This is a chapter from the 1887 book "Life Among the Germans" by American author Emma Louise Parry. In it she describes life in Berlin in the 1880s. She is staying with a wealthy family and marvels at their way of living. Class is a defining property in this society. Miss Parry tells us about the house, the food, the neighbours, and the class system, and compares them to what she's used to in America. Her musings give a us a fascinating insight into two worlds gone by.
In the heart of a German Family
Although pension-life has its charms and advantages, it does not answer the purpose either for aquiring the language or mingling in German society. With all its delightful companionship, it must be relinquished; and, to make the winter in Germany yield its greatest usefulness, you must go right into the heart of a German family. Here, no English will be heard, - none is understood; and one is therefore obliged to venture boldly into the unknown an perilous depths of the German speech. The German language requires this total surrender, and even then demands that you walk in the valley of humiliation. It is impossible for one who has not had the painful experience of struggling with the German in its own home, to know its bitterness. Strange sounds on all sides; strain ear and imagination as you may, still, hearing, we hear not, and in us is fulfilled the prophecy, "by hearing ye shall hear and not understand." A little light breaks as the words are acquired; but there are so many words, - so many colloquial phrases not seen in grammar or book, - and even the German-Americans, whose parents have always compelled them to speak German in the American home, feel that their German is limited in the land where it is the universal tongue. We have heard of various systems to teach one German in six weeks, in six months; - remarkable systems! Mark Twain gives it thirty years; he yould well, even then, have termed it a Thirty Years' War. We detemined to conquer it, and, remembering, "he best can rule who first hath well obeyed," we surrendered ourselves wholly to the German and all its stern behests, - determining to know no other master, no other interest, naught else for the time being. One thing is in our favor in Germany, - the Germans never laugh at our mistakes, ridiculous as they may be. On the steamer, every day for seven days, I told the doctor I had a "Schornsteinfeger" in my eye, and each time he gravely took it out, without a smile; I meant a cinder, but nor for some weeks afterward did I discover that I hab been telling him of a "chimney sweep" in my eye. All the officers heard it, but they never betrayed what must have been amusing for them. I rushed up to a lady on the street with, "Es thut mir Leid Sie wieder zu sehen!" which was telling her how sorry I was to meet her; yet she smiled sweetly, and answered as though I had said just what I meant, that I was rejoiced to see her. They are so polite! - very different from our manner of hearing their mistakes; for we could not restrain our mirth as the doctor told us "to take the medicine so long as the 'cow' lasted." If "plough" spells "plow," then "cough" spells "cow" - that is logical. For us, the only way to help ourselves was to make mistakes, fall and pick ourselves up again.
The Fräulein in the pension helped me to the German home. This young German Fräulein had come to Berlin to spend the winter with a family, and, until they returned from Switzerland, their summer tour, she was with us in pension. The family she was to visit is of the higher class - next to the court circles, very wealthy, and well educated. Fräulein Ottilie had been engaged to their only son, but he had died a short time before, and, in their lonliness, they had invited his betrothed to spend the winter with them, - the lady, gentleman, and one daughter. I visited the family, and was pleased with them. On the day she was to take up her abode there came a telegram from her home, in Stettin, summoning her thither, and with no prospect for a return. We went to her friends to explain. In the course of the conversation, by some fortunate turn, I was invited to take her place in the family! What could be more happy? My fortune was beyond all jope or expectation, and I believe I was the happiest American in the colony.
