Ave Brutus, Vale Julia Caesar.

Obviously your real name isn’t Brutus. But I am not writing this to point the finger at you. I was able to say some of those things to you in person. But I got the feeling you weren’t capable of grasping any of it, at least not much. So this is for me, addressed to you but not necessarily for you.

You were the one who wanted to move fast and commit to a relationship. You seemed very confident and I admired that. That you can’t recall that you did does not mean it didn’t. Wouldn’t that be convenient? In hindsight, I don’t even know if any of it was true. Which is probably unfair but that’s how you make me feel.

All relationships require time and dedication. Especially in the beginning. Nobody expects to change your whole life and centre it around a new relationship. Just acknowledge: there is someone you wanna include in your life. You, however, thought by putting the label “relationship” on it, that was enough commitment and dedication on your part. I wasn’t your girlfriend. I was your occasional plus one. Convenient for social events where you could proudly present me as yours. Because you’re right with one thing – I am fucking awesome. Literally and metaphorically speaking. But to make the tiniest bit of room in your life? Not gonna happen. And if Julia insists, she’s needy. You were a whole lot of empty promises. And annoyed when I claimed them. You said, you didn’t want any of us to have to change for the other. Adjustings is neither changing nor denying your true self. I am the same person when I talk to my boss, to my therapist, to my friends, to my neighbour. Yet each of these conversations would show a completely different Julia. And it’s all me. I would never expect you to change your core being. Your core being is what I fell in love with and what I still appreciate about you.

All relationships are based on mututal respect and trust towards each other. I’m not talking about sharing bank details or Netflix passwords or telling each other everything. I’m talking about that slowly built-up trust. And how do you build it? By being open and honest, and therefore vulnerable to each other. I was. You weren’t. Therefore you got out when you wanted to, and I got hurt. You decided to shoulder everything by yourself and hide it from me. You wanted to solve an equation without including all variables. You thought if you act it like everything is fine, everything IS fine. Surprise, problems don’t magically disappear if you ignore them. Once, you addressed something. You said your piece, I said mine, and within a few calmly exchanged words, we reached an agreement, set our boundaries, and moved on. Problem solved. Wow, I thought, we handle issues like proper adults. We are so comfortable around each other to do his. Until you didn’t anymore. You justified your actions with ex-experiences where addressing things equaled drama. And conveniently overlooked the opposite presenting yourself in front of you. Tell me: How was I supposed to know something was wrong? You made me part of the problem (maybe I was) but you denied me being part of the solution. One incident happened that neither of us handled correctly. A minor nuisance, nothing more. You called it the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. [in German, the drop that made the barrell overflow]. How wouldn’t it? You claimed the camel’s load for yourself and You carried everything we were supposed to carry together. [You rolled in the barrell and filled it and I had no idea there even was a barrell]. And blamed me that it got too heavy. I keep thinking how awful of a partner I must be that you collected so many bad things about me within such a short timespan?? Without showing it. I think you belong in front of the camera, not behind it. You sure have the acting skills. Did I even fall for YOU or simply for the idealized version you pretended to be? I honestly don’t know anymore. I don’t blame you for realizing that our existing differences are not compatible in the long way. That may be the case, or not, who knows? I blame you for keeping me blindsighted about what was going through your heart and mind. I blame you for making that decision all by yourself, of keeping me out of the loop. When I confronted you a second time after our break-up, you changed your story halfway through from “I don’t communicate problems” to “I definitely communicated them through my changed behaviour”. Which is right? I honestly don’t know. Let me say this: if you did, you did a damn bad job and you were subtler than subtle about it. I had no idea what hit me when it did. You said you felt pressured to let me come to your best friend’s wedding. In no way did I pressure you, I even gave you a valid excuse. All you had to do was say “Yes, you’re right, it is quite early in our relationship for bringing the other one to a wedding.” That was a you-problem and you blamed it on me. I have plenty of me-problems. We all do. You know what I did? I told you about them. I told you I am working on them and that I didn’t want to make you responsible for anything that is not your responsibility. And asked you to tell me if that was the case. Our relationship was the victim of your baggage and personal issues, and I was collateral damage. You had a double moral. When I kept nagging you about something, I was disrespecting your boundaries. If you did the same to me, you were just joking around. Hashtag snails, Hashtag bondage. Do you have any idea how it feels when you wanna have sex with your SO and they brush you aside while saying in the same breath (and repeatedly) how nice it would be to take that curly-haired redheaded waitress back home for some fun? Sorry for not taking your reluctance seriously. Sorry I thought you were just teasing me and I was teasing you. Sorry I interpreted it as some sort of cheeky banter. Sorry for not understanding you just didn’t want to have sex with me.

Since I studied English and German literature and you’re a movie buff, here are some similes:

If our relationship was a meal we prepared together, you would have let me salted it more and more, encouraging me even. And then throw it all out because of course it became inedible. If our relationship was a contract, you would have given me nothing but positive feedback for my work, just to hand me my resignation the same day for breach of contract. And since you are so in love with your business: If our relationship was a camera lense, it would have had a crack but you would use it anyway and hope that by using it anyway the crack would magically disappear. And whose fault is it that it didn’t? Mine. How dare I not have seen the crack even though you put the blind on it.

The breakup

One of the shabbiest, shadiest things anyone has ever done to me. You lured me into your home, you made me feel welcome. “Fancy a glass of wine at my place?” is how you invited me over. We spent the first 20 minutes of the evening hugging and kissing and chatting about our day as ever. “I didn’t initiate any kissing!” you tried to defend yourself afterwards when I asked, how you could do that. You didn’t mind the kissing at all, though. You also didn’t have a problem having sex with me or inviting me to your mum’s and granny’s for lunch while already thinking about breaking up. I had no idea there was any other reason you wanted to see me besides that you wanted to see me until you put your hands on your table and said: “I wanted to have a conversation with you”. Even then I had no idea what the result of that conversation would be. A conversation that in fact wasn’t one. It was a monologue with a set ending and all there was for me to do was comment on it. No editing wanted. What hurts the most though is that you knew what would hurt me the most and yet you went straight for it. You said you handled the breakup as you thought was best. And I believe you. You are not an evil person. Sadistic for sure, probably subconscious. You are simply stuck in your own world, perspective, headspace and weird pseudo-rational logic and you reject anything that could change even the slightest bit about that. You had the best intentions. However, you weren’t willing to look beyond your mindset and consider anything I had told you about me. Anything would have been enough because everything was about this: don’t stab me in the back. Et tu, Brute? There was no empathy, there was only What Would David Do.

