Kajsa made me  this

Kajsa made me this “Good Luck” sign and of course it is up on the wall already

Some things never change. One of them is my inherited always just in time arrival to any means of transportation. The train leaves at quarter to? Then I leave the house at half. Mind you, I have never missed a flight and only two trains in 27 years (curiously enough both were going from Uppsala to Stockholm).

Something that is also typical of my life is that I have friends over until the minute I need to leave to move to another town. I still remember Nicola sitting on my floor with me in Stockholm 15 months ago until I was picked up to go to the airport. Today, Kajsa came by to say her goodbyes and Ingrid escorted me to the train station.

I spent most of the four hours train ride looking out of the window and after two and a half hours I knew I had come to the Ruhr area. How I knew? The train stations appearing used the old corporate identity of Deutsche Bahn. This is a mystery I must solve during my time in the Far West: why on earth does this region hold on to the Eighties so much? Especially when it comes to the train stations, this puzzles me because it so defeats the purpose of a corporate identity.

And now I’ve landed. It brings back the many times before that I’ve spent a first night somewhere. Locating a supermarket, finding the way home, putting sheets on the bed (in my case sheets designed by the Swedish Prince. Evelina gave them to me.) My temporary home reminds me of an upgraded attic chamber (it is so warm in here) and I still have to get used to the scarce inventory (the landlady itemized ‘two bowls, four spoons, five knives’) and the lack of a dishwasher, a sofa, an Ingrid.

Many people have written to me today to wish me luck. Thank you! I shall close with the most poetic line I received:

“Rhenfloden flyter glatt och väntar på dig”.

(The Rhine River is flowing happily, waiting for you)

Oh, Hamburg

Voluntarily in Hamburg

“Voluntarily in Hamburg”

Oh, Hamburg, we have had such a bad start. I was homeless, unemployed and miserably longing for where I had come from when I arrived to you. After a half-year-struggle, I finally started to get on my feet again. Although things have not been great, I decided to grit my teeth and make this work. And eventually, it did.

Slowly, I learned how to love you. I began to follow the local media, the regional politics, I started caring and participating and whenever I had been in a different city, I came home thinking like a real Hamburger, “Thank God I live here and not there”. My eyes started looking mildly onto your ugly spots and after a year, I could bring myself to feel some kind of affection for the unsightly cranes in the harbor that real Hamburgers think are gorgeous.

When I biked by your waters, I marveled at your skyline, my heart opened up to the many little white sailboats just some minutes from my door. I began to feel privileged to live close to a beach, to reside in the nation’s center of attention (in Hamburg, we hanseatically, gracefully spurn Berlin). What I had first just told myself on an intellectual level, had finally reached heart, too: Hamburg is the German city you want to live in.

How much more melancholic it is now that our ways are to part again, for probably some years. Just when I thought I had found my place, I was called way out west – a call I have carefully contemplated and will heed.

Strong independent woman

helenyrkanLouise came over for a short visit the day after I moved. I was determined to put up the fixtures for my curtains and we went all the way to the Baumarkt like real Heimwerker after we found that the fixtures my parents had given me were too small for my windows. After the odyssey there and back we decided we were strong independent women who dare to drill (even though I am really scared to drill on Sundays, weekdays between 13-15 and after 19 because THE NOISE. You never know when they will ring the doorbell again and scream at you because you exist). The strong independent women had to conclude however that in the moving chaos we were completely unable to find the crucial part of the drilling machine. Basically, I will have to unpack everything first now to be able to find that black box again.Speaking of unpacking, it drives me mad. I spent almost a day decluttering all the boxes in the living room. You can be proud of me, I have parted from a lot of very sentimental things, more than two very large garbage bags have gone, I have given away more than two boxes and there is more to follow in the other rooms.

Decluttering all the papers from Swedish beginners class

Decluttering all the papers from Swedish beginners class

Unfortunately the impulse to let go of everything usually only lasts a short while for me after carrying up all my belongings. That is the point where I always feel that “no way on earth do I have to have all this” and “I feel crushed by the mounting boxes”. This time, it has gotten so far that I have said to several witnesses that I should only own one or two pieces of signature furniture and otherwise move through life without beds and tables and shoe racks and chairs and mirrors. Let me just make this clear, I really do not think I own more than other people. It is just that they move less often so that it does not show as much. They also have entire rooms at their parents still while I now assemble everything on my own 46 square metres. But whatever – I need to go back to the boxes before the declutter impulse goes away…


The house of no laughter?