So I bade farewell to the pension, my first German home, - yet my attachment for it was strong. An uncontrollable dread of a new, strange place took possession of me, and, happy as I was at the prospect, I went reluctantly to strangers, where the life would be wholly foreign, and I necessarily obliged to conform minutely to its peculiarity. I walked all about the city before I dared trust myself to the final step. I started in the most opposite direction, and did not recall the situation until the guard halted me at Brandenburger Thor. He motioned me to pass on the other side of the entrance. This is one of the old gates to the city, and a magnificent structure: a great classic portica, in imitation of the Porpylea of Athens; it has five passages, and none but the imperial family may drive through the middle one. There is a bronze quadriga on the top - Victoria holding in rein four spirited horses, and I suppose that every time I came in sight of it I must hear, "Napoleon carried that away in 1807, vut seven years after Blücher brought it back!" The Germans love to repeat their triumphs. This is the beginning of the great promenade in Berlin, - Unter den Linden, - a beautiful, wide street, planted with a double row of lindens, with double carriage-drives, and paths for riding, extending a mile from Brandenburger Thor to the Emperor's Palace, with the University just opposite, and the equestrian statue of Frederick the Great between. The shop windows here are enchanting: lovely painted china, exquisite statuary, bronzes, jewelry, engravings, books, refreshing flowers - we Americans want to take everything home, but students are spared the perplexity of selecting from these bewildering charms, - as a class, they must content themselves with the pleasure of seeing rather than possessing, and it is, therefore, a pur pleasure, for the sake of beauty itself. I lingered at these windows, slowly taking my way to the new home, - reluctantly turned down Wilhelm Strasse, slowly passed the palaces, Bismarck's among them, rested on one of the benches in front of the Anhalter Bahnhof the third largest depot in the world. It is built largely of iron and glass, and is richly decorated with sculpture and frieze-work. Courageously I walked down Möckern Strasse and with trembling finally turned into Kleinbeeren, advanced to number seven, and vigorously pulled the bell. From below the portier drew aside the white curtain, saw that I was anständig (respectable), and the door flew open. The clean, cool hall, with matting and gilt stair-rods, the stained-glass windows, and the fresh garden of the court, brought me a new sense of my privileges. I noticed at the first door, to the right the name Pudor, and the plate "Mitglied gegen Bettelei" ("member of the Society against Begging," - which means that a certain sum is given monthly for the care of the poor - the State provides a pension for the destitute - and contributors are exempt from wandering beggars), so no borrowing there! My place was on the top story, and, in response to the sharp-toned bell, that set my heart wildly beating, came a girl who, with radiant eagerness, inquired, "Miss P.?" "Yes" came faintly ! but, grasping my hand in most hearty tones, that scattered my fears as the wind the clouds, she exclaimed, "Herzliche Willkommen!" and followed it up with a charming speech, hoping I would find a happy life with them in a German home. This was the daughter, whom I had not met before. The mother came with her speech, the father with his, at the same time presenting a little bunch of roses and mignonette. Is it nor a beautiful way to welcome a stranger? In my room was a bunch of flowers to greet me, - the "welcome bouquet" it is called. The room is much like the one at the pension, even prettier, with some long student-pipes and gay student-caps decorating the walls. These belonged to the son, whom they mourn so deeply. He was the last males heir, and the name will die out with this old gentleman - Herr Hauptmann he is called, as he was a captain in the army, and his wife is Frau Hauptmann. They say the year of military service, demanded by the State of every young man, was too hard for the son, and that many young men die after the ordeal. The daughter, Elsa, speaks English and French, but is so eager for me to learn German that she promises to speak no English. One amusing thing I notice: she lisps in English, but not in German or French, so I suppose her English teacher lisped, and she sopied her exactly, thinking this a peculiarity or art in the language.
It is impossible to move about incognito on Germany, for, as soon as you arrive in a place, you mus be melded (registered). Your full name, birthplace, date of birth (the idea of asking this of an American girl!), last dwelling-place, occupation, are all officially recorded. In a pension, these grains of information are quickly scattered, and you enter the family checked as to nationality, years, calling, and previous condition. There is a legal fine if this duty is neglected, but there is little danger of neglect , as curiosity here transforms duty to pleasure. The registration must be repeated every time a move is made, so now, as we changed from pension to family, we again passed our examination. If you have an income, a tax is imposed for a protracted stay in a place, to repay the State for its protection. A passport will be demanded, but it is an unnecessary expense. Frau Hauptmann came in, the day after my arrival, to tell how she had outwitted the Polizei, by telling him that I was a relative on a visit from America, and so exempt. Unwilling to escape under false pretences, I consulted an old resident American, who assured me that no passport is needed by students.