You painted a wonderful picture of us, full of happy little trees, and you chopped them down. Healthy, beautiful trees just starting to blossom. Rotten inside, unbeknownst to me. I don’t mourn the real us. The real you is most likely a bullet I dodged. I mourn the fantasy, the “us” you created. And robbed from me, in an instant. I would have rather been grazed by that bullet, at least I would have seen it coming, than stabbed in the back by someone I thought I could trust. Et tu, Brute, indeed.

Das Schwarzhorn – Hiking in Davos, Switzerland, Pt. 2

Luckily, the mountains are ancient and when we’re long gone they will still continue to be. And that, dear readers, is my philosophical lame excuse as to why more than half a year has passed since our mouther-daughter hiking trip. A giant leap for mankind but a significant fraction of a second for the Alps! After our somewhat casual hike to warm up – read up here – our second tour brought us much closer to the sky. After an early Birchermusli breakfast (and some strawberries, milk and cornflakes for the holiday spa feeling), we packed our backpacks, put on our sturdy Meindl hiking boots and set off – to the bus stop! It is crucial, upon a trip to a Swiss village, to take at least once the famous Postbus; little buses that asker you safely through the serpentines up to a better starting altitude. And unlike the Italians, you neither feel like throwing up nor see your life threatened because the Swiss drive as accurately as a Swiss clock. While they still indeed bring mail up the mountains, the post busses have become quite characteristic and have accomodated to hikers’ and bikers’ and skiers’ needs. Our Postbus takes as from Davos Dorf up to Flüela Ospiz and XYZ HöMe. The weather is cloudy with a 50-50 chance of getting wet or sunny – we’re living on the edge 😎 [as you noticed, I switched to historical present, to add some live action drama feels ** which I forgot halfway through as there was a long gap between starting and finishing this and honestly, right now I’m too lazy to change that]!

On a steep rocky path, we ascend quickly and leave the road behind. Whenever we look ahead, the impressive mountain range looks back down to us and I keep asking my Mum in proper impatient kid’s voice “Which one is ours? Which one is ours?”, eying the one that looks like straight out of a trigonometry textbook.

The one right in the middle, in perfect triangular shape, that’s the one I was hoping for – in vain.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t that one. Our designated summit was further on the right from the photo above, hidden behind the hiking signs. But you can see the long-stretched flank leading us up to the famous Schwarzhorn. A telling name. After the first altitude boost, our path leads us through the valley, we pass trickling waterfalls and screes, the sun is as decisive as a cat as to whether to come out or not, the air is refreshingly cold and our spirits are high. In steep serpentines on vast stone fields we ascend the ridge between two summits (the middle one, s. above). The higher we get, the more snow patches. And needless to say, I gallop towards and into the first one, shouting SNOOOOOW!!!, taking selfies, leaving prints.

Pants are for losers! Celebrate the shorts!!
(I’m freezing merely seeing this and I know for a fact I did not back then)

On the ridge

It might look like a straight line uphill but looks can deceive. The snow is slippery, a nasty wind hauls and for the first time, I debate putting on long pants. Eventually, I would. A lot of “Gruezi” to the descending hikers make it difficult to catch our breaths and each plateau looks like its gotta be the last one for sure – until we reach it, and realize there’s yet another level coming. However, each plateau offers a chance to look back and allows us to see the ascend we’ve made. How tiny and significant the once so impressive mountain range looks like from high above!

On Top of the World

At least in this very confined space and Alpine area. Baby, it’s cold up there but here we are – above 3.000hm and a 360 degree panoramic view. I wish you could have seen it. It was magnificent. Thanks to modern technology I got a text message welcoming me to Italy and, more importantly, I was able to take this video for you, my dear fans and followers, and had to take off my gloves doing so, lost all feeling in my fingers, so appreciate my sacrifice and be jealous.

On top of the world aka Schwarzhorn. With a thick cloud layer pressing down on us.

Funnily enough, on the summit your phone welcomes you to Italy so apparently, we travelled further than we though. Since the temperatures got nastier by the minute, we said our ciao, bella cima, ciao, ciao, ciao and started our descent. Our path took as along the previously mentioned mountain range that, back down from garden gnome perspective, grew back to its overwhelming size and massiveness. Along our hike, we passed through vast gravel fields

along crystal clear mountain lakes

we traversed quarries on nearly invisible paths and confirm once more that what might look like a short distance from above, can easily be a 4-hour-struggle. After literal ups and downs we arrived on the real ridge and started our proper descent back into the valley. Dark clouds hovered above us, strong cold winds teared at us and we were very keen on getting down. Warning! Now if you ever find yourself up there, at this very ridge, and turn to the right to follow the marks, be aware that there is a shortcut that requires climbing skills but is not labelled as such. Unlike in medieval German folk tales, don’t take the right path but the one on the left leading down. Otherwise, you either have to turn around eventually or break a leg. Literally. Hals- und Beinbruch, everyone!

Our descent would have been nothing but lovely, green pastures and slopes, and an extraordinary panorama – which it still was

– if it hadn’t been for the weather turning quite nasty, windy, rainy, cold and too uncomfortable for our liking. In the end, we just hurried along; had to stop here and there because my Mum’s hiking boots fell apart, and my cold fingers had to sos – save our soles – by tying them to the shoes with anything that remotely resembled a rope. MacGyver would have been proud. Note: 1.) Saving soles is much easier than saving souls. 2.) It is a lot easier to prevent shoes from falling apart than me. 3.) That went off-topic fast. Sorry about that.

