The good, the bad and the cold

FullSizeRender

Our office dog Emma has a jacket to stay warm.

What do you consider cold weather? If you are my bike, then you believe -8 degrees Celsius is inacceptably cold. I know this because my bike froze in the beginning of this week. Düsseldorf has been experiencing much colder temperatures than in December but still, a bike’s brake and gears should not freeze at minus 8 after standing outside for one hour if you ask me. Somehow the cold does, though, feel much colder down here than it ever did in Sweden or Hamburg. Maybe it’s because there, I retreated into the comfort of heated public transportation while in Dizzel, I relentlessly bike even though the upper part of my right pinky hurts so much that I think it might have frozen off.

With the cold, the work came back. After a December that was so calm it started to get boring, mid-January has presented me with a full to do list again. Our next event is coming up in only one week in Berlin which will also give me the chance to meet my friend Annelie’s new baby for the first time. (After the two-day-event, not during. I doubt the baby is particularily interested in discussion about refugees’ integration into work life.) Then there is the new issue of our magazine coming out (I have driven through a layout change and really hope it will look fabulous, and also I am editing all incoming texts now because of my die-hard-love for readers) and I have initiated the first planning of the 15 year jubliee of our youth chapter. Blank pages of all kinds, that’s the projects that really spark my enthusiasm. 

If only I didn’t have so much stuff to do with my apartment. Yesterday I transported two IKEA items on my bike. The point with ordering from IKEA was that I do not have any car. But the delivery man came at 12:16 when people like me (and apparently my neighbours) work, so he left it at the post office. Great. Thanks. You know how annoying it is when you cannot even go on the sidewalk because the stakes on the streets are narrow and your package is 3 metres long? Well, at least I managed to get the stuff home and I even assembled the Billy book shelf all by myself. It took 90 minutes. Building IKEA stuff is not one of my foremost talents.

Meanwhile, I am desperately trying to find curtains (if you have 6 metres of only windows, that is a challenge), am fighting with the moving company and am trying to get fixed what they messed up (like a hole in kitchen countertop).

And then there is this immense urge to bake soft gingerbread, a recipe I got from my friend Michelle’s mom. As a Catholic, you can always say Christmas Time is until Candlemas (February 2nd). And my colleague already said she still has glögg left…

 

It’s still Christmas

weihnachtenamblauentisch

Today, I went back to Hamburg even though I had just gotten used to my cat purring on th carpet while I was doing Downton Abbey marathons with my mom. Because in Hamburg, my friend Maike, Ingrid and I rounded off Christmas with our own little post-Noel-evening. As you can see on our (not at all staged) picture, my amazing tree is still holding up well after all these weeks and with real candles on it, we spent an entertaining time. Now Maike had to travel back home and Ingrid and I turned on the radio to listen to Tagesschau, the main German news show. Ingrid keeps saying, “So nice to sit here with you, so nice!”

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.

002

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…;-)

Let heaven and nature sing

IMG_0141

Tomorrow is the first day of our big concert series! The choir has sung several smaller concerts on the Christmas Market and for selected companies (we have two to come, IKEA and Scandic – you see, Swedes stick together) and we have toured to Hannover and Lübeck to sing there. But tomorrow night sees the premiere of the big Hamburg concerts which means singing the full programme seven times (as our choir leader reminded us, “Will you be able to sing this three times in a row without losing your voice or spirit?”). During the last two weeks, we had to learn five more songs which is quite a challenge. At least I have listened to it on repeat on Spotify so that I know the text. Since those four songs (“Bereden väg för Herran”, “Gläns över sjö och strand”, “Stilla natt”, “Koppången”, “Jul, jul, strålande jul”) are particularily beautiful, it is worth rehearsing them over and over again though.

Of course it’s the whole thing is bit jittery, it is like back in the day when the curtain opened for our Shakespeare plays in high school. Because I have been advertising Lucia so much, a lot of people I know are coming. Like my parents. My aunts. Ten people from the Chamber of Commerce. My colleagues. And my boss. Yes, we better shape up and deliver a good performance…!