At last we are in a fair way to see German life. The German home-life is celebrated, yet to us it lacks much that makes home for the American. Although there is warmth and heartiness in the German, and many customs reveal this, still, as a general thing, we miss the familiar mingling of the members of the family, the sympathy that helps in intellectual and spiritual life. The student-sons think it too tame to sit at home with the family; the prefer the semi-weekly kneipe; and the years given to military training take the young men from home-pleasures, and give them other inclinations. There is not that society intercourse of young men and women shich is beneficial to both. The boys seek outside entertainment; the girls gather together in coffee-parties, and knit. Work of the hands has a high value among the women, and much time is spent in these endless white crochet strips. Our experience with the German gentlemen is limited. The Frau celebrated my access to the family ba a little dinner-party - the guests, two younger men, both of high rank, one a lawyer, the other a physician. After the dinner, on adjourning to the drawing-room, cigars, wine, and beer were placed on the table to aid the conversation. The young men were highly educated, and their accounts of the training required for any profession made me feel that America is playing with education. How they scorn the American idea - young men graduating at the High School, or even taking part of the course, then studying law or medicine a few terms, and, behold! - with a framed diploma they rent an office, put out the sign, and clients and patients may enter. The German must pass several rigid examinations, in the college and University course, before he is permitted to study for his special profession. The State takes charge of the matter, and permits no half-educated professionals. One of these gentlemen began his special course at the age of twenty-six (having spent all the previous time at school), and then spent five solid years in study before being admitted to the Bar. Physicians must take a similar period before the State gives them license to take the risk of human life in their hands; yet we are willing to give M.D. for a winter or two of lectures! The student-life is a part of the national life, - students, soldiers, and the people make up the mation.
We were initiated into the mysteries of the kneipe by our gentlemen guests. What tales they told of the quantities of beer the students drink as they thus meet together once ot twice a week! And the duel! One of these gentlemen had fought sixteen duels, and his face was all scarred with "honor marks." Our American students never fear a challenge! they may be as independent as they please, for a German has an awe of what is called the "American duel," which means "pistols and death," and not these harmless honorable marks. After the departure of the guests, our host asked in pride and triumph, "Now couls America boast such young men as these?" With strict honesty we replied, "No, never!"
Outer circumstances, the near presence of so many strangers, is opposed the the American idea - "God setteth the solitary in the family." Where these great hotels are homes, there can never be the "old homestead", "the house-tree." Where is the brooding silence, the hush and restful quiet of home? Up the stairs with stamping of boots and loud whistling come the boys across the hall; beneath, the resounding bell of the busy doctor is always clanging; above, the attic rooms, the occupants - whoever they may be - take the midnight hout for sword drill, perchance practising for duels. Some of the many families - and there are sixteen in this building - are always giving parties or entertainments, and the laughter and merriment blend with your one curiosity and desire to see the German customs - forbid either labor or sleep. If there are music pupils in the hous - and where is the spot in Germany that has escaped? - this is the crowning addition to disurbances, and one's nerves are put on the rack, whild the weary spirit cries out for peace and home! Our qiet little dwellings, they alone know the rest and solitude of home. There we are rulers, - each is lord in his own castle; here we seem under sminary laws, - gar out, doors locked at ten. American independence may chafe as it please, - the Medean decrees are here.
At first, these great houses have a glamour and romance about them, and we weave story after story; indeed, we ouselves in them seem a part of the romance. Here on the second floor, the belle étage, lives a Count, an Italian, Count Luccini. We must pass his door to reach our own - up in "Olympus," as the Germany call the top floor. We hear the singing of the Countess; we catch a delicate perfume in the corridor as she passes; the equipage with liveried footman waits at the door. We build a glittering romance about them. Frau Mutter spoils it a little by telling us that the nobleman, whom fancy had made a fascinating Italian, is a little insignificant creature, and an unhappy epileptic. Opposite us is one of the University Professors - Herr Doctor Zupitza, one of the finest Anglo-Saxon scholars in the world. Our first glimpse of him was at a Luther celebration, when he appeared in the procession among the robed professors, in a glistening blue robe. Our fancy clings to this vision of him, and we refuse to acknowlegde the shaggy-bearded man whom we meet in the hall as the great professor. With the romance blends curiosity. We inadvertently catch so much of private life that it pricks us to learn more. We see gayly attired guests arrive; we hear there is a christening, a birthday, a betrothal, - we catch gay sounds and strains of music; we meet the confetioner with bonbon pyramids, - we want to know more, and, as foreigners, have a burning desire to enter into these phases of national social life, so full of charm to us. Then, as the pantry windows are in full sight, we generally know whether it will be goose or duck or hare for dinner; these being hung from the pantry window, proclaim the fact. And, altogether, it is impossible not to know a little of one's neighbors' affairs. In the beginning, this is all new and odd to us, but, as we become accustomed to it, the novelty gradually wears away, and we forget to notice them. We wish we could forget the noises above us, beneath, on all sides. It is strange the floors are not deadened; for, with no carpets, and this general close living, it would be of great advantage. Practical America would have had such a remedy long ago.
