Auf Deutsch

Um, Not Asleep…German Language Moment

“Schlaf nicht, Mädchen!” Which translates from German as “Don’t sleep, girl!” Well, thanks for reminding me I can still feel like a teenager. Backstory and then some…

I was walking along a beautiful street in Hamburg called Milchstraße and stopped to get a shot of this gorgeous, mysterious villa. It’s January, but as is often the case, Hamburg has a semi-permanent, cloudy autumnal vibe going that is impervious to calendar months and their conventions.

I had vaguely registered the older lady with a small dog making her way towards me, but I was lost in the moment due to the house. Suddenly this bristly criticism comes out of nowhere and it took me a few seconds to realize it was from her. She was shorter than I and by the time I located her, she and the dog were already several meters ahead.

Habitually deconstructing yet another daily German moment after more than 11 years of living here, I figured out what earned me her attention. I was just standing not quite, but almost in the middle of an already narrow sidewalk, and I clearly should have been mindful of the fact that other people also wanted to pass. I’m guessing these other people might have schedules, timed walks, routes faithfully followed for decades, even on a Sunday. I respect traditions and rituals, especially in these times. I love to-do lists. I affectionately accept the national attitude of Not. Wasting. Time. Ever. Everyday life included. Especially everyday life!

I’ve been hearing some version of “Nicht schlafen!” (“Don’t sleep!”) since I arrived in Hamburg every now and then. We hadn’t covered this in German class back home, so the first few times I took it literally. Needless to say, I was confused. Wasn’t it obvious that I wouldn’t fall asleep standing up while waiting for a traffic light (so what if it took me a second to register it had changed to green), walking slower down the street because I was admiring something or trying to see if the long line to the cash register at the supermarket led to the nicer cashier? I have saved so much time elsewhere, can I just have this one?


Lindsey Stirling’s New Music Video Brims with Joy

Stirlingites everywhere rejoice, for Lindsey’s music video for the song Guardian off her last album, Artemis, is out on YouTube! And it’s absolutely fabulous.

This is classic Lindsey showcasing everything she does best, but at the same time with every new shot we’re wondering what will come next. Viewers will know from past behind-the-scenes videos that this uniquely talented dancing violinist and composer takes her location scouting very seriously indeed! This is once again obvious in this music video, because the opening shot immediately took my breath away. Considering I just spent several days walking around my home city snapping every tree with autumn leaves on it, it’s an additional bonus to see these amazing backdrops here. OK, it’s not like we really did the same thing, but I can relate!

A lot of thought has clearly gone in to how the colors in these breathtaking landscapes work with Lindsey’s gorgeous costumes and ALL the visuals in this music video are simply stunning. It’s amazing how Lindsey translates her music to imagery, and the joyful notes in Guardian, equal parts delicate and strong, fly around the trees and mountains we see here. Lindsey’s video editing skills are also utilized to great effect, with seamless transitions between shots. Considering all the restrictions still in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, this video does a terrific job of conveying a soaring sense of freedom and space. The landscape theme also takes me back to Elements, one of my favourite songs and music videos ever.

Lindsey’s dancing while she plays (and not only then) is a jaw-dropping performance every time. The fluidity, the precision, the beauty, the strength, it’s all there. While we see those killer back bends and twirls throughout the video, I have to say, I’m floored by those precise energetic moves in ballet slippers on rocky terrain and the forest floor.

I think WOW is the only appropriate response. I’m off to fangirl some more.




Running in Heels in Hollywood Movies

So this has been on my mind for a while, but then, anything related to shoes always is. Be patient and read on to find out more.

Germany’s lockdown back in the spring of this year (which year is it, again?) and consequently spending more time at home led me to increase Netflix subscriber numbers. This, in turn, led to some nostalgic movie viewing, such as…

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Miranda Priestly, played by the inimitable Meryl Streep, regardless of what one thinks of the character, was one of the cinematic figures on my list who contributed to not being afraid of going grey. Then there’s Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, who says the truth about those belts looking the same, but unfortunately finds no supporters at Runway magazine.

Morning Glory (2010)

Becky Fuller, wonderfully played by Rachel McAdams, wants to succeed in her job so bad, even we can taste it, and we’re both sympathetic and a little scared of her. Funny, why wasn’t I scared of Miranda Priestly? Lots of good dialogue in this one, also thanks to Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. Moving on.

Jurassic World (2015)

I saw this one in the movies (in another life) and I enjoyed it a lot. Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, makes for a stylish workaholic within the walls of the enormous dinosaur park, until circumstances prove she’s more than an executive in a pair of heels.

Thus we come to one of the common themes in all three films (and many others): all the aforementioned characters run in heels, with Claire’s jogs and sprints after the dinosaurs run amok probably taking the cake, although spending hours on your feet during Paris Fashion Week or running after colleagues and disgruntled news anchors in attempts to persuade them to do work might be right up there. Kitten heels are also hard to run in, by the way, so that one’s not a way out.

The distinction is that all the shoes involved were pointy stiletto heels with thin soles balancing women of various height and stature. As someone who has tried various types of shoe, fully embracing the trial and error experience, I have been astounded again and again over the years that the Hollywood myth of a woman being able to run for her life or to make a deadline in those heels was being perpetuated with such persistence. No amount of calm, seemingly rationalized discussion afterwards during interviews and panels could convince me otherwise. Isn’t it a shame as well that instead of focusing on storytelling, acting, plotlines, technology, moral issues, good old entertainment and action, all that juicy stuff we seek out movies for, both the media and viewers get sidetracked by these ridiculous scenes?