A hot Swiss chocolate awaited us at the Berghütte, wo wir einkehrten, a word, that encompasses the whole experience of being on any sort of outdoor excursion by foot or bike or whatnot and visiting a chalet or inn upon sight, because it looks cosy and promises (ful)filling food for fatigue folks. It’s that little Schlenker you make on your way down, that little detour for the leibliche Wohl. Einkehren, for the literal translators amongst you, does not mean the same as turning (yourself) in. Einkehren means Gemütlichkeit, means a well deserved rest for your sore muscles , and an increased appetite from the fresh and pure alpine air. If you’ve ever had a Rivella or an Ovolmaltine made with fresh cow milk above 1,500m altitude, you know what I’m talking about. Funny how none of these expressions have an English equivalent. At least none that sounds as cosy. Think Boxing Day cosy. But in the outdoors.

Sandro and Selänä, the mountain hut pigs at where we einkehrten.

Davos am Schönsten ist – Hiking in Davos, Switzerland, Pt. 1

(For the non-German speaking readers: the first headline is a very bad Dad joke. Kalauer, Kalauer, as we like to say. You should not be surprised)

My mum and I went on a holiday together. Just the two us. Six days in a hotel in Davos, Switzerland, with half-board and plenty of mountains to conquer! German Summer 2021 has been basically non-existent while other countries were suffering from heatwaves – f*ck climate change, so for our September holiday higher up in altitude we packed lots of rain gear, wind gear, bad weather gear, warm undies, woollen leggings and whatnot to be prepared for the worst. and got the best: 4 1/2 days of solid sunshine, the occasional mountain weather phenomenon and just one rainy afternoon. We couldn’t have been luckier.

I hereby invite you to tag along and let me be your mountain guide through the Graubündner Alpenwelt. Maybe you will find inspiration for your next active holiday or maybe you will get infected with the Gipfelfieber and my love for mountaineering.

“Because it’s there.”
– the most famous three words in mountaineering, by George Mallory upon climbing Mt. Everest

TOUR #1 – Davos Dorf – Weissfluhjoch – Weissfluhgipfel – Parsennhütte – Davos Dorf

Disclaimer: We didn’t check the exact distance or altitude nor the time but to give you an idea, I can tell you what my smart watch told me at the end of the day // Distance: 22.3km // Altitude: ↗️324 ↘️1.300 // Duration: 6h including railway and generous rests

After a lush breakfast at Hotel Bünda, we packed our backlogs and headed towards Parsennbahn, the Parsen red railway funicular to lift us from 3,609ft to Weissfluhjoch at 8,835ft with a change of carriage to chair lift halfway through. We stepped into bright sunshine and despite the fresh breeze, our jackets would not be needed anymore that day. From Weissfluhjoch, lazy tourist take another cable car to the top whereas my mum and I climbed the steep rocky path to Weissfluh summit at 9,327ft. It’s a 45 min hike and sure-footedness a must but no mountaneering experience required. Due to all the tourists and buildings up there, we felt robbed from that particular feeling of reaching that highest point on your route, when you’ve beaten nature and get that endorphine shock of summiting. It felt sort of unsatisfying or, as the Germans say, the Belohnungsfaktor blieb aus. Nonetheless the view was spectacular. We ambled about half an hour along the platoon and peeked down into the valley and along the horizon before our descend. Instead of taking the more popular route towards Strela pass we descended upon the other side – through vast stone deserts.

Parsen is a famous skiing resort – and that took its toll on the landscape. Ski slopes in summer are one of the most depressing signs of human arrogance above nature.

Hobby geologist sure get their money’s worth – the stones, rocks, boulders are quite unique. They come in all sorts of colours and often, one side of a stone is in a totally different colour than the other!! My backpack was much heavier at the end of that section and I have quite a collection now. Shortly before we arrived at Parsennhütte, we entered a scenery of lush meadows and pastures and had a lovely lunch break before taking the panoramic route along the mountain flank. Our final descent towards Davos was interrupted by an extended blueberry picking break, the first of many. I mentioned it before (here): my mum has incredible blueberry instincts. If there are any, she’ll find them, no doubt about it. She’s a truffle pig but for blueberries (maybe a bit more civilized) and any hike will inevitably contain an episode of berry picking whenever it is the season.

The last section of our first hike went straight down in very steep and narrow serpentines. The midday sun was burning hot and we were glad some part of the way lay in the shadowy forest. Since it’s the little things, and I tend to have an eye for them, I found a picture book toadstool and we admired it adequately. ➡️

The rest of the day was dedicated to sun bathing on the hotel’s terrace and becoming more and more impatient for dinner, followed by a private sauna session and early bedtime – for tomorrow, the first REAL alpine hike would take place.

Grueziwohl, my friends!

Sleep, sheep. Babe is Watching.

DISCLAIMER: I simply wanted to post this late night sketch with a few words and then a few became many. Whoops.

I remember when I watched Babe, one of my all time favourites, for the very first time, on a VHS cassette. Babe, the brave and heroic shepherd pig with a heart of gold – stunning the whole nation when simply trying to make his dog mamma and itsFarmer Hogget proud. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. Your heart will lighten up. It is so wholesome.

Within the movie, we learn that all sheep have some sort of international codex. Say the words, and all sheep will listen to you.

Mäh, ihr Schafe, Mäh, ihr Schafe

Bleibet treu eurem Glauben, eurer Rasse, auch im Schlafe

Auch im Schlafe

Mäh, ihr Schafe

Well, I grew up with three small flocks of fluffy animal clouds. And believe me, I tried it. Many times.

