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Schlagwort: song

Inspiration in Song Lyrics – Gundermann

It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog about music, lyrics and language instead of travel and personal growth. Lately I must say that music has grown even more important to me (who knew that that was even possible), and in this end-of-year reflective mood that I am in, I am listening to it more eager to find answers to my questions, inspiration for my quests.

Piano, Brussels, Belgium

This beauty can be seen at the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium

I have always had a thing for music with German lyrics – not so much Schlager, but contemporary German singer / singwriter music, Indie pop, pop rock and even hip hop (now I know that most people who are not German native speakers do not consider German hip hop to be hip hop. But I think that must be because they don’t understand the lyrics. Bands like Fettes Brot and Die Fantastischen Vier have ingenious lyricists!). When I started writing my own music, it was quite natural for me to come up with German words for them, too. So it is not surprising that when I seek inspiration, I turn to German music again.

For a couple of years now, I have gone to see a specific band in concert between Christmas and New Year’s. They are called Randgruppencombo, and they are a tribute band to singer / singwriter Gerhard Gundermann. Gundermann was an artist from the GDR, the former East Germany, and he continued to be fairly successful after reunification (which is not at all self-understood). Some of his most well-known songs deal with the aftermath of the political change, with the need to find a new place in this new society. His language is clear and simple, without frills. He puts complicated feelings into plain words, and because of this his songs speak to me with great immediacy. One of the songs that I have pondered a lot lately is this one called „Die Zukunft“, The Future – here in a version of the mentioned Randgruppencombo:

Die Zukunft ist ’ne abgeschossene Kugel,
auf der mein Name steht und die mich treffen muss.
Und meine Sache ist, wie ich sie fange:
Mit’m Kopp, mit’m Arsch, mit der Hand oder mit der Wange.
Trifft sie mich wie ein Torpedo oder trifft sie wie ein Kuss?

The future is a launched bullet
that carries my name and that is bound to hit me.
And it’s my business how I catch it:
With my head, with my ass, with my hand or with my cheek.
Will it hit me like a torpedo or will it hit like a kiss?

A lot of things have happened to me this year that I did not see coming, but the lyrics of this song have made me aware at all times that things will come, they will, and there is no way for me to prevent it from happening. But I have the power to form and shape the things that are coming to me. I may like it or not that the bullet will hit me, but I cannot change the fact. I can just (wo)man up and take charge of how I will meet it. I find this thought quite consoling, probably because it empowers me somewhat in times when the future seems worryingly insecure.

The complement to this song is one that deals with the past. It’s called „Vögelchen“, Little Bird, and this is a live version by Gundermann himself:

Wir wollten es fangen, das Vögelchen, in teuren schwarzen Apparaten. Wir kleben Bilder ein und wir suchen blind nach jenen funkelnden Lichtern, die die Mädchen in den Augen hatten auf unseren Mopeds, die lange verschrottet sind.
Da ist es wieder, das Vögelchen – es nistet in den nassen Haaren seltsamer Menschen, die unsere Kinder sind. Und auch die funkelnden Lichter sind dort, wo sie waren, die ganzen Jahre. Du hast sie nur lange nicht mehr angezünd’t.

We wanted to catch the little bird in expensive black machines. We sort out pictures and we are looking blindly for the shimmering lights that the girls had in their eyes on our mopeds that have been scrapped for a long time.
There it is, the little bird – it’s nesting in the wet hair of strange people who are our children. And the shimmering lights are also just there, where they have been for all those years. Just you haven’t lit them for a long time.

The little bird, as in „Watch the birdie!“, refers to a camera trying to capture the moment in a picture. While the song is very nostalgic, it also has an optimistic ring to it that the shimmering lights of hope and anticipation are never lost. It may be merely by association, but I think of a lot of people, friends and acquaintances, who have experienced loss or pain lately, and this song mainly reminds me of one very important lesson in life: Count your blessings.

Those songs thus leave me with two powerful and reassuring thoughts: Take charge of the future. Be grateful for the past. And while those are very important lessons, it is always vital to remember to live in the moment. One of Gundermann’s most famous songs, a song he called a consolation song for a friend, is called „Brunhilde“ and all about making the best of today. I did a cover version of it myself a while back with a rookie keyboard arrangement that is not very professional, but I think the sentiment is clear:

Und was sollte besser sein als so ein Abend im Frieden?

And what could be better than an evening in peace?

Are there songs that guide you and inspire you as you reflect upon your life? I would love it if you shared them in the comments!

