Coming to America: From Northern Germany to the “New World”

In the 19th and 20th century, millions of people were coming to America. They left Europe via the North German ports of Hamburg and Bremen respectively Bremerhaven in search of a better life in the “New World”, mostly the USA.

sculpture called Die Auswanderer, emigrants, on emigrants coming to America
This sculpture called Die Auswanderer, emigrants, is standing on the shore of the river Weser and remembers the seven million passing through the port of Bremerhaven. Actually, this statue by Frank Varga was donated by the German-American Memorial Association.

As a counterpart to the arrival halls in Ellis Island, several museums in German cities remember the adventurous journeys of the emigrants in transit.

this way to read the whole story >>>

The Ski Instructor of Sri Lanka

I’m often asked how it is to travel by myself. If I’m not scared. If I don’t get lonely. If I’m not afraid that the sky may fall on my head tomorrow.

No, Sri Lanka looks nothing like this. Definitely not.
(Photo: Sondrekv, Påske, detail, cropped to 2:3, , CC0 1.0)

The answer has always been no – and meeting Sri Lanka’s only ski instructor was proof that travelling solo is a great chance to come across people that open up to you in a blink of an eye.


“Good evening”, says the young man that just parked his car in front of the door of my guesthouse in Galle Fort, Galle’s historic district.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Galle Fort Sri Lanka
There is a lot of picturesque heritage in Galle Fort.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent just one night here. I loved it. I hate leaving. Not only Galle, Sri Lanka in general. I had a great time. Like a thousand times better than expected. And I didn’t have expected little, let me tell you this.

I look up at him and smile. I have to look up because I’m kneeling next to my small suitcase on one knee, the other is actually on the suitcase to squeeze it shut while I pull the zipper ferociously with both hands.
Success – it’s closed and everything is in there.
I get up, “HI”, I answer and stretch out my hand, “I’m Renata”

“Are these your bags?” He takes all my stuff and carries it to the Toyota that’s blocking the street since the streets here at the Fort are so very narrow.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Galle Fort Sri Lanka
Streets so narrow that they can be blocked by one regular car.

The adult daughter of the lovely family I’ve spent 24 hours with and whom I miss dearly already now hands me three packs of cookies.
“A little gift”,  she says smiling.
“No, please, I just ate!”
“Oh well, you can just munch them on the way.”
“No, really….” but there is no escape.
The three of them – mom, pop, and adult daughter –  probably think I’m just being polite, but no, I’m not into sweets in general and I was not lying claiming that I just had eaten and even if I was starving I couldn’t possibly munch three packs of cookies. I take them knowing that I’ll leave them behind at the next opportunity.

Then I do it again: I intend to climb in the driver’s seat and everybody gestures and shouts “No, no!” and the young man must think I’m a total moron that after three weeks in Sri Lanka I still haven’t figured out the left-hand traffic.
We leave.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Galle Fort Sri Lanka
Sunset over the roofs of the Galle Fort.

We leave Galle and it’s getting dark and I see it illuminated by yellowish street lights and I feel a tight knot in my throat but I do not want to cry in front of the young man.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Galle Fort Sri Lanka
I missed this sight as soon as I turned my back.

We talk banalities and trivialities, you know, things you talk about with strangers. it’s a one on one situation, he picked me up seven hours before my flight will depart – at this point it’s probably needless to emphasize that I’m an extremely cautious person.

So we talk about all these things that you talk about like “Is this your first time to Sri Lanka?”, “Did you like it?”,  “Where have you been and what have you seen?”
I answer all that and it’s actually quite nice since it gives me the chance to reminisce my trip.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Tuk Tuk Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka
So true: We just have on life – but somehow the drivers don’t seem to remember this as soon as they get their motor running.

Then we get to talk about the crazy driving and why it is and he claims that Sri Lankans must be excellent drivers since they are going so hazardous and there are still not so many accidents; actually, during three weeks practically constantly on the road I hadn’t seen a single one.

We are sitting side by side. When the driver seems pleasant, I hate this Driving Miss Daisy-arrangement where I sit in the back.
Especially as we’ll have to spend around three hours together.