Sheep are wonderful beings. Not only are they fluffy (not quite Alpaca but still a solid 7 out of 10 on the fluffometer), they also taste great – yes, we ate them, and I despite us being rather poor, we were certainly spoiled with our meat. It came quite as a shock when I moved out and had to discover how expensive lamb is and that a student’s life and budget didn’t allow for it to be my everyday meat. Even today, I am still lam(b)enting this great culinary loss I had literally taken for granted as a kid. Sheeps are also great weathermenwools. Whenever it’s raining, look at your sheep and check out what they are doing. If its a short shower, they will seek shelter. If its rainy season, wenn sich’s einregnet, as we say in Baden, they won’t bother going under cover. Eventually, they have to get out there anyway. You see? A woolproof weather forecast, every single time. Impressive, eh? No wonder lifestock are called Nutztiere in German, utility animals.

Sheep are much more than that, though. Some of ours had very distinct personalities. Especially the three rams. Aristoteles, Brutus, and Cicero. The eldest, Aristotle, had a deep dark unfathomable face. He was always calm and observing and radiated so much authority, his flock would follow him blindly. Brutus on the other hand was exactly that: brutal. His favourite pastime was running up and ramming his forehead against the stables and he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to anyone approaching his harem. His forehead was all swollen and rough and red and bulky and he looked like a proper hooligan. A wooligan, hehe. I for my part wouldn’t go near him. I was properly scared and rightly so. Cicero, though young and cocky, was far less aggressive, playfully testing how far he could go before my Dad and Dolly, our German shepherd, would put him back in his place. With growing age, he became more philosophical, just like Aristotle. Telling names, all three of them.

In hindsight, I am eternally grateful my Dad forced me to be a part-time shepherd every other morning before school. I didn’t transform into a natural early riser till my early twenties, so believe me when I say, I loathed it. On the other hand: Mary Julia had a little lamb, Mara, that needed to be fed with a bottle. Whenever Mara heard me coming, there was an excited Baaaaah from the crowd, followed by some shuffling and there she was, running along to greet me, wagging her tail, like a dog. I remember, when I was sick once and couldn’t go see her, I was so upset, my Mum decided to bring her home, into my brother’s and my bedroom. Needless to say, 9-year-old me was delighted. 2-month-old Mara on the other hand was perhaps a little too excited and peed all over my brother’s English workbook he had left lying around on the floor (for further tipps on how to educate your children to tidy up their stuff, follow me). Practical as she was and unaware of any sense of embarrassment, my Mum wrote a letter to his teacher, explaining the rather odd circumstances and asking whether it was possible to order a new book. A year later, when I started secondary school I had the same teacher. As he read out my name, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said: „So you’re the little sister. How’s your lamb doing?” Still a better excuse than the dog ate my homework.

When my Dad fell ill, we sadly had to give up our flocks. They now live happily ever after with a nomadic shepherd and it’s comforting to imagine that Mara got to see the whole wide world.

And to end this post on a less melancholical note and come back to our key words “sleep” and “sheep”: As a kid, my favourite place to nap was downstairs in our sort-of-living room, on a sheepskin right in front of the piano. Sometimes I was so comfortably snuggled up, I refused to leave and would stay there all night. It’s one of my few thoroughly happy childhood memories. Bliss. Hope my pencil sheep has peaceful dreams. I count on it.

Chocolate Hedgehogs

A treat from my childhood

background story, worth reading.

I’m a middle-of-the-summer child. Consequently, my birthdays have always been within the summer vacays – school, university, theatre – and all my friends were usually oot and aboot (whenever I write that phrase, there is a little Rose Tyler in my head mocking the Scottish accent in Tooth and Claw, NewWhoS2E2), travelling the world while I was stuck in real-life farmville. My brother’s birthday on the other hand is in November. Same day as Boris Becker, who once was less of a media person and more of a very passionate and successful tennis player and since my whole family played tennis (although less successful) that was such a neat thing to have in common. I share my birthday with Ginger Spice but I wasn’t (allowed to be) such a big fan of the Spice Girls so definitely felt a sting of jealousy that he got a childhood hero both my parents approved of and I didn’t. -Especially since it’s a rare thing they shared the same opinion on something! And yeah, his classmates sang a tone-deaf happy birthday on his special day and if he had ever pursued a career in managing an orchestra, I bet he’d gotten a professionally played symphonic rendition of the worldwide classic, too. Not for me. Spielzeitpause.

I don’t wanna complain [she said after complaining for a whole paragraph] – I had bbqs, camp fire and everything outdoor. My two long-time boyfriends had their birthdays #1 on the day after and #2 on the day after the day after my birthday. This way, we could celebrate together. Not the reason I picked them. But I guess I gotta follow the pattern. Handsome, nice, smart single men out there – if your birthday is on August 9th, you might be the lucky one, and next in line XoXo :-*

However, one major thing my brother got and I didn’t – we’re slowly approaching the recipe y’all waiting for – were chocolate hedgehogs, one of my Mum’s specialties. “They melt in the summer, it’s too hot, you can’t have them” she would say, and add: “But Per will share them when it’s his birthday” and of course, his birthday came and the chocolate hedgehogs looked so yummy and squeaked EATMEEATME and my brother, being a proper big brother ergo being mean to his little sister would be like “You gotta be nice to me all day, they are MINE and if you don’t do what I tell you you won’t get any.” Imagine grumpy cat even grumpier. That’s me just remembering this.

How the tables have turned – and our lives upside down, or rather, down under, where my brother lives now. And guess what – it’s too hot in November to make ornamented chocolate desserts! Hah!! Rache ist süß, and so are these tasty treats, oh sweet revenge, does it sting yet, big brother, does it?

Obviously, I made them, here, for his first birthday abroad. And sent him a picture and told him I was gonna eat’em all. And therefore, this recipe is dedicated to all little sisters out there who were ripped of a sweet treat simply because they were born in the wrong season….

The Recipe

Step 1 – Basic Stuff

Knead 160g plain flour, 60g white sugar, a pinch of salt, 100g butter to a smooth dough and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Roll out and cut out 12 hedgehog bases. I made a cardboard template, similar to a raindrop and appr. 9cm long and 7cm wide. Bake in the preheated oven (190°C) for about 10 minutes, then take them out and let them cool on a cookie rack.

