mind…

Regardless of that her choice of songs were quite lovely and even if it will take a while until anyone will live up to my former choir leader, it was an inspiring rehearsal. I don’t get why people stay at home and watch TV when they can be “special” and sing in a choir instead!


Another great thing about the church and the choir: It’s at Landungsbrücken, probably one of the most beautiful places in Hamburg. Even if my photo sucks.

I wish I was a soprano though. When I decided (yeah, I decided) that I was an alto, it was more of an intuitive choice that proved correct. I had not taken into consideration that the altos almost never get to sing the melody, and nowadays I wish a I was a soprano. Because even if I could find the songs online (Glädjens dag, anyone?), listening to them would make me get used to the melody, not the voice we’re singing, or supposed to sing.

I think I will be back next Tuesday. I miss the toilet doors.