Finding Kindness – an Instagram Journey

My friend Aggy of DreamExploreWander, whom I’ve tagged here several times, tagged me on an instagram challenge a few days ago. I was supposed to post five pictures on five consecutive days, all connected to the theme „KINDNESS“. While I loved the theme from the start, it turned out difficult to put it in pictures. There is lots of symbols for faith, or hope, or love. Travel is easy to visualize, as is home. But kindness?

Difficult as it was, I tried to capture kindness in pictures to post to my instagram account every day. And the beauty of it was that it made me much more aware of little everyday acts of kindness all around me.

Advent Wreath

On the first day, conveniently, I received my mum’s yearly Christmas package. If there is anyone I learned kindness from, it is my mother. She sends me my advent wreath every year. I have the decorations ready and set it up on my couch table on the fourth Sundays before Christmas – and then one more candle is lit every Sunday. It isn’t advent without this tradition, and it makes my home feel more cozy, friendlier. It was in this moment already that I realized that kindness would only be visualized through a connection with others.

Sheet music

On the second day, my singing teacher sent me the final recording of a song that I wrote myself. I have been writing music for a bit now, but I cannot really do arrangements. I am going to learn that in the near future, but the arrangement on this one is my singing teacher’s. He spent a lot of time getting everything done, just because he is nice that way. And now I have my own song. I never thought this day would come. If you would like to give it a listen, you can do so on my soundcloud.

Berlin Mitte - the deli

On the third day I had a late lunch and some good coffee at my most frequented deli close to work.  The place is often overcrowded at lunch time which is why I try to come in late, have a quick chat with the staff and enjoy the soup of the day (which is always delicious!). The guys who work there know the way I like my coffee, and they notice when I’ve had my hair cut and ask if I’ve been okay if I haven’t come in for a while. Genuinely kind, good people who will brighten up my lunch hour considerably. Bad service can ruin my mood. It never happens here.

Advent Calendar

On day four, I had to go back to my mum’s Christmas package and post a picture of my advent calendar. 24 little gifts for each day in December until Christmas Eve finally arrives. Not only does this remind me of my mum’s infinite grace and kindness every day, it also makes me feel a bit of the childish excitement Christmas used to be about when today it is more about stress and getting things done. I like getting up in the morning and knowing there is something small (or not so small – what might be in that big red package I get to open today, on the 6th?!) to look forward to.


The fifth day had me turn to my dressing table. My friend sent me little notecards for motivation and reassurance this year for my birthday, and I set them up next to my jewellery so I will see them every morning. This card says: „Do only the things that are salutary to you.“ Salutary – „heilsam“ in German – is a particularly pretty word, and it refers to things that will heal your wounds. In other words this means: Be kind to yourself. Often we are not, we don’t take care of our needs enough. We should be kind to each other and ourselves alike.

While I don’t know if my pictures sufficiently mirrored the topic, this little challenge gave me much joy. It felt good to look for things that would symbolize kindness to me every day, and it animated me to be kind, too. Write a text to that friend who has started a new job to wish her luck. Call my sister to let her know that I miss her. Go after that lady who nearly left her scarf at the restaurant at the table next to us. Hold open doors for other people. Get in touch with someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Maybe it’s also the Christmas spirit talking, but honest: If you’re kind to people, kindness will come back to you. And it feels good.

The Wonderful Astray

Again I owe the inspiration to this blog post to my wonderful job that allows me to deal professionally with things I love very much. Last November, one of these things was the work of Polish cult poet Edward Stachura. Stachura was something of a Polish beatnik who mainly wrote poetry and songs. He committed suicide in his early fourties which made him even more popular with the underground scene. I came across his work mainly through the music of the wonderful band Stare Dobre Małżeństwo – the band name translates to Good Old Marriage. The first song by them that I fell in love with was “Jak”:

While the melody and the simple guitar instrumental caught me by their slight melancholy that I still felt to be light and hopeful, it was really the lyrics that got to me right away – especially the recurring line

Jak suchy szloch w tę dżdżystą noc…

Like a dry sob into this rainy night…

To me the Polish line consists of nothing but beautiful words. Szloch, sob, is a beautiful word that sounds exactly like the sound it represents. Dżdżysty, rainy, is a beautiful word that starts by a consonant cluster that only Polish could come up with. Many people ask me if Polish can be sung at all, with its many consonants. This song proves that it can be done, and beautifully so. It is also proof to me that lyrics don’t always need to be understood intellectually, but that the pure sound of language transports beauty all by itself, because I didn’t understand everything when I first heard this song.

What’s funny about the lyrics is that they never actually give an object of reference. „Jak“ can be translated by „as“ or „like“ or „when“ – all particles that would require something consequently following. That is as this is. That is like this is. That is when this happened. None of these sentences could pose a „this“ without posing a „that“ – but the song leaves out what „that“ is. It just gives a „this“. But in many lines, that proves to be enough. Like here:

Jak winny – li – niewinny sumienia wyrzut,
Że się żyje, gdy umarło tylu, tylu, tylu.