So we are sitting next to each other which – since we get along really well – creates a road trip-ish atmosphere. Definitely not driving Miss Daisy – rather Bonnie and Clyde…without being a couple and, obviously, without all the bank-robbing.

On Sri Lanka’s southern expressway.
 (Photo: Abstractlife0410, CKE at night, cropped to 2:3, , CC BY-SA 3.0)

It’s getting darker. It starts to drizzle. We keep talking.
He studied environmental sciences and management. First in Colombo, then he got a scholarship to Japan. The year the Fukushima accident occurred. Shocked the world.
Nonetheless, he didn’t want to withdraw since he had already made arrangements, didn’t want to disappoint his family – I also assume that it was a once in a lifetime chance for him.
So he went.
Risking getting contaminated. He’s telling me people in Japan appreciated it a lot that the foreign students didn’t withdraw. That they helped. Worked with a team of scientists from Germany trying to decontaminate the soil using soy. Getting checked every day with a Geiger counter.

We stop at a gas station. By now, it’s pouring. I hand him my last disposable transparent raincoat that makes him look like wearing a shopping bag.
If I want anything? Well, I just had a huge Indian dinner and in case I get hungry, there are three packs of cookies in my bag, so maybe a soda, thank you.
As he comes back, he refuses to take money for the Pepsi he bought for me; you don’t charge your travel buddies.

We continue on the highway that the Chinese built a couple of years ago and that at this time of the day and in this weather we have almost to ourselves.

“It’s difficult to have such a different life than your peers”, he says.
Sri Lankan men his age are supposed to be married with kids, picket fence and all.
Actually, he doesn’t feel the pressure that much from his family, rather from his former college mates.  Those who did not make it to Japan.

Peer pressure.
Do I feel peer pressure?
Not anymore.
It would be pathetic if at my age I’d still try to live my life to other people’s expectations.
But I know the feeling. No real career. No symbols of achievement like my own house, a dog, a picket fence. He at least owns a car, I’m riding public transportation on my annual season ticket that my company throws in as a bonus.
It’s a choice. It’s something people never seem to consider when they envy me that I’ve just bought another ticket to another great destination: Remember, you guys, it’s a choice. There is a price I’m paying every day: no house, no picket fence, no car.

“After some time back in Sri Lanka, I wanted to return to Japan”, he says. A friend of his arranged a stay in Hokkaido. Hokkaido which is a major ski destination – which I didn’t know.
So he experienced snow and ice and learned skiing.
Not only did he learn how to sashay downhill in elegant bows, he learned it to perfection.
He actually became a ski instructor and taught people from around the world how to sashay downhill in elegant bows.
“You’re a ski instructor? Seriously?”
“Yes!” he cracks up laughing at my consternation.
Wow. One would expect Sri Lankans to be Buddhist monks, stilt fishermen, maybe surf instructors – but skiing?!
Unusual.
So unusual that all of sudden it dawns on me that he’s probably the only ski instructor in all of Sri Lanka.
I mean – how many Sri Lankans might go to ice-cold regions to learn skiing. Learn it to perfection. “Wow, you must be the only ski instructor in Sri Lanka”, I conclude with awe.
“Probably”, he giggles and adds “Someone once told me if Sri Lanka would participate in the Winter Olympic games, I’d be the skiing team.”

You know, it’s encounters like this that remind me again and again what’s so great about solo travel: You get in touch with people in a different way. You get closer.
Of course, even if I’d be travelling as a couple, he would still be a ski instructor and we would be talking. But the whole atmosphere would be totally different. I probably wouldn’t be sitting next to him but in the back seat with my travel companion.
He would be the driver and we’d be the passengers; Miss and Mister Daisy.
We would probably exchange pleasantries. But I doubt that he would have told a couple – even a couple of friends – about peer pressure.

As a solo traveller, you get adopted pretty quick.