Step 2 – Filling Part I

Crumble a (storebought) sponge cake base. Heat up 50g white sugar and 3tbsp water on the stove. Add 2cl Rum and pour the liquid over the crumbs. Mix and mingle and let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Step 3 – Filling Part II

Whisk 3tbsp milk, 1 bag of cream pudding (not sure what exactly that is in English – the German is Sahnepudding but chocolate pudding should be fine, too. The chocolater, the better, as they say!) and 2 eggyolks. Boil 500ml milk with 150g sugar, add the pudding mixture, let it boil up again while stirring and then keep stirring till it has cooled down a little. Whisk 150g butter until frothy and add it spoon by spoon – or, as a very innocent Julia once thought was the correct verb, spoon it, which definitely means nothing else than transporting food with a spoon from A to B, A and B preferably being bowl and mouth. Pour the whole thing over the sponge cake crumb mixture, add some ground cinnamon and ginger and let it cool down completely.

Step 4 – Hedgehogging

This is a literal translation from the original recipe: place the filling on the hedgehog bases and carefully mold it into hedgehog shape. That’s all it says. Like, any advice on how to? My experience is that its best to put a tablespoon of filling onto each cookie and if there is any left, distribute equally. Take a teaspoon and mold it into a sorta smooth round shape with the back of the spoon.

Step 5 – Cover your traces and spike it up

Liquefy 350g dark bitter chocolate glazing in a water bath. Have 40g almond slivers ready. Now comes the tricky part. The glazing dries up incredibly quickly, so you gotta be incredibly fast in covering your hedgehog fillings and spiking it with almond slivers. If I were you, I would cover half a hedgehog and spike it and then do the other half because that stuff dries up sooooo quickly, it gets incredibly frustrating when the almond needle cracks up your chocolate glaze. Once you’re happy with the amount of hedgehog spines, transfer your little treats to a cool place where they will last several days. Theoretically. Usually, they don’t live that long for other reasons. Omnomnom.

Reviews from people I shared them with (not my brother, obviously): “I only wanted to have a bite but it was so tasty, I couldn’t help myself and ate it in one go” / “they are so ornate” / “they looked and tasted simply wonderful” Five Stars all around ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Happy Birthday 🎶 to my brother Down Under, a belated Happy Birthday 🎶 to me, and generally plenty of Oh Happy Days 🎶 to all of us.


Autumn Kitchen: Pumpkin Waffles

It’s November, the month of ghastly weather: Yesterday, Oct 31st was an unusually golden, sunny, warm autumn day. Today, November 1st it’s all wind and rain, a friendly reminder what the next couple of weeks are gonna be like. 

Perfect time to snuggle up, drink tea, and watch the raindrops roll down the windows while an Erik Satie piano piece is playing. Welcome to your YA indie movie. It’s the season of long autumn walks in colourful forests, a yellowredorangebrown palette in nature and on our plates: Pumpkins, pears, walnuts. Comfort food to fall for. And due to Covid lockdown #2 in Germany, starting tomorrow, restaurants will be closed for business. Ergo it’s once more the time to cook and finally try out all these recipes that are piling up, those torn-out pages from magazines that have been on my to-cook-list forever.

Most of the times, my recipes are successes but of course even I have fuck ups now and then. Just the other week, the one and only (!) Jay-Z aka Johannes Zimmermann came by and we tried vegan sweet potato pancakes. Clear kitchen fail. Great taste but more of a pan-fried unidentifiable mush than pancakes. Well, at least we had a good laugh. And it did taste good. The side veggies, baby spinach sautéed with pine nuts and raisins, however was an absolute winner and I decided to combine it with my next autumn treat:

Pumpkin potato waffles with pear-ginger-chutney

And that one was GOOD so I’m sharing it. For your own interest: Read until the whole recipe before getting started. If you don‘t, the waffles will be cold by the time the spinach is ready.

For the waffles you’ll need 100g grated potatoes, 1 onion, 400g grated hokkaido (no need to peel it first but to remove the seeds), 2 eggs, 2 tbsp starch, 2 tbsp flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix everything together in a bowl. Take a coated pan, heat up some oil to hot but not full heat and place two big spoons of dough into it and press it down into a flatbread sort of shape. Fry it for a couple of minutes, flip it and repeat on the other side till both sides are golden brown.

The chutney (which is more of a compote but chutney sounds fancier) requires 2 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar heated up on the stove. Once the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is boiling, add 4 chopped up pears (as chunky or small as you like it), a girl’s thumb sized peace of ginger, peeled and chopped, and lemon zest and juice from half a lemon. Let simmer on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes.

The spinach is basically self-explanatory. As soon as the voluminous pile of leaves has shrunken to a sad green small heap, add a handful of pine nuts and a handful of raisins. Fry and stir. Add some salt and pepper and let the ingredients do the rest.

A healthy, vegetarian, colourful dish sure to warm you up from nasty weather.

Social Media Solidarity?

Yesterday, social media became literally a very dark place – black squares all over to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and raise a voice against racism, to demand justice for the George Floyds in this world and as a sign of a new and sudden high alert and awareness towards white supremacy and oppression of black people, arisen from a terrible event. Almost everyone I follow on instagram has posted a black square with the hashtag blackouttuesday. I didn’t. Just like almost everyone I know changed their facebook profile picture by adding a Je suis Charlie-line or to dye it in the colours of the French flag after the attacks back then in France. I didn’t. The list is endless.

Why didn’t I? First of all, everyone connected to me on social media knows me to some degree. And if you do, you know that I am not indifferent to what is happening. Our world is so wrong in so many ways and the current developments make me so anxious, I had to set boundaries. 15 minutes of news every day, not a second more because it’s too upsetting. And honestly, I’m depressed as it is, and if I wasn’t, the news would make me. Nonetheless I am aware it’s happening and I am in the very comfortable position to watch most of it from afar, from a safe place and take it in in small doses, and I’m still affected. It’s appalling. The world is a mess and compared to it, The Intellectual Chaos is a playground (because a) puns and b) my inner child reigns here, both as king and queen in the land of despair and depression and nonetheless outstanding joy).