 

Advent calendar

Today is the first of December and for every German (and actually also Swedish) child, this means the first door of the advent calendar may be opened. What a thrill! Advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes. Some have little chocolates, others big presents, some are bought, some self-made, but all of them hold 24 surprises. This beautiful Christmas tradition should be taking place on this blog as well, I decided. So what kind of gifts can I bring to the manger? As your personal German, your Hustysk, I will bring you – German! Twenty-four odd but useful German idioms shall be explained in December here. I have done this before with different idioms in a non-virtual form for an exclusive audience, but this should be all new. And for all of you.

Let’s start with the first “door”!

Hustysk Helens Adventskalender

helen-hustysk

Idiom: Lass mal die Kirche im Dorf.

Literal Translation: Leave the church in the village.

How to use it: Let’s say you are having a discussion with your German friend, Günther. Günther is complaining about how taxes are so high in Germany he hardly has anything left to live on. You feel Günther is really getting carried away and has lost all realistic thinking. “After all these taxes, I live on two euros a day”, Günther says grumpily. “Come on”, you reply, “leave the church in the village!” With this idiom, you can ask Günther to stop exaggerating – now isn’t that useful!

Christmas pre-party

Merry Christmas! So early, you say? Don’t you think advent time is over too fast every year? I think so and so I decided that advent and Christmas can absolutely start in November. One of my reasons to have a Christmas preparty was also that my friends Michelle, Tabea and Christian came to visit. This is the third year in a row that these friends (who were part of my Swedish choir in Uppsala) and I travel somewhere in November or December together. The first year, we all spent a weekend in Malmö, the second year, we celebrated New Year’s together on the Polar Circle and this year, few but faithful (we are usually 6 to 10), came to Hamburg.

We worked through the whole tourist program and I am happy to report that my tour guide skills are improving and my attitude to the city is becoming more affectionate. Far from Stockholm levels, of course, but getting better!

Michelle looking at the giant Christmas Tree in the Town Hall that has Hamburg-related ornaments

Michelle looking at the giant Christmas Tree in the Town Hall that has Hamburg-related ornaments

"Lady Diana is part of the Hamburg parliament?"

“Lady Diana is part of the Hamburg parliament?”

Tabeas Fotos 017 (2)

Hamburg's famous town hall interior

Hamburg’s famous town hall interior

Tabeas Fotos 043 (2)

At the Alster Lake that has its own swimming Christmas tree

At the Alster Lake that has its own swimming Christmas tree

In the old Speicherstadt which is right at the river Elbe, flooding is a common risk. These signs warn you.

In the old Speicherstadt which is right at the river Elbe, flooding is a common risk. These signs warn you.

Old Speicherstadt where the shipping companies stored their goods...

Old Speicherstadt where the shipping companies stored their goods…

...meets new HafenCity, Europe's biggest construction site

…meets new HafenCity, Europe’s biggest construction site

Because it was so cold, we went into the small exhibition pavillion of the Elbphilarmonie and looked at a model of the opera house that is planned to open in 2016.

Because it was so cold, we went into the small exhibition pavillion of the Elbphilarmonie and looked at a model of the opera house that is planned to open in 2016.

Tabeas Fotos 097 (2)

