Two Versions of Spring


Friday, 8 May
After all these years on the earth, how is it that I am still astonished by spring? Every year I watch the world come alive again as if witnessing a miracle for the first time. In Berlin the wonder and excitement are particularly intense. The city is so brown-grey in winter that when it bursts into flower and foliage—wow! This year it's been sunny almost every day to boot.

wild garlic

Plus it's Spargel season. Though the Germans may not be known for their cuisine, certain foodstuffs are highly respected. White asparagus is one of them. This time of year restaurants insert special Spargelkarte pages in their menus, where up to 10 different dishes with asparagus are on offer. All over the country little Spargel huts pop up by the roadside, on the side walks of cities and even in the hyper-markets.

Real, Park Center, Alt-Treptow

Around Berlin, the good white asparagus is from Beelitz, about 20 kms south of Berlin, near Potsdam. It is, as advertised above, "fresh daily from our own farm" and available in several different calibres at varying prices. I could not bring myself to buy it between the t-shirts and the Technik-Center in the Real but I did purchase some twice from a hut on the Karl-Liebnechtstrasse next to the Alexanderplatz and once from a hut in front of the mammoth DIY store Hellweg in Friedrichshain. It was all delicious and indeed very fresh.

So it's a hard time to leave Berlin but that's what we did last Monday. Even if we'll be eating more white asparagus here—the French love it too—we won't be buying it directly from the producers. Without the huts and the national obsession, something is lost in translation, a little bit like the Christmas markets (see GHOST_URL/tradition/ and GHOST_URL/swaddled/).

I am also having trouble believing that the translation for Natur is really nature. After several weeks in the Treptower Park and Plänterwald, my first walk in the Tuileries with Elsa—even after all these years—actually came as something of a shock. The French will absolutely not allow their nature do its own thing. Not in their streets and parks anyway, where it must be stringently shaped and ordered, dominated by a skilled human hand.

But no hand can control the Seine, which oddly for May (thank you climate change!) has spilled over its banks.

With an office view like this, however, who can complain about a small obsession with geometry? Not me.