Within the home, the American misses the little touches that give the home-tone. Rugs may be elegant, but a simple carpet covering, softening footfalls, is more comfortable. There may be richt plush sofas and easy-charis, but in no sense are they equivalents for our graceful tête-à-têtes and restful rocking-chairs. All is prim and precise. One thing has always been amusing to us. Whereever you go, in every German home, you find this arrangement for the salon: - against the wall is the sofa; before it is a spread rug; in the centre of this is a table, covered with a heavy cloth, and a white napkin or tidy over it; on each side are easy-chairs. This style is universal, always the same. No one would dare to change this order; probably it has never entered into the German housewife's mind that there could possibly be any other way. - "Remove not the ancient landmark" is the conservative spirit of the nation. This is a picture of the German salon. The sofa is the seat of honor, and it would be rude to take it without invitation, or to accept the invitation if an older lady is present. Class regulates this matter. A Frau Hauptmann would yields to a Frau Generalin. When Frau Hauptmann enters the room, the ladies will stand, but when Frau Generalin enters, Frau Hauptmann will also stand until "Excelenz" seats herself. Thus each rank pays deference to the one above it. The ladies are addressed by their husbands' titles, - or his business, as Frau Kaufmann (Mrs. Merchant), - and frequently months will pass before you know the actual name of people you so often meet. The title is all that i necessary, - and quite a convinient arrangement, in consideration of these unutterable gutturals. Ornaments they have, artistic, beautiful, but stiffly arranged, or locked up in secretaries; goos oil-paintings are in the homes, - the Germans all know a good painting, and abhor a poor one. There is an apright piano, with side-brackets holding colored candles; flowers, and singing birds. Nevertheless, with little knowledge of art, quick, ready taste, and native skill make more humble American homes more attractive. The bedrooms are severely plain. Even the Emperor sleeps on a narrow cot. No gas-jets are in the sleeping-rooms; candles are used. Our charming evenings about a blazing fire, in easy-chairs, with no close neighbors, but perchance an accidental call, aye, maybe a gentleman call, - that cosey snugness and sense of peace, rest warmth; - a winter in Berlin knows no such evenings! Many times when students enter the house from the penetrating chills of the North German climate, how they long for this comfort! There is compensation, however, in this plain German life. The Germans seem not to think so much od comfort, but rather of pleasure gained in other ways than by mere luxury of living. If one student's room is a type of the "stern abode of the Muses," all Germany may receive the same designation. Our luxury they do not have, but their devotion to artistic and intellectual life is not known among us. The whole life seems to be given to the pursuit of some one object, - music, art, philosophy, science, language, history, - and material life is lost un the study of that object. One could not live long in Germany without becoming a student, - every one is wholly given to some one study, - all is earnestness and labor. Specialists they are in handywork or brain-work, and so they perfect their art. So there is satisfaction in their simple home-life; they seek no luxury. Notice in what meagre surroundings the grat philosophers have lived, - biography is clear on the subject. it seems as though they livedwhat we speak of as real philosophy - "Outer circumstances are minor things, let the mind and spirit have free life," and that free intellectual life is found in Germany.
After all, is it not a revelation of German strength? There is power in this simplicity; and, while we are grateful for our rich land, that affords such abundant blessing to all classes, let us not allow luxury or love of these outer things to weaken our appreciation or devotion to things not of the material world; our abundance of comfort ought not to create a care for it that shall become astumbling-block in the way of our higher intellectual life.