We did all the sights you “have” to do: the town hall, the Christmas market, the Elbtunnel, the Reeperbahn. At night, we wanted to go on a Lichterfahrt, a boat tour through the illuminated city. I have been wanting to do that since I moved here and my visitors thought it was a good idea so we went down to the Landungsbrücken and into the first ticket booth that advertised Lichterfahrt. The first irritation occured when we wanted to pay – with card. “All of you want to pay by card?!” the lady asked annoyed. When we had our tickets, we went to the kiosk where she said they would tell us which bridge the tour departs from. When we got there, we were told that “we don’t have anything to do with this!” We walked to the next ticket booth, Kapitän Prüsse, that also advertised Lichterfahrt, hoping to get information there. “Excuse me, we just bought these Lichterfahrt tickets”, I said friendly, “and I wonder if this is the same operator as you and you can tell me which bridge the tour leaves from?” Kapitän Prüsse and his colleague looked at me and said, “First of all, we are not required to submit information to whoever”. I suppose whoever was me, a customer, who, together with her friends, just invested 80 euros into Lichterfahrt tickets. They then barked at me that either I buy their tickets or I go back to the first ticket booth. Why, thank you. The German answer to service is no, as we know. Everytime we meet an unfriendly person now, we say, “This must be Kapitän Prüsse’s sister/brother!”

The odyssee did not end there. We went to the tourist information because we thought they would have some kind of overview of which Lichterfahrt is which and who operates which one at which bridge. They didn’t really know either. I mean, if the arrangements are so complicated that not even the tourist information understands, shouldn’t the operators notice that maybe things are too complicated? The tourist information lady sent us back to the first ticket booth…

When we went back to the original ticket booth, the lady shook her head and decided to go with us and spoke to the capitan at the bridge who, in Hamburg dialect, said “Who told you we don’t have to do with this? The guys at the kiosk? Geez, a bunch of dumbasses that work there!”

Finally, we got to go on the illuminated harbour tour – and it was rather nice! In the dark, only the pretty buildings are illuminated so you don’t have to see anything ugly. The guide taught us all about the impressive handling of cargo that is done in the port and we saw lots of containers. The feeling of Hamburg being a maritime gate to the world really strikes you on a harbour tour.Tabeas Fotos 153 (2)

Hamburg is the largest European port. (By size.)

The Dockland is a office building designed by famous Hamburg architect Hadi Tehrani

The Dockland is a office building designed by famous Hamburg architect Hadi Tehrani

Late Saturday night was spent annoying my neighbours. If five people speak at a normal volume in my living room, the neighbours come over at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night to complain. I sent Ingrid to the door who charmed the neighbor away. It was also the night we lit the Christmas tree candles – yes, real candles – and I tried Port wine for the first time.

As we are talking about collection stickers as children, Ingrid takes out my sticker album and inspects 20-year-old stickers

As we are talking about collection stickers as children, Ingrid takes out my sticker album and inspects 20-year-old stickers

"Christmas Eve"

“Christmas Eve”

Me and my tree

Me and my tree

My tree is so pretty, Christian wants to take photos

My tree is so pretty, Christian wants to take photos

Since Ingrid doesn't live with me anymore, she needs her own advent decorations. We made her an adventsljustake.

Since Ingrid doesn’t live with me anymore, she needs her own advent decorations. We made her an adventsljustake.

On Michelle’s initiative, we attended church service on Sunday. We thought we would double the attendance rates with our presence, but the Youth Choir was singing – very lovely indeed – which made the people flow in to the Swedish Church. Michelle has been there before with me in summer and the layman doing the service recognized her and even remembered what she studied. Within seconds, they were occupied with a political scientists conversation. Talk about making a lasting impression!

Breakfast in the Swedish Church

Breakfast in the Swedish Church

Saint Michael, Hamburg's landmark church, is the only baroque church in Northern Germany

Saint Michael, Hamburg’s landmark church, is the only baroque church in Northern Germany

Tabeas Fotos 300 (2)

A special sentence must be dedicated to the weather: It was cold like never before since I moved here, very windy and surprisingly grey. Despite double tights layers, triple socks and double gloves, we froze more than on the Polar Circle trip last year. That did not keep us from discovering Hamburg though and we walked all the way to the Beatles square. Did you know the Beatles started their career in Hamburg in the Star Club? Now you do.

The Dancing Towers on Reepersbahn, also done by Hadi Tehrani

The Dancing Towers on Reepersbahn, also done by Hadi Tehrani

In the Red Light ankt Pauli district, the Christmas Market is red light, too

In the Red Light ankt Pauli district, the Christmas Market is red light, too

Tabeas Fotos 339 (2)

Michelle said this is the typical German Christmas market light.