Or you get squeezed in.
You fill gaps. Last empty seat on the bus? I’m by myself, I can take it.
And bada bing, I’m sitting next to a stranger and we start talking – like with the Tamil cook from Singapore I met on a bus in Cuba or the Latvian doing seasonal jobs in Las Vegas between travels or….there were so many!

Pondering on how wonderful travelling is and how, at this point, too, I liberated myself from peer pressure – I don’t feel like the quirky cat-lady anymore when I tell people that I’m actually travelling by myself – we get to the airport.
I still have three and a half hours.
We exchange facebook profiles, I hand him all the cash I have left, we hug each other.
Travelling with him and having heard his stories is the grand finale to a wonderful tour across Sri Linka.
I really, really don’t need a house nor a picket fence and definitely no car.

Before I go through security, I leave three unopened packs of cookies on a seat at the departure hall hoping that some cleaning lady who has to work at this hour of the night will enjoy them.

Did you like this little tale? Here are more stories from every destination I’ve visited….

take the U-train – how tina uebel travelled the landroute from hamburg to shanghai bye:herself

Ms Tina Uebel is telling her absolutely fascinating story how she travelled from Germany’s West coast to China’s East coast. There are probably hundreds of people doing this every day;  but by train? And we are not talking the touristy, comfy Transsiberian here, the Titanic of trains. No, Tina Uebel took the ordinary trains – in total 19 of them! – that took her in seven weeks from Hamburg across Europe, the Middle East, East Asia – in total eight countries! – all the way to Shanghai.

cake sellers in Turkmenistan
Sweet encounters in Turkmenistan – proverbial and litteraly.
This Central Asian state was Tina’s fourth country on her route from Hamburg to Shanghai.
Photo: David Stanley, www.flickr.com/people/davidstanleytravel/

Before I tell you more about this great book, let me dwell a moment on the spectacular author and her flashing name. Of course I mean her surname, Uebel, which in her mothertongue German means, depending on the context, something like queasy, bad, dangerous.
For her book she picked the title “Uebel unterwegs” which thusly might be translated either as “Uebel on the road”, or irrespective of her name, “Sorely afflicted on the road”. That’s not only an original double meaning, that’s also true; You can follow Tina’s tales and trails with awe – how many women do you know that hop by themselves on a train that goes across Eurasia? Most of the time she’s having a great time; because she’s willing to have a great time. But you’ll have to witness also moments where she is worn and torn and pensive – especially when she realizes how blessed we are being born by chance in a wealthy country with a democratic government and a passport that grants us unlimited travelling.

For some people it’s unimaginable to travel individually and not organized. For many people it’s unthinkable globetrotting by themselves. And then comes this forty something women and travels individually (and sometimes not so very organized) by herself through countries that make others shiver. And she’s generous enough sharing not only her adventures, big and small, with her readers, no, in addition she shares her feelings and her thoughts. She describes encounters with different people in such a vivid and intense way that you have the feeling sitting next to them. Her travel buddies become your buddies, too. When she described how she bids farewell to her friend’s Persian cousin in Teheran, it made me cry a little since I had to part with him, too.

She crosses countries and visits cities you probably haven’t even heard of – all these “-stans” in the former Soviet Union where she’s not allowed to take pictures; and when she’s allowed to do so, she’s too polite to interfere with people’s privacy. But Tina makes up for this by describing these people and places in such a emphatic, vivid and vibrant fashion that you see them right before your inner eye in even brighter colors than a photograph could ever show.

Tina Uebel Portrait
Witty traveller, humorous writer, and busy body Tina Uebel.
Photo: Florian Büh, www.Gutes-Foto.de

If you’re not a traveller (then I’m surprised that you read my blog, but thanks a lot, anyway), you’ll enjoy all these curious and noteworthy encounters. When you’re a traveller, too, you’ll have experienced similar situations, but her writing them down is like underlining them with a laser pointer: Yes, me too, I’m missing decent coffee as soon as I leave Europe; real coffee, coming from coffee beans, not from a pack of Nescafé with or without whitener and sugar in it. Oh my gosh, how I can relate to her dwelling on the lack of decent coffee!  Yes, me too, I’m looking at all these disappointed faces that try to get me involved in a conversation about soccer and the price of a BMW since I’m from Germany; I know next to nothing about soccer and I’m riding the subway. And yes, me too, my blog entries are too long since I’m rather a wandering storyteller than an influencer.