OK, so the aforementioned movies each have half or more than a whole decade on them, and maybe things will change. I still enjoy different types of shoes and I can understand the appeal of a heel (that sounds cool when you say it out loud). Heels add a certain type of elegance to an outfit, they change your walk and some of them simply look beautiful. The trick is simply to pick the right type of heel that neither adds to long-term foot damage or turns enjoying the day to getting through the day – big difference. If it were a nicely cut, balanced, not too tall block or at least thicker heel, I could maybe believe those running scenes, based on personal experience. But stillettos? Instead of enjoying the movie, I spend my time tensely expecting the heel to snap and our character to break her ankle.

The bigger question arising from this (you might think random) topic, yet again, is not even how much creative license we’re willing to accept, but what kind of fantasy we want to be sold, a question which applies to both male and female characters. I’m all for escapism and suspending disbelief, but I suppose when we are watching stories about “real” people, there’s an internal line we draw somewhere. With the tip of our suitably chosen shoe.


The Real Paris Dream

If I got the opportunity to move to Paris, here’s what my dream version of life there would look like.

Before I go, I have spent at least a year doing an intensive course, speaking with natives, immersing myself in French content and research about Paris. I’m confident enough with my language skills to know that I will move beyond Bonjour when I arrive and I will be able to get myself to wherever I need to go next. I will ask any questions I happen to think of along the way and no one at the airport will even get a chance to come up to me and ask, “Madame, vous-parlez français?” as I briefly pause by the ticket machines for my train.

My apartment might be tiny, but there will be an enormous window, either floor-length or with a window seat. No matter how small, the place will be in good condition, the shower will be working, and if it does break, my French will be sufficient to fend for myself as I try to find someone to fix problem. If I happen to have an attractive downstairs neighbor, I will not make the mistake of confusing his floor for mine, instead identifying distinguishing landmarks for myself to make sure I arrive at my own door. Maybe I’ll lay down a doormat. By the way, I’ll also take a smaller window, just as long as there is one. Oh, and a safe neighborhood would be nice, doesn’t matter how far away from central Paris, just as long as there’s a subway station and a supermarket within walking distance. And a bakery. And a post office. Maybe a park, doesn’t have to be big.

I will take all the inevitable big and small culture shocks, bureaucratic hurdles, daily struggles in stride, because I will hopefully have enough hard-boiled common sense to know that Paris is not bending to my will. I will use very modern things like Facebook and the internet to my advantage to find expat groups, meet-ups, free walking tours for those first few months. I will read and YouTube a ton to find out more about questions that pop up along the way, because so many people have already produced very helpful content about How Things Are Done Here, also about the workplace.

In the meantime, my French will improve through being surrounded by it all the time when I’m not sleeping. I’ll mentally note down all the little phrases and turns of conversation, always remember to say Bonjour Madame and Bonjour Monsieur in the appropriate situations, pardon, excusez-moi. I’ll become so fluent, I’ll be able to be sarcastic in French, convey all my quirks and idiosyncrasies while still sounding almost like a local, get why things are funny and never commit a social faux pas.

Because French is the key, it is always the key, to that dream Paris life. Now, doesn’t this all sound ideal?

No, this post has not been brought on by watching Emily in Paris


Around the Alster River in November

The lovely walks along the Alster river in Hamburg have featured before on Writsomnia. I’m definitely a fan. Why? It’s a long walk and it’s easy to plan, still offering practical access to the city in the midst of a healthy helping of nature.  This time I set off with a specific mission in mind: I wanted to capture as much as I could of the local autumn foliage before November’s wintry weather sets in. Mission accomplished!

Yellow and orange or brown are the dominant colors in Hamburg’s autumn landscape, which makes the occasional red leaves stand out all the more. This walk has been one of my mainstays for the last 12 years. Whenever I don’t have any other ideas on where to go when I crave a long wander not too far away, the Alster never disappoints. This is especially soothing, and practical, in these times, as Hamburg has fairly recently been declared a risk area by Germany, making all of us think twice about traveling elsewhere and the restrictions we might have to face both when getting out and getting back in. Staycation it is.

One of my favorite routes to follow: walk down the Alsterchaussee, which takes you straight to the Alsterpark and the first of many magnificent trees dotting the walk, then simply walk towards the water, turn left and keep going, stopping for a great view of the water on the Krugkoppelbrücke and Fernsichtbrücke  bridges, which follow each other. After that there are several alternatives, some of which I have yet to explore, but in this case I continued along Bellevue and then just followed the shoreline all along Schöne Aussicht, on to Schwanenwik and until I reached the busier area of An der Alster, where it becomes obvious that you are once again closer to the city. At this point you can decide whether you continue on foot towards Dammtor Train station, which would offer a few more lovely views of trees and water, or walk on to Jungfernstieg and all the public transport options it offers.

It always feels a little strange to return to daily civilization after switching off for 2 hours of leisurely strolling (3 if you stop to take pictures and sit on a bench looking at the water). But then, this escape is always there waiting.