Like guilty unguilty twinges of conscience,
That you’re alive when there have died so many, many, many.

We don’t know what it is that is „like twinges of conscience“ – but that’s of no relevance to the emotional message of the line. I cannot say that I have felt that exact way, but it reminded me of a certain kind of feeling grateful for my life that sometimes is accompanied by a slight sense of disbelief that I should deserve to be so lucky. And it reminded me of the cemeteries of Sarajevo I have written about before:

Sarajevo, Bosnia and HercegovinaThe last bit of the lyrics says:

Jak biec do końca – potem odpoczniesz, potem odpoczniesz, cudne manowce,
cudne manowce, cudne, cudne manowce.

Like running till the end, after that you’ll relax, after that you’ll relax, wonderful astray,
wonderful astray, wonderful, wonderful astray.

The wonderful astray, or the magical astray, or the marvellous astray – what a beautiful notion that is. „Astray“, or „manowce“, has no German equivalent, it can only be translated in colloquialisms. My colleague once said that if there were to be a translation, it could certainly not be combined with terms such as „wonderful“ – German culture doesn’t care for the „astray“. In stereotype, that may be true. In fact, I am the counter example. I love the astray. I love getting lost. Being led wherever circumstance may. Letting life have its way with me.

In a story, this is what The Wonderful Astray means to me – I love just following a trampled out pathway on a remote Croatian island and coming across this:

Vis, Croatia

When I found this place, I sang on the top of my lungs. I’m not sure, but I think Elton John’s „Can You Feel the Love Tonight“. If I ever return to this magical place, I’m going to sing „Jak“.

Instructions for a Bridgekeeper

As much as I love travelling solo, I am in the process of looking into finding travel buddies for my next adventure. Today I got into thinking what it would actually mean for someone else to travel with me. I am sure that in my time I must have developed a few spleens and weird habits when travelling on my own, and I think everyone deserves a fair warning. So here they are, the instructions on how to deal with the BridgeKeeping Travel Buddy (BKTB).

„Dear customer,

congratulations on obtaining your very own BKTB. Handled with care and maintained properly, you will enjoy this product for a very long time.

When choosing a travel destination, keep in mind that the BKTB must be exposed to travel to Poland at least four to five times a year and to another Eastern European destination of your choice once a year. Also make sure that the BKTB goes on at least one vacation a year that will allow her to return to Germany with a tan that will prompt people to say that she looks like a gypsy.


Make sure that the BKTB has access to coffee in the morning, preferably Espresso or Bosnian / Serbian / Turkish coffee. The BKTB does NOT run on instant coffee. You run the risk of causing severe damage to the BKTB’s system if you try to fuel it with instant coffee. Also, keep in mind that while the BKTB doesn’t need much food during the day when travelling, a feeling of hunger can overcome her within seconds towards evening. When this is uttered, find food as quickly as you can or else run for dear life lest you want to be object to a very moody BKTB.


While the BKTB will help you to just wander a place without orientation and finding incredible places, and while the BKTB has a fairly decent sense of orientation, she will not ask for directions unless she has to. You being there will mean that she doesn’t have to, because it’s your job. She’s weird that way. The BKTB will, however, randomly chat up strangers in coffee places, trains or other ways of public transport, on park benches or in line for a museum. If those strangers are locals, she will have annoyed them with a gazillion questions about the culture, the history and the minority politics of the country you are in before even having asked the stranger’s name. Yeah, she’s weird that way, too.

On the other hand, the BKTB needs her quiet time. Bring her to a religious site or a spectacular place in nature (a beach will always do, but mountains work as well!) frequently during your trip and just shut up for a bit so she can hear her own thoughts. Don’t take it badly if she wants to wander off on her own for a bit. It’ll be for your own good if she does.

Mariella in Butrinth, Albania

Credit for this pic to my friend Steve

If you’re female or gay, the BKTB comes with an option of daily cuddling / hugging. Actually to be honest, she comes with that option if your a straight man, too. Hell, the important question is probably if *you* come with that option!

The BKTB will express the urge to sing out of the blue frequently. The best way to deal with this is to find someone who can play the guitar and an adequate situation for singing, such as bonfires, balconies or terraces, beaches and the likes, or at least a karaoke bar. You do not have to provide lyrics since the BKTB knows almost all of them by heart.

Credit for this pic to my friend Julia

You have now been warned. Enjoy your travels.“

What is there to consider when someone travels with you?