So is there a downside to this absolutely fantastic book? Yes, there is: It’s written in German and not translated in any other language yet. And some of the cutest expressions are so Hamburgish that I’m afraid people living about one mile from Hamburg’s city limits won’t know them. But it doesn’t matter, they can be translated and replaced by sweet and funny idioms, especially transferred into English. So hurry up, you translators, and spread her words – that are so full of love and joy for travelling.

This is the awesome book “Uebel unterwegs” * in which Tina Uebel takes you to mesmerizing destinations and encounters in Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, Kasachstan, and China. Safe travels!

*This is an affiliate link. By purchasing items through my affiliate links at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission that helps to run this site.

Amazing Opportunities: It’s never too late to become an Au Pair

What do young girls do after graduating from high school when they want to live in another country, learn a foreign language and explore a different culture?
They become an Au Pair!
What do ‘Best Agers’ do after retiring when they do want to live in another country, learning and exploring?
They become an Au Pair, just the same!

byemyselftravels
Who wouldn’t enjoy taking care of this little cutie for some time?!

And if you want to spend your next trip as an Au Pair, you can do so with the help from Kristin.
Kristin is 70 and she’s living in a Bavarian village 56 miles from Munich – one of Germany’s most picturesque regions.
She by far didn’t spend all her life in this secluded place. For many years she was married to an industrial engineer working for the United Nations, therefore they didn’t live only in Germany, but also in places like Geneva and Copenhagen. Kristin, the great woman behind the successful man, took care of the household and the three kids. She cooked dinner for her husband’s business partners and had cocktails with ambassadors, politicians like former labor secretary Norbert Blüm and Germany’s late ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl, because social life was without saying a big part of the job. As everybody with kids can figure, this was not always easy, so Kristin had to rely on help from Au Pairs, and she was particularly happy when her then 65 year old aunt Jutta came from time to time to stay with the family and look after the kids and the house.

In 2009 the youngest of her three kids left home, so Kristin, by then retired, took a good look around whether there was an old dream hidden somewhere. And indeed, she remembered that as a young girl she always dreamt of becoming an Au Pair girl in Paris – the city of lights! Only her parents didn’t allow it, so these lights remained dim. But now was the time to turn them on and illuminate the “best age” that lied ahead – Kristin decided to become an Au Pair at 62.

Paris
Finally an au pair in the ‘city of lights’: Kristin became an au pair at the tender age of 62.

Since at that time there were no agencies, it was extremely difficult to find a host family, but nothing could discourage Kristin, and finally with the help from some friends, she found a French family that took her in to stay with them at their huge, charming appartement in the famous Parisian neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Strictly speaking, Kristin was not the average student anymore – but she and the host family agreed that she wouldn’t be treated differently: She stayed at a tiny room facing the backyard, sharing the shower with other students. Like any other Au Pair, she had her duties like helping the family’s daughter studying German for her Bacalaureat. She ate dinner with her hosts and enjoyed conversations on cultural differences and similarities. In the company of all the other commuters she took the Métro to school and back. With her school mates she studied French in the morning and partied at night. She had the time of her life!

I can absolutely relate to that since my language courses to Rome, Izmir, and Milan were some of the most inspiring experiences ever; I think that at an advanced age it’s not only the activity and the trip as such, it’s especially the idea behind, the recherche du temps perdu – respectively sa découverte.

Kristin Emmerinck
Kristin Emmerinck, founder of
Madame Grande-Mère

Back home, back to her little Bavarian village, Kristin, spurred by her own experience, decided to give others – who probably won’t fulfill their dreams of becoming a ballerina or getting a Unicorn for their birthday anymore – the opportunity to make at least the wish to become an Au Pair come true: she founded an association placing senior Au Pairs in host families around the world.