If the German home lacks many of the features which the American associates with the idea, there are also things in it which we could use to make ours more ideal. In the domestic department - the housekeeping - are several- The German salon may dissapoint us, but the German kitchen is a charming surprise. It is in itself a domestic poem, - really the prettiest, most unique room in the establishment. Small, bright, inviting! The clean, painted floor, the blue and white porcelain range, - these two items alone form a basis of beauty and cleanliness, a beauty and cleanliness easily kept. It is not uncommon that the floor is of stone or marble laid in pretty figures, and the frescoed ceilings add their hramonious coloring. Above the stove are rows of shelves for stove utensils; - here the brass kettles, iron vessels, ranged in order, are like classic ornaments. One can here easily adopt Ruskin's theory that beauty lies in utility. On rows of bright brass hooks hang pitchers, mugs, all of varying sizes, from giant to dwarf. Think of it - in some kitchens, each hook is tied with a little blue ribbon! Is it not a poem? Æsthetics in practical housekeeping?
Life here cannot be the drudgery it is usually thought. It is a noble idea to bring beauty into this sphere; and those who must spend their says in an work which seems so removed from the beautiful may still find brightness and beauty in their surroundings. See how it dignifies labor! What pride, self-respect, pleasure is infused! Well, the servants in Germany have few privileges, - not the Thursday and Sunday outings that America gives; so it is right that the place where they are so confined should be a pleasant spot. There is a regular system to this question of service in Germany. Servants must be trained. Cooks pass an apprenticeship in hotels, and house-girls musr be perfectly competent in sewing and mending. Their time belongs to their employer, and, if the work in the house is finished, the time is used in darning or knitting for the family. The girls have reference-books, and, as they go from one place to another, the mistress writes her opinion of the qualifications of the girl. This class is very restricted in privilege, and the pay is small. A good girl receives from thirty to fifty dollars a year. She frequently asks for extra remuneration for doing without certain meals, and these few marks add to her slender income. One servant at the pension never ate the Sabbath evening meal, as she wanted to provide her family with sugar for the year, and took this means to do it. Of course, their expense is small, as they never attempt to dress as their mistresses, and wear the same garb as a class. They are always on the lookout for a chance to go to America, and it is not to be wondered at: caste binds them here; in America, not only higher wages and freer life, but, perchance, the fulfilment of ambitious dreams! Our American ladies can easily secure servants to take back with them. These girls, however, are really unprepared for the American household - the cooking is so entirely different, we work so much faster, and our housekeeping is so much more complex.
The German houses have no closets; and even in the kitchen, aside from the pantry, there is none. A cupboard with glass doors usually covers the shelves, on which are ranged the cooking-dishes - jars in ascending grades, bowls in descending scales. A gay "Kitchen Calendar" hangs here, with a daily "Bill of Fare", a daily new reicpe, and a verse to be learned while at work. As education is compulsory, all servants can read and write. How much pleasanter does such a surrounding make the labor; the very fact that this department od life is thus recognized, and not wholly severed from higher life as though between them a great gulf were fixed, must ennoble the work. The whole domestic department is thus given its true place - not despised, unthought of, but an essential factor in family life, worthy of thought in the world's economy - a dignified labor and sphere not divorced from the world of beatuy and progress. Something we can learn from these German kitchens, - that those working there may be happier, more content, and may find more satisfaction in their work, - and it may help solve the problem now vexing social life - the servant-girl question.