My great escape address:

Squirrels on screen

Because I know they’re often described as furrier tree rats but they are so darn cute, I want one. I want a pet squirrel, a red one, and feed it nuts and watch it all day being cute and waggle its bushy tail and be squirrely. Thank you, Johnny Kääpä.

The question is: If I had posted a black square yesterday – what would I have proven? To show my friends, who already know that I condemn what happened, that I’m as appalled and outraged as anybody else? I understand that it is important to voice your support. But first of all – I don’t have the crowd to see this and be influenced by it. Secondly, it’s quite easy, isn’t it? Quickly posted, hashtagged and you may rest well on a clean consciousness. It is significant that these (no doubt well-meant) actions were often ignorantly hashtagged blacklivesmatter, not even knowing this hashtag is used to be updated, to stay informed, to share more important stuff than white middle-class John Doe sharing a black square and then going back into his bubble and that the black community had to point it out to them. (insert facepalm emoji). As I said – if I was more important and more of the influential type (I did get a free pizza once, from Strombolicchio, after my article about them here, but that was the peak of my influencer career. Still feeling pretty smug about it, though. Grazie mille, btw, and I’m already looking forward to today’s (self-paid) dinner, La vita è bella, which is the name of my pizza and despite everything bad going on in this world, a motto I try to live by) it would have more of an impact. It is important to participate in necessary debates and to raise your voice but I simply don’t see the benefit in this particular action. It is a trend that you’re expected to go along with and was instantly followed by further posts and stories calling out everyone not posting a black square a supporter of racism because they stayed silent. Don’t you think there are better ways to get engaged? How many of these judging black-square-(im)posters go back to their white, privileged life feeling good about themselves? If you don’t – good. If you do, see above. And if you do get engaged and active otherwise and yet didn’t post a black square – at least as good.

Your one-of-many instaposts won’t change the world. Reading up on the topic might. Signing a petition might. Looking where and to what ends you can donate to the cause. Or if you’re not doing too well on the financial side, look around and see how you can make the world a better place in your terms.

An example (generally, not particularly for the black lives matter movement): When the first wave of refugees came to Freiburg a couple of years ago, when I was still living in my Haslach hood, my downstairs neighbour posted something on facebook and later on also said something about being glad the grocery store nearby was using security guards since there was a Flüchtlingswohnheim, a refugee center, next to it, because she felt intimidated and scared walking past there and also felt more scared now walking home alone at night because “you never know with these folks“. So I decided to address the subject because otherwise, she seemed a nice person. And so we talked. About what exactly she was afraid of. And when I told her, that the only time I was sexually harassed walking home at night was way before the first refugee wave and by a white, drunk, and based on his dialect local guy. Hit him in the balls btw, wriggled myself out if his grip and ran away. And then we talked about the people in the overcrowded Flüchtingswohnheim, being in a new country, not speaking the language, separated from their families and how we can only imagine how they must feel. It was a good talk and I got to change her views so far as that she would try to be more aware of the difference between fact, fear, and prejudice.

Did I change the world talking to her? Not to a noticeable degree, no. But I made one person rethink her attitude. If that means she will be less receptive to, for instance, a political party feeding off that exact prejudiced fear and with a horrible agenda behind, and will therefore not vote for them – that’s a win. That’s something of value. It makes a difference and I made it. I don’t make a difference if I post a black square on a platform that is all about self-promotion. It has a Gschmäckle of “look at me, I’m a decent human being“. It feels forced, fake and like a farce. Especially if everybody goes back to posting selfies, food, or else the next day. Black lives matter. Of course they do and if you think otherwise you’re a disgrace to the human race. But they don’t just matter on Tuesdays. This is not the new tbt. I wish people would redirect their attention and put their well-meant but nonetheless aimless activism towards better use. If you do and posted a square that’s great. And I’m not condemning you for just posting a black square. But don’t direct your anger passive agressively at people who prefer to fight the injustices in the world in their own terms – invisible to most.

That needed to be said.

The Idea

I have never seen Into the Wild and I have never seen Wild – somehow I feel the need to make that absolutely clear, maybe because both movies caused a wave of new hikers on their self-finding paths, and especially the latter resulted in female hiker numbers rocketing through the sky.  I’m not saying that mine is not a self-finding trip, at least up to some degree it certainly is, but I wasn’t suddenly inspired to do this because an actress looked pretty and went on this wholesome cleanse in nature (again: I haven’t seen the movie but it is Hollywood so that’s what I assume it’s gonna be like. My apologies if I’m wrong. Don‘t @me). I did read Hape Kerkeling’s Ich bin dann mal weg, a personal account of hiking the Way of St. James. (though the German Jakobsweg sounds better. More humble. More fitting to the dusty, sweaty struggle). However, that trail doesn’t appeal to me as much. Not because of its religious purpose, I’m all up for that. Or don’t care. But I am a mountain goat and love the Dolomites, probably even more than the Alps, and it’s high up there on 10,000ft elevation where I find my inner peace. Every year, my Mum (70 years of age and she can still do it, and I’m damn proud of her) and I go on a 2-day-hiking trip in the high mountains. It’s our mother-daughter-time and especially regarding our somewhat problematic relationship. We’re getting better and I must admit, 2020 has been a good year in terms of us. Physical distancing brought us closer together emotionally and I am so glad, I just shed a few tears writing that down – but even before, that annual excursion has always been a perfect combination of spending time together, both of us being in our – I believe it’s fair to say – natural habitat, and since hiking is more of a solo-activity anyway, it was often accompanied by a silence, the good kind of silence, where you share more by not talking and we weren’t force to speak about things we both felt uncomfortable speaking about. When we were little, my Mum would take us with her on all her mountain adventures. My brother often opted out (he did go running with her, back when I hated running, so each of us had their mum-sport so to speak) but my Mum and I both hiked and hiked and hiked and took in the scenery, deeply inhaled the fresh air, relished in the physical strains. On our latest tour up to the Chli Windgälle I was already thinking about a multi-day solo-hike somewhere and so I asked her about her most memorable hiking experience. She didn’t even have to think about it. Her immediate response was: The High Sierra. Yosemite Valley. Mount Whitney. The John-Muir-Trail. Conveniently, that had already been on my To-Do-List, and even more so since Free Solo (which I have seen and I urge you to go see it, and I promise, you’ll be in awe). And so, an idea was born, and a more concrete or rather rock-solid plan formed, and soon, preparations began.