Having a brilliant idea, founding an association, designing a webpage – this was makeable. But here the hard work only began. Kristin had to let the public know that she was out there, and that she was ready. She contacted every newspaper around, she wrote more than 1,000 Emails to German language schools abroad like e. g. the Goethe Institute. She got in touch with chambers of commerce, consulates and embassies. She stormed every convention dealing with demography. And it paid – after a while she was considered an expert in this field and got invited to respective events like chancellor Merkel’s demography summit. Then the Bavarian delegate to the European Union Dr. Niebler recommended Kristin to German President Gauck to receive an award for her outstanding honorary activities. Now of course also the media were interested in this ingenious project.

The images of senior citizens did change quite a lot over the last decades.

Today Kristin’s project gets more and more attention – thus Kristin gets more and more commitments and chores. For years she’s participated in major conventions and specialized fairs – the group of active senior citizens is growing significantly, especially but not exclusively in Germany, thus projects like Madame Grand Mère are absolutely in the line of the trend.

The peer group is interested, Kristin’s databank includes almost 500 potential Au Pairs – around 460 grand mères and at least 30 grand pères. Every year about 20 of them are heading to new shores – the youngest was 50 and took a sabbatical for her trip, the oldest went for a couple of weeks to North Carolina at the age of 76.

Of course the Au Pairs get board and lodging for free and do sometimes receive additional gratuities according to an individual agreement with their hosts. Same goes for the fare, it all depends on the respective necessities, the circumstances, distance and length of stay. That can vary from four weeks “vacation assistance” up to one year; the friendships last forever, though. However, there are regular ‘customers’ like the German TV-correspondent in the US or the Honorary Consul in Turkey, and there are Au Pairs going again and again.

You now might wonder about visa and work permits? To avoid illegal employment, an Au Pair cannot be over 27 years of age (at least according to German law). But since the Grand Mères are not employees but the family’s guests, they only have to stick to tourist visa regulations (you will find these in my World’s Most Complete Travel Information). Same goes for possibly necessary insurances: German citizens have their national or, where necessary, travel health insurance and liability insurance (unless these are cheaper in the guest country in which case the host family takes care of it). Besides maybe a little pocket money, the Grand Mères are rewarded with a wonderful adventure, the chance to learn – and to teach – languages and experience, it’s a enriching give and take.

Many of the Au Pairs are retired teachers, but there are also women who were just housewives for years and do want to experience something new, something exciting after their kids left home (not every Grand Mère is a single lady) – basically the same reasons why the founder of this fantastic project left for Paris in 2009. And the founder herself gets all dreamy sometimes when she liaises between an Au Pair and a lovely family at a particularly alluring dream destination such as Dubai and Daressalaam, like Beijing and Brisbane. But by now Kristin is far too busy making Madame Grand Mère great – by promoting her non profit society, giving interviews, attending conventions – and of course the most challenging part: The placement of Au Pairs into families. That requires very thorough preparation, checking lots of paper work, references etc. The first introduction is anonymous, if both sides are interested, eventually they get further information. It’s very important that things work out and both sides are happy. And besides minor incidents, by now Kristin, the families, and the Grand Parents are elated!

Looking at picture books – the perfect way to increase the vocabulary.

I hope I gave you a good idea of what Madame Grand Mère is all about. I think that especially for people who are a little insecure going to far exotic places all by themselves – and who are at the same time quite curious what these places are really like – this is the perfect way of getting on a trip and spending an extremely rewarding time.

I’d love to hear what you think about this project. And if you know about another extraordinary program, I’d be grateful if you’d let me know. In brief: Keep in touch!

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what to do with the jackpot?

What Hamburg based journalist Meike Winnemuth did when she won 500,000 Euro at the German edition of “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” is just amazing.

byemyselftravels
Hanging out on a Hawaiian beach – certainly one of the best options to spend a jackpot on.

The question is probably as old as mankind itself – or at least as old as the first episode of “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”, which was broadcasted in September 1998 in England. And since then the population of over 100 countries cries “me, me, pick me!” when this question arises.