Tabeas Fotos 333 (2) Tabeas Fotos 343 (2)

Glühwein drinking

Glühwein drinking

The last part of our tour I dedicated to my neigborhood. I am only partially knowledgeable and when my friends asked me about the church opposite my house, I said, “Ah, that is, eeeehm, Saint…eeh, Francis! It was built in, hmm, 1853, and, actually I am making all of this up.” At that very moment, a middle-aged gentleman in a trenchcoat approached us and gave me a very sceptical look. “Are you wondering about the church?” he asked and then spontaneously gave us an overview of the history. It is actually quite interesting! Former Hamburg mayor, German chancellor and grand seigneur of politics Helmut Schmidt was married in the church that is called Saint Gertrud, not Saint Francis.

St Gertrud in my part of town

St Gertrud in my part of town

Inside St Gertrud

Inside St Gertrud

This is for you.

This is for you.

Our last activity was Christmas Crafting with Michelle (known from the balcony programme “Gießen und Genießen mit Michelle”). I wanted to learn how to make the traditional hearts and luckily for me, Michelle knows and is a patient teacher. Now my tree is graced with colorful hearts that give the impression that a bunch of children are living here.

We are already planing next year – Örebro, Barcelona, who knows where, but we’ll meet again.

Christmas Crafting with Michelle

Christmas Crafting with Michelle

Tabeas Fotos 394 (2) Tabeas Fotos 395 Tabeas Fotos 399 (2)

It looks just like a couple of kids had been here!

It looks just like a couple of kids had been here!

 

Like an adult

The definition of who is an adult and at what age adulthood starts is certainly highly subjective. At least I do not believe 18-year-olds to be adults (geez, no). Still, there are these ideas one has about how adults live and what adults do. Obviously adults work (check) and live in their own apartments (check). For me, adults are also people who own their own Christmas tree. I have had two Christmas trees before which were quite small and this year, I made it to a medium-sized tree! There is definitely some growing up going on here – I am growing with my tree maybe?

Discussing wall colors. Like an adult.

Discussing wall colors. Like an adult.

Going through the Baumarkt. Like adults.

Going through the Baumarkt. Like adults.

Driving in the car. Like an adult.

Driving in the car. Like an adult.

What else do adults do? On their free day, adults work off all their responsible-adult-to-do-list. Sleeping in is sleeping until 9.30 (I remember the times when my regular schedule was sleeping till 11, but nowadays I get too anxious to waste precious time I could use for household chores), and then one has a proper breakfast with one’s Ingrid. After that it got even more adulty when we took out the trash, got into the car (the car! Only adults have cars in the city.) and drove to the – major adult alert – building supplies store. On my initiative! I used to hate and by all means avoid those stores. What is happening to me…Anyway, Ingrid and I went there and I supported Ingrid in choosing and buying the stuff she needs for her first own apartment. Ingrid has the ability to make me feel even more adult because I have bought paint/nails/laundry boxes once in my life which is at least one more time than her. Finally, I forced her to go to the garden section with me and the incredibly nice shop assistant (if you even need good service go to toom in Wandsbek) who at the latest by the time Ingrid said grumpily, “I don’t care which Christmas tree she takes, I don’t even want a tree, I am the man in this relationship” thought we were a couple.

Carrying up the Christmas tree with back pains. Like an adult.

Carrying up the Christmas tree with back pains. Like an adult.

When we came home with the tree, we ate proper lunch with vegetables like adults and then we lay down on each our sofa taking a after-lunch-nap like adults. Ingrid then went to work and I started cleaning everything and exchanged the light bulb in the range hood – only adults would care about that. And I put up the Christmas tree. I think today I aged 10 years!

P.S.: Nevertheless, I am super behind with everything, have not even looked at the pile of paperwork and bills. Bad adult.