Buon APEtito!

Buon Giorno!

Mi chiamo Julia e sono tedesca. Habito a Friburgo e non parlo italiano which is why that’s it with the Italian and back to English. Even though it is such a beautiful language and I’ve been meaning to learn it for a long time and actually started once and was quite decent two summers ago, like Duolingo owl proud good (I didn’t use Duolingo. I hate Duolingo. Shoo, shoo, you annoying fowl, nobody, and I repeat, nobody needs your pseudo-motivation spam mails or your useless repetitive sentence clusters). But then life happened and time passed and I forgot almost everything, except for a) see above, b) ma non si sveglia, è morte, because I had a Lernkrimi, a crime novel study book, and that poor woman didn’t wake up for she had been brutally murdered and c) a few opera excerpts which are not exactly eligible for small talk either. Such a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l language though, isn’t it? All those vowels, the overdramatic accompanying gestures, the R (which I can‘t roll properly) – even the most boring stuff sounds nice in Italian. Passare l’aspirapolvere. To vacuum. I mean, come on. No wonder all Italian women are so much into domestic duties. (KIDDING!!!!).

I love the country as much as the language and I yet have to find a place in Italy I don’t like. Tuscany I know best, I would say, and my little insider’s tip there is called Castagneto Carducci, preferably in one of Eva’s casettas. The first night the last time I went, I sat there with a glass of red wine, fireflies were all around, I could hear the boars shuffle in search for food in the forest nearby and suddenly the town band started playing Bella Ciao and you could see the city lights glistening in the clear nightsky. And I definitely fell in love with the Amalfi coast and was gonna write a lot about it, as I proudly announced here, and then the same life happened and the same time passed that let me forget all my Italian, and prevented me from telling you about my adventures in Scala, Amalfi, and Ravello. Damn, I really need to do that one of these days. Until then, I have good news for all Freiburg Italian food lovers – I found it! The best pizza in Green City. So let’s set the mood.

Italian cuisine is the most famous and beloved cuisine in the world for a reason. Accessible, comforting, seemingly simple but endlessly delicious, it never disappoints, just as it seems to never change. It would be easy to give you, dear reader, a book filled with the al dente images of the Italy of your imagination. 

Matt Goulding in: Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy‘s Food Culture

It’s fair to say that Freiburg has some decent Italian restaurants to go (to (in brackets, because right now they are all to go or not opened at all)) – among my favourites is Primo Market, where you sit right in the middle of a supermarket and il maestro comes to your table with a hand-written menu and rattles through it in both German and Italian and you understand neither. But it doesn’t matter what you order, for the food tastes amazing and I recommend to share a Pizza for starters and then each have a pasta dish, preferably one of their seafood options. Quite nearby you find Pulcinella, a tiny busy homely place with walls painted in bright pink. I’m not sure if it is true, but rumour has it that the owner was once quite close to the owner of Primo Market and then Italian drama happened and therefore, I have two places to go to. Primo Market wins Pizza-wise by a mere margin and I haven’t had any pasta or seafood at Pulcinella yet so it’s a close head-to-head with Primo Market first, as it is already in the name. Then there’s Pinocchio, near my favourite boulder hall Boulderkitchen (I miss bouldering. I’m gonna have to start all over again with my confidence and height trust exercises once they are finally allowed to reopen. And pizza after a nice exhausting and exhilarating bouldering session tastes all the better!). The entrance in itself is already an olfactory adventure as the restaurant is located above a car dealer so the first thing you smell is the unique odor of new tires and rubber. Ascending the stairs, you’re suddenly enveloped by that mouthwatering Italian ristorante smell. The food is descent, no culinary revelation but a throughout satisfying experience. Ugh. That sounds more mediocre than intended. It’s not! It really is a great restaurant, it just can’t quite compete with the others.

What I dearly missed so far was a place where they make a proper Neapolitan style pizza which, within the pizza fashion industry, is my absolute favourite. To let the experts speak:

Pizza as we know it didn’t hit the streets of Naples until the seventeenth century, when Old World tomato and, eventually, cheese, but the foundations were forged in the fires of Pompeii, where archaeologists have discovered 2,000-year-old ovens of the same size and shape as the modern wood-burning oven. Sheep’s- and cow’s-milk cheeses sold in the daily markets of ancient Rome were crude precursors of pecorino and Parmesan, cheeses that literally and figuratively hold vast swaths of Italian cuisine together. Olives and wine were fundamental for rich and poor alike.” 

Matt Goulding in: Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy‘s Food Culture

I have the weird habit of always cutting off and eating the crust first and then from there work my way into the centre. With a perfect Neapolitan pizza, I don’t – because a perfect Neapolitan pizza has a perfect crust; crispy outside, soft and airy inside, and full of flavour. And you know what? I found it. By accident, really. I followed this guy on instagram after an orchestra project in Greece last summer, and because he followed them they were suggested to me and curious as I am, I visited their account and found Strombolicchio. A mobile pizza station built into an Ape, that famous Italian mini-lorry on three wheels. And their pizza looked so tasty and right I knew I had to try find them but then always found out about their selling points after they were already done and gone. So I send them a message and shortly afterwards, they proudly announced a regular spot once a week. Yay! But then the first week I was sick, the second they had to cancel because of bad weather, the third I was busy, and then Corona happened and they lost their spot. So close, and yet so out of reach! Was it fate? Was I simply never supposed to enjoy the pleasures of what seemed to be the real deal? Che cazzo (another, and, for a change, useful expression I remember and learned back Birmingham, UK, when my Italian roommate and surrogate Mamma hit her foot on the stairs when she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and gave a thorough account of Italian profanities that woke us all up thanks to the intensity of swearing and the paperthin walls), oh cruel fate!!!!