Meike Winnemuth probably did not cry loud enough, since on October 11, 2010 she became only a semi-millionaire. However, I’d trade her in a blink of an eye. Not only for winning a lot of money, nor simply for going on a trip for a year. What impresses me and makes me all dreamy is how she did it.

portrait of meike winnemuth; byemyselftravels
Meike Winnemuth – travelling light

Maybe it’s because Meike Winnemuth wasn’t a teenager anymore, or maybe it were her German genes that made her not just leaving with a half empty backpack to walk mother earth in a pair of Birkenstocks. She had a very clear concept, very organized luggage, a perfect plan. This way, in my eyes, she took her opportunity and made the best of it – she made her trip a lasting and sustained experience.

Winnemuth’s plan was to actually live in twelve cities in twelve different countries over twelve months. Living meant not staying at a hotel and hanging out on the beach. Living meant renting a flat from the 1st of each month till ultimo. Living meant filling the fridge with groceries bought at the local market. Living meant having an everyday’s life. Since Meike Winnemuth has been a journalist forever, and writing and publishing nowadays is possible from basically everywhere, she kept on writing and she kept her readers up to date on her travel blog (exclusively in German).

Where did she go and why did she pick precisely the places she picked? Well, she picked the places a bit willy-nilly – places she has been before, places she always wanted to see, one place because she couldn’t make it to the one she initially picked et cetera. So she went to Sydney, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Shanghai (that’s the one she had to switch because she didn’t want to go to Tokyo after the nuclear accident in Fukushima), Honolulu (hence the first picture of this post), San Francisco, London, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Addis Abeba, and Havana. What by the way inspired me the most, is that, getting home to Hamburg from Latin America at the end of her adventure, instead of buying a plane ticket, she took a freight ship back to the old world like customary back in the old days. Being the only passenger during the passage that took 12 days, she celebrated Christmas and New Year only with the Polish crew. Awesome! I wanna do that, too!

So all the places listed and visited are fine and dandy – but what are you doing an entire month there? Well, besides a lot of pondering and reflecting about life in general and hers in particular, she did some writing and she learned many things like dancing and stitching and stand up paddling, to mention just a few.

How I know all this? Because besides blogging, at the end she wrote a wonderful book called something like “Hitting the Jackpot”. Every chapter – dedicated to one city – is written as a letter to families, friends, an ex-lover and – and that’s particularly sweet and charming – to a younger version of herself. At the end of every chapter, i. e. letter, she adds a list of ten things that she has learned at that respective place. Usually – and especially after every blogger out there feels the urge to put one together – I can’t stand these stupid, useless lists “the best 10 this” or “the hundred coolest that” – please, spare me! But hers make actually sense insofar as they cut each stay and all her entertaining stories down to an extract of clear facts.

At the end of her wonderfully written book, Meike Winnemuth explains how she prepared and organized her trip and gives some advices. Basically the way I do it in this very blog.

My favorite part is where she describes the stylish yet sensible collection of clean cut, matching, tailor made co-ords she packed. For her, reducing her luggage to only few pieces of garment wasn’t too hard: You should know that two years before her twelve-twelve-twelve-adventure, she did an self-experiment by wearing the same blue dress for a year – and blogged about it.

But that Great Project of this Great People should be the topic of another post.

This is the wonderful book where Meike Winnemuth describes in her entertaining way how she lived during twelve months at twelve cities in twelve different countries. Unfortunately it’s only available in German*; big mistake!

*This is an affiliate link. By purchasing items through my affiliate links at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission that helps to run this site.

Living Room Love

Every time I introduce my friends Kati and Thomas to someone, I’m looking forward to the moment when I drop the sentence “They initiated Living Room Love” – and the other person also drops something, namely their jaw. Actually I call it by its German name “Wohnzimmerliebe” which doesn’t make it less kinky.

byemyselftravels
Wohnzimmerliebe November 2015: Actress Eva Engelbach, Organizer Kati, Actor Marcel Weinand, Organizer Thomas. Engelbach & Weinand performed “Taschenhonka“, a morbid chamber drama about the ripper Fritz Honka, killing mainly prostitutes at Hamburg in the 70s.

