Today was a first for me – my first Norwegian church service! This may seem like a somewhat random thing to do in Berlin, but to put it in context, a Norwegian friend of mine was having her baby baptised. It was an interesting experience; I didn’t understand much of the spoken Norwegian, but combining my knowledge of German and of the Church of England order of service, I didn’t do too badly with the service booklet. It was interesting to see the connections between German and Norwegian. I’d actually be quite keen to learn a Scandinavian language; it’s just a shame there isn’t much opportunity to speak one, without moving to Scandinavia.
I felt a little like an imposter as the church service segued into a parade, ahead of the Norwegian National Day on May 17th, complete with national anthem and flag waving. I tagged along anyway and I think I got away with it – no one stopped me at the cake table anyway 😉
Due to the celebratory occasion, there were several fine examples of the Norwegian traditional dress, otherwise known as the Bunad. This isn’t unlike the German dirndl and lederhosen, with women wearing beautifully embroidered long dresses and shawls, and men wearing knee-length trousers, long socks, jackets and waistcoats. My pew neighbour explained that there are around 20 different traditional bunad patterns, and the one you wear depends on where your family is from.
Norwegians have bunads, Bavarians (and English tourists on stag-dos in Berlin, as I’ve found out) have Lederhosen, Scots have kilts, the Welsh have wonderful hats; why don’t the English have a national dress? It could solve so many problems – away the embarrassment of turning up in the same dress as another guest – that’s the point; gone the trouble of deciding which dress to wear; no more trying to remember at which wedding you last wore a particular dress / whether the people present will have already seen you in this outfit. And they look so elegant.
After some delicious cake, I left Norway behind and headed into the Berlin kiez of Schöneberg. A lovely stroll took me through parks, past picnickers (some complete with folding tables and chairs – how efficient!), via sunny benches, and then headlong into a street party. I jostled my way through the stalls along with hundreds of others, sampling the various jams, cheeses, and cordials (I declined the inevitable sausages), and then sought refuge from the crowds in a quiet Mediterranean cafe.
Walking through the streets I was again struck by the bizarre mix of architecture to be found in Berlin – ornate facades side by side with grey, uninspiring blocks of flats. Also, the prevalence of graffiti, even in smart residential areas, and the poor state of repair of many buildings.
Puzzle of the day: today was Muttertag (Mothers’ Day) in Germany. The increase in floral advertising and the subsequent response of many Berlin citizens over the past week has made me revisit a question that has been puzzling me for a while – why do Germans carry bunches of flowers upside down?
As far as I am aware, when one buys flowers in the UK one then proceeds to carry them home as one would if presenting them to the recipient, i.e. stalks downwards, proudly displaying the wonderful colours of the petals. Yet here, bunches of flowers are wrapped up and then always carried heads downwards, almost condescendingly. I’m sure it really doesn’t matter, but it is something which has stood out to me nonetheless.
[A quick Google consultation suggests that it could be so that the water stays in the blooms, however, surely one could argue that the petals / flower heads are also more likely to fall off…?]
Na ja, another thing to add to the “curious German habits” list.