Me agonizing about not getting this pizza.

Ma no – eventually, fate or divine intervention or whatever is up your sleeve played into my favours and this day four weeks ago, I finally was allowed the pleasure of what I hereby declare the best pizza in Freiburg. And the couple who makes them is the loveliest – she’s German, he’s Italian and both are absolutely adorable and I have decided to become friends with them (not for the free pizza. That’ll be just a bonus. The cherry tomato on top of the pizza cake you might say). I’ve been there every Monday since if the weather plays along (sadly, not today, so I made a comfort lasagna instead but I miss that perfect Dean Martin-moon pizza pie amore that has already become an addiction) and because #supportyourlocals and such and I really love them, I spread the word and I am glad that many have already followed my advice and share my enthusiasm. I mean look at these!

Alla Norma with tomato sauce, mozzarella, roasted eggplants, olives, smoked scarmoza, parmesan, oregano, basil
Pina e Leo with tomato sauce, mozzarella, grilled eggplant, sundries tomatoes, oregano, basil

Now imagine what they taste like and wipe that drool off your face! It’s that sort of pizza with which any extra topping is exactly that – an extra; and a pure and simple Napoli or Margharita is enough and that, signore e signori, is a sign of quality. Every bite is a burst of flavour and the crust is exactly as it should be.  It’s a culinary break from life and back to Southern Italy without violating any pandemic-related travelling restrictions. And the pizza prep videos on instagram are pure food porn!

Ecco, andiamo mangiare!

And because I have almost forgotten about it and now have it stuck in my head, here’s the best Pizza song out there.

Petit Déjeuner chez nous

Quarantine = Baking Time. But then any time is baking time and I‘m only self-isolating not quarantining and that was a bad rhyme anyway, a so-called unreiner Reim, and we don’t want no unrein, dirty, contaminated stuff, just everything disinfected and hand-washed often. And I can do better. Give me a second for a better opening rhyme.

There you go:

There was a young lady in isolation

Who dedicated her time to the creation

of lots and lots of baking

and currently in the making

is a French and buttery revelation!

To kill the time in these times where killing the time alone at home kills the pandemic, I set out for a project that requires time and patience en masse: I made Croissants from scratch! Et mon Dieu, c’est magnifique! The secret to a perfectly flaky, tasty pastry, of course, lies in the butter. Anything tastes better with butter. And when you bite into a croissant, you gotta taste it. Every bite must feel like it’s worth all the calories and like a pure act of sin and indulgence. So butter use plenty.

Apart from 250g butter, we also need 25g fresh yeast (hard to get by, I know), 500g all-purpose flour, some more on the side, 125g full-fat milk, a pinch of salt, 200ml cold water, 40g white sugar, an additional 3 tbsp of milk and 1 eggyolk.

If you want fresh croissants for the day after tomorrow you better start baking today. That’s how long it takes. But it’s worth investing the time and patience. Oui, oui!

We start easy by simply getting all ingredients ready and out of the fridge about an hour before we really get going. Butter and yeast should be at room temperature. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Pour water, milk and sugar in a cup and heat it up in the microwave. Just a tad, not boiling hot. Crumble the yeast into it and stir until its dissolved in the liquid. Make a little dent in the middle of the flour and pour in our creamy yeastfeast. Cover it up with flour, cover the whole thing up with a towel and let it rise for half an hour. Time to do nothing, relax, vacuum the apartment, do the laundry, exercise, check instagram and twitter (very important in times of a pandemic. You really don’t wanna miss out on all the conspiracy theories.).

Ready? Have some water and some flour ready, just in case, and start digging in with your (washed) bare hands and start kneading, adding more and more flour from the outer areas of the bowl until you have a smooth dough ball. If it seems to dry or to wet, add water or flour accordingly. Once you’re happy with the consistence of our dough ball, cover it up again with a towel and let it rise for another half an hour. Time to do any of the previously mentioned tasks or something completely different but this time get back to the kitchen a few minutes early and get the butter, a rolling pin, more flour and some parchment paper ready.

Give the well-risen dough another knead, take it out of the bowl and divide it into four parts. Quarter the butter as well.  Roll out the first dough portion so that it’s about DIN A4-sized. Use plenty of flour while doing so and frequently turn over while rolling. Place a slice of butter in the middle and roll it out until it’s appr. postcard-sized. Now fold in the longer sides of the pastry, then the shorter ones in such a way that they’re overlapping. Wrap it up in cling foil and store it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Repeat with the other three portions.

*4 hours later*

Unwrap each portion and roll it out lengthwise, again with the aid and add of plenty of flour and plenty of turn-overs. Two things might happen which we don’t want to happen 🙁 the butter breaks. If that happens, just let it warm up to room temperature or let the room warm up, too, and try again. If the dough is too sticky, it’s gotta go back to the fridge for a little longer. If all goes well, we fold it back up, without the long sides (that was just to keep the butter in), just the overlapping shorter sides. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Yes, we’re doing that whole procedure 3-4 times. French Origami for buttery delights and manifold layers of tender flakiness.


After the last roll-out, there’s no fold-in. Instead, we cut each pastry into lengthy triangles and roll each triangle up, starting with the long side. The recipes I found suggested to moisturize the surface before rolling it up so it sticks together but I didn’t and it still stuck. Bend them slightly into croissant shapes and put them on a baking tin lined with parchment paper. Leave a decent amount of space in between for they will rise and shine, and shine even more if you brush them with an eggyolk-milk mixture and put them in the preheated oven at 190°C for 15-20 minutes.

Smells good, doesn’t it?

Das Beste was einem Croissant passieren kann, ist mit einem Stück Butter bestrichen zu werden.

Pablo Tusset

The best croissants, however, don’t need extra butter. They are rich and intense and tender and flaky and tasty and buttery and hey, if you start now, they’re ready just in time for Mother’s Day. So hush, little darlings, and off you go to the kitchen.

Bon appétit!