Of course this is just a silly joke because although these two fantastically creative and ingenious people indeed did initiate the Living Room Love, it’s not kinky at all, but a very good and quite successful cultural project: they organize lectures and song recitals and jazz concerts – whatever tickles their artistic fancy.

And it goes like this:

Their first – and basically only – investment was the purchase of twenty five black IKEA folding chairs and two embroidered pillows. In October 2011, they placed these chairs for the first time in neat rows in their friends’ living room – a venue was founded, even though only for a couple of hours. The audience of this premiere consisted of their friends, and they had the pleasure to hear Musical singer Stefanie Köhm singing songs from the (tragic) musical “Wenn Rosenblätter fallen” (“When Rose Petals fall off”). The initiators, the host, the artist, and most of all the audience – everybody was delighted and agreed to do this again as soon as possible. And they sticked to this plan, since already two months later they organized a dramatic reading with texts by Victor Hugo,
David Forster Wallace, Jon Kalman Steffansson und Herman Melville, read by the actors Kerstin Pietsch and Mirko Thiele, and this time the hostess with the mostest Kati took part in the show singing, accompanied by Ralf Lehnert’s accordion.

byemyselftravels
Sweet Remains Trio” has remained in our memories since April 2016 

It’s not only for the fantastic performances and the really special atmosphere where you have a glass of wine rubbing shoulders with the evening’s star; and often you literally do rub shoulders because not every kitchen is made for 30 people. Talking ’bout the kitchen – another charming side effect is that you get to see many different apartments and styles of living. Looking for the bathroom, you accidentally open doors to closets and bed rooms. You get a really good glance at some stranger’s life. Of course like at any other cultural event, most people talk about the performance, but you hear also conversations like “…and how much is the rent for this?” or “Wow, where did you get these darling wine glasses?”.

byemyselftravels
To this day I’m remembering with envy the Wohnzimmerliebe taking place in May 2016 – when we had the chance to admire the host’s roof top terrace overlooking Hamburg and the river Elbe.
(bye:myself with Thomas and Kati before the show (right to left))

You can help yourself to wine and water that Kati and Thomas bring to the show – you pay by putting 1 Euro per glass in a piggy bank – and the respective hosts offer whatever they please. It can be bread and butter, cheese and crackers or even a variety of delicious homemade spreads on home baked bread. That’s always a nice surprise for the guests. And the guests are a nice surprise for the hosts who sometimes have a flat full of people they’ve never seen before.

byemyselftravels
Having a drink with the organizers, hosts, and artists at someone’s kitchen

.

Although the first events were mostly advertised through their circle of friends, today their mailing list consists of around 300 addresses, thus the ‘ticket sale’ is similar to a Robby Williams concert: If you don’t answer Living Room Love’s invitation email right away, all twenty five folding chairs will be taken.

byemyselftravels
Theater Company EAT.PLAY.LOVE performing at a Living Room in February 2012

To grant the hosts’ privacy, only the confirmed guests get an Email with the respective address 24 hours beforehand.
Welcoming them, Thomas always reminds the audience that whose cell phone rings during the show, she or he will host the next event. Although this hasn’t happened once, they never have a problem finding hospitable people. Many love opening their home to such a special event, and if I had enough space, I would volunteer my place in a wink of an eye.

Before the artists begin, Kati announces an important detail: the top hat that goes around during the performance so everybody can pay their gratuity. The money goes of course to the artist, the host gets a nice gift from Kati and Thomas like for instance a CD by that evening’s singer or the book the respective play is based on or something of this kind. With this concept, everybody wins.

By this day, over almost six years, 27 distinctive acts have taken place in 27 different living rooms in front of 27 varied crowds.
This is a lot considering the fact, that the Living Room Love is very enriching ideally and artistically, but it doesn’t pay in the sordid but necessary material way. So Kati and Thomas have regular jobs to bring home the bacon, and since 2013 their little son Julian to look after.

So there are enough spaces available, there are many artists willing to perform – time is the only factor that holds Kati and Thomas back from making Living Room Love more often.