This is a blog post without any of the photos I took the last days because I wander around the city with my laptop trying desperately to find hot spots where you can go online for 30 minutes. And those are not good enought to upload photos. Ah, what a wonderful life.

On Saturday at 6 am, Annika and I started driving down to Nienburg to the 30 m3 storage where all my belongings were stored. I was driving the biggest car you are allowed to drive with a regular license and when I had to pick up that car (or truck, as I like to call it), the evening before, I thought I would lose my mind: in the full rush hour, in an unknown city that I cannot navigate at all, after a year of not driving at all, completely on my own, in a car that does not have a back mirror. My phone gave me directions that I could not take at all times because I was unwilling to execute any daring maneuvers in full traffic when I felt I did not see everything in my mirrors. Surprisingly enough, I did make it to my new apartment and I even found a parking lot. Other people run marathons to feel accomplished, I drive rented trucks.

After having arrived to Nienburg, sold off and given away 15 m3, we drove back to Hamburg. Thanks for my helpers Anja, Francois, Wiebke and Annika as well as my parents, we had all the ugly furniture of the previous tenant in the basement and all my stuff up within like an hour. And that says a lot given that I live on the fourth floor. The work obviously does not end there and we spent an entire day dropping off the car, buying building supplies, putting up furniture and unpacking. My mom who was simultaneously trying to clean (I have never found a place that dirty, apart from Flogsta kitchens, and my mother confirmed that this is a case for “Bref Power”) had made soup for everyone which was the first meal to be eaten at the blue table.

Everything could have been nice if we had not left the car right in front of the door where we had needed it to unload everything. The caretaker (that is constantly at least salongsberusad ) rang my door bell and started to scream at me, threatening with both calling the police and the landlord. Despite our putting away the car within a minute and my apology, he refuses to greet me any longer. As if this does not already give a very welcoming feel, the doo bell rang again at 23:51 on Saturday when Annika and I were going to bed. The neighbor from below was standing in the door way in her pyjamas explaining that she REALLY HAD TO SLEEP (I mean, of course, Saturday night before midnight…) and we were just making too much noise and that this had been going on for two weeks already. I did not really know my talking to myself was that noisy (that is the only thing that could have made noise the ten days I have lived there by now) but I assume my laughter on Saturday prompted by the amusing company of Annika (who sits down next to Stockholmer Louise who holds a bowl of candy, saying: “I will sit down next to the Swedes” (this works better in spoken language but I wanted to honor Annika who was so pleased with her own joke that she laughed tears), that my laughter is simply too loud for the house where you literally hear everything. When my next door neighbors watch TV, I know what they are watching and what they think about it. When my above neighbor moves a cord on the floor, I hear it. Needless to say, I am slightly worried about living there – will it be the house of no laughter?

Luckily, my friends are very innovative so when I said I don’t see a housewarming party happening here, they came up with the idea of a silent disco: Ingrid brings her Bluetooth stereo to which everyone connects their music device and headphones, you are forced to wear rubber socks and communication is done by Whatsapp and text. Sounds like a fun night, doesn’t it?

The Holy Day


I am moving to Hamburg today! On this sunny, calm Sunday. Of course I do plan ahead, so at the breakfast table I said, “I guess I will take the afternoon train because I probably should do some grocery shopping so that I have something to eat tomorrow morning”. I had pictured myself navigating through the new city straight to the Rewe supermarket – or rather Lidl for tradition’s sake – and buying muesli, joghurt, apples, you know the usual menu you get at Helen’s Awesome Crib a Monday morning. In my head, I already saw myself paying half of what I always pay at home in Stockholm. And then my mother breaks the news to me. “What do you mean, do grocery shopping? It is Sunday. The only groceries you will get are at Hamburg Central Station”. And those are certainly at least as expensive as in Stockholm. It is the holy day today, the day God used for rest. The day German law still protects. The day families go for walks in the woods and teenagers cure their hangover. And I have entirely forgotten everything is closed. In Stockholm, I would probably be at Åhléns right now worshipping consumerism. I haven’t quite decided whether or not I like Germany’s closed-Sunday-law. But I hope mom will give me a box with muesli for tomorrow.