When I first came to Germany a million years ago I was perplexed by the most frequently asked question, which was whether I missed my ‘five o’ clock-tea’?

Pardon? Tea, for me and my family was of course the drink (throw a teabag in a mug, pour boiling water in, splash in some milk, stir around for a minute or two and you’re done) and possibly also the meal around 6pm-ish, which would feature bread and butter – maybe a paste or egg sandwich – and some sort of cake. If in Cornwall, Devon or Dorset it could also be a Cream Tea (scones, jam and clotted cream with a pot of tea), which would be snaffled down around 3pm.

I just googled ‘five o clock tea’ and found a German site which tells you to eat a scone spread with Orangenmarmelade at five o’ clock. What should I say?

Last year I fulfilled a long-held ambition, and visited Roald Amundsen’s ship, The Fram, in Oslo, Norway.

At the time I was already planning an advent calender for my family on Borneo, which should be filled with European delights. I’m up to most postal challenges and so thought it would be fun to include a Viking helmet, you know, with horns. Each small parcel to open in the days before Christmas should also have some sort of information (you can’t take the teacher out of the grandmother) and so I looked for facts about Viking helmets, with horns.

Oops. The Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets.

Costume designer Carl Emil Doepler included horned helmets in his costume designs for the 1876 performance of Wagner’s classic Norse saga, Der Ring des Nibelungen – and then how could the world resist?

As we will not be going anywhere for the foreseeable future, it seemed last weekend like a good idea to rethink part of our garden, the part which two years ago became a dedicated butterfly sanctuary and now is just a mess (see header). But what to do? Our daughter had the idea of a ‘historical garden’ which immediately made me think of one of my favourite paintings by Berta Schilling (http://www.artnet.com/artists/bertha-schilling/), ‘Bauerngarten’.

‘Bauerngarten’ by Bertha Schilling. Hangs right next to my place on the sofa.

Bertha was born to the south of here in 1870, but in 1911 moved to the village of Fischerhude, which – along with Worpswede – was already famous for its artists’ colony.


Germans know that a ‘Bauerngarten’ is a farmhouse garden, with vegetables, fruit and flowers all in a glorious, colourful profusion – with box hedges, hollyhocks, herbs, lettuces, marigolds and roses.

What fun it would be to recreate a garden here, as it would have been 200 years ago!

A short while later I found out that as with the tea and the helmets, the Bauerngarten is just a nice story. In the middle of the 19th century artists began painting romantic ‘Bauergärten’, which never really existed.* Farmhouses such as ours would have had crops or animals right up to the house, food and income was the thing, not marigolds. In 1913 the Botanical Gardens in Hamburg opened a ‘Bauerngarten’ as part of their permanent exhibition. Now they can be found in every open-air museum, and so we are convinced that this is how it really was. Just like the five o’ clock tea, and the horned Vikings.

*Bertha painted real gardens (including her own) and flowers which she saw in Fischerhude and on her summer holidays on the Baltic coast.

The Cabin fever part

Help with pronunciation:




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