On bombs and sock drawers

“When will we open the bottle of wine?” Frau Bienkowski asked.

We agreed we’d have it the next time LSB came around.moser-roth-edel-bitter-85

“I was very sad over Christmas,” she said. “There were many times I could have cried.”

Then, probably changing the subject, she continued: “I think someone stole my chocolate.”

I was pretty sure I could fix one of those things. I began opening drawers tentatively.

Frau B has recently developed the habit of finding elaborate hiding places for her personal items.

They’re so good she often can’t find things herself afterwards.

I got lucky after rummaging through her sock drawer. Three bars of Aldi’s Moser Roth, buried deep within a knot of nylon tights.

“Well, there you have it,” she said, retracting her accusation of theft by implicature alone.

“Now, tell me about Alicia*!”

Alicia is my six-month-old niece. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and charmed practically the entire island of Ireland with her visit at Christmas.

Nothing makes Frau B happier than hearing about her.

“You must have some photographs,” she said, pointing at my phone.

I did. Alicia and her parents in front of the Christmas tree. Alicia dressed in red sitting on an armchair with her grandfather looking on benevolently. Alicia playing with wrapping paper. Alicia with her aunt Kate Katharina.

Frau B sat in her wheelchair, the phone clasped in both her hands, her face lit up in delight.

Babies have that effect.

She told me about her son, Uli, born in 1940 as the bombs were falling on Berlin. Her husband at war, she stayed for two years, taking cover in the cellar during the raids.

Then, in 1942, mother and child moved to the safety of the countryside in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

They stayed in a guesthouse until 1945.

“If it hadn’t been for the war,” she said, “I would say they were the happiest years of my life.”

She and her husband exchanged countless letters.  I wonder what became of them but don’t ask. Frau B has spoken before of the pain she experiences thinking of all the possessions she parted with when she moved into the home.

In Mecklenburg, she became friendly with a protestant priest. He got on famously with Uli, perhaps on account of the affection he had for his mother.

“He told me that if my husband weren’t to survive the war, he’d marry me in a heartbeat,” said Frau B.

“Yes,” she continued. “I could have married three or four times in my life.”

In the end, it was just once. Her husband came home, injured. And the priest was killed in cold blood when the Russians arrived.

*not her real name

Eye Candy

A few days ago I found a note from DHL in the letterbox. It said that a package had been left for me in the shoe shop next door. I had to wait until Saturday to pick it up as the store closed before I finished work. The package was from LSB. I think you’ll agree that it was worth the wait?

The One-Meter Bar Of Chocolate and Katekatharina’s Mega Easter Competition

A few weeks ago I met an important man in his office on Unter Den Linden.

LSB dives into the chocolate Reichstag

The same evening, the new German president Joachim Gauck was being sworn in. The surrounding area was awash with media types clutching furry microphones, adjusting broadcast platforms, parking vans.

I didn’t know the man I was meeting. He was a Spiegel-employee friend of my boss and I was doing him a favour. He was planning a holiday in Ireland and was overwhelmed by the detailed itinerary his travel companion had compiled weeks in advance. He wanted me to amend it.

He made me a latté and we sat down and poured over the meticulous plan.

“You won’t manage all that,” I said. “Not if you want to sleep.”

For the next few hours we teased out the relative merits of Longford and Louth, Killarney and Kilkeel.

“You can give Derry a miss,” I said finally. “Just go to the Giant’s Causeway instead.”

“Is it Derry or Londonderry?” he wondered.

“Oh, that depends on with what foot you dig,” I said.

Joachim Guauck was being sworn in on the television in the background.

“I’m sorry for keeping you so long,” he said as I was making a leave. “Do you drink wine?”

“Yes I do.”

I have a very expensive bottle here.”


“Alternatively, do you like chocolate?”

“Oh yes, very much so.”

“Well then I have just the right thing for you.”

Out of nowhere he pulled out a metre long stick of Rittersport chcocolate.

“For you!” he beamed, wielding it at me. “As a thank you.”

Loyal readers will know how much of a chocolate advocate I am, but even I was stunned at the scale of my killing. If you are sceptical, examine the chocolate in relation to the medium-sized cat.

Last Saturday, LSB and I went on a chocolate tour of Berlin. We started off at Fassbender and Hausch, where we could afford a single truffle each.

Then we went around the corner to the Rittersport museum and shop. We learnt about the cocoa been, and about Klara Ritter, who invented Ritter Sport because she wanted football supporters to be able to fit a 100 gram bar of chocolate into their pocket when they went to matches.

Choco stack

Then we decided to design our very own bar of chocolate. We chose three fillings from a possible 27. We tasted the chocolate the next day. It was heavenly.

If you become a fan of the katekatharina facebook page, and correctly guess two of the three flavours we picked, I will have a bar of Rittersport personally designed for you and post it to you, wherever in the world you may be. If you can get ten friends to become fans of the page, I will design a chocolate bar for you too.

Entries must be received by midnight Easter Sunday. Just leave a comment on the page with your suggestion. One entry per person. Check out the page for clues until then.

Me at the chocolate Reichstag