We find this spot attractive, and spend some pleasant hours there. The Frau Mutter helps us in our German as we watch the peculiar ways of preparing food and examine the odd utensils. They have so many - wood, stone, china, in quaint shapes. Although there is less variety of feood, the modes of cooking are far more varied and elaborate. The styles are new to us, and each meal is a study. The soup is very interesting, especially when the noodles are little hearts, rings, letters, crosses (how suggestive!), and it is quote a fascinating study. "The Interessante Suppe" we sedignate it. The meat is a puzzle: sometimes shaped like horns and filled with chopped meat, potatoes, and onions; sometimes rolled up, and gradually unrolling as you cut it. Meat, except in sausage, is rare among the common people. A German lady, speaking of the delight her relatives found in America, summed it all up in her concluding sentence, "And they have as much fresh meat there in one week as we have in two months!" The duck is cooked with apples baked within it, - that was another magic surprise, as the apples came rolling out at dinner. Curious names they have for some dishes, - "Hay and Straw" (rubbed peas and sauer-kraut), "Poor Knights" (arme Ritter), "Food for the Gods" (Götter Speise). On the whole, the meal is food for body and mind, and, while ministering to the former, entertains the latter. There is what is called a national dish - Herring Salad, made of herring and potatoes, the dish ornamented with fancily cut bits of pumpkin. A favorite relish is "Caviar," the roe of a Russian fish; one takes only a tiny bit, as it is very hot. One of our American ladies, at a formal dinner, thought it was blackberry jam, as it looks like it, and took a liberal supply. The first mouthful sent her coughing and choking from the table. One must be so careful with these foreign dishes, - they are so mysterious. Some are unpalatable ar first, and require force of will to overcome the repugnance. Some of the Germans are so commanding! - and expect you to eat what is set before you, in a way that compels you to do so! Our family is so considerate and kind. The Herr Hauptmann thinks an American girl a sort of pet bird, and in the most delightful way does little kind things. In the markets they sell the giblets of fowls, of which the families make soup, which I cannot eat. Herr Hauptmann has sympathized with my effords to eat thus; so, the last time they had it, he welcomed me to the table by handing to me a plate, saying, "This is for you! we Germans can eat that." I looked at the articel, fried a beautiful brown. "What is it?" he asked, with beaming smile, "Liver!" I promptly responded. "Yes, but what kind?" - he continued, triumphantly. Here I gave in, and he victoriously announced - "Gänse-leber!" (goose-liver). I thought I would not be able to eat it, but found it good. It is quite a "delikat-essen" (luxury) on the Continent. There are stores devoted exclusively to its sale, and it comes in pretty gilded porcelain jars, marked - "Pâté de foie." We have pudding of potatoes and almonds, eaten with fruit-sauce, also very good, and it is baked in a finely shaped form, and looks ornamental on the table. Herr Hauptmann has a cigar in his mouth all the time except at meals. One morning I startled the family by appearing at the breakfast table, and there sat Herr Hauptmann taking sips of coffee between whiffs of his cigar. He had a fancy little cap on, and was quite embarrassed, saying, "Don't tell the Americans I wear this little cap to breakfast." It seems the whole family make the toilet later. They prefer that I should take my coffee in my own room, - I prefer it, too.
One of the never-failing sources of interest is the peculiarities of food, and this glimpse behind the scenes in the kitchen is quite as interesting. The Germans have a profound respect for the "practical" America. However little they find to admire in us generally, this one thing they accord. The phrase for a very practical thing is "ganz Amerikanisch." But in their kitchen arrangements are many things that would enchant housekeepers. If a student of Wissenschaft feels their charm, imagine how an old housekeeper would revel in these kitchens! Only, let us whisper - do not learn to use all these oils, spices, vinegars, seeds, leaves; and even raisins and currants are not good then in soup or gravy.
The work of housekeeping is lighter than in America. Dislike the flat system as the house-loving heart may, still it requires no continual running up and down steps, and there are no yards, pavements, steps to be swept and scrubbed. The whole domestic life is simpler, giving time for other pursuits. The big washing days are not. Blue Monday is banished! Generally, little washing is done in the house. Every five or six weeks the wash is sent to the country. In some places four times or even twice a year suffices. Where the clothes are not sent to the country, there is worse chaos than we know; for the accumulated wash, with German slowness of action and poor accomodations and conveniences for the work, delays the labor so that a full week is required until irder is restored. This long interval between the washings necessitates a supply of household linen, and here is another pretty feature, - the linen room. Shelf after shelf of linen, all the articles sorted into distinct piles, held together with ribbon or stiched bands of pretty color and pattern. Few white clothes are worn, no muslins. We laid away out white dresses with a sigh, still we protest that beauty and comfort are lost. We tell them of the summer evenings in American cities where the American girls in white dresses and delicate hats make a pretty scene. Such fairy loveliness as our summer resorts or suburban places present, is foreign to this land. - Our big ironing days are avoided. With no ruffles, plaits, everything plain can be rolled though the mangle machine. Thus the weekly dreaded days are obliterated from the German domestiv calendar. It remains for America to find some co-operative system that will settle the question for us, and, while removing the inconvenience and weight of labor, will still allow us to retain our greater comfort and beauty.
The portier carries away the carpets (rugs) to be shaken, the floor is waxed, and thus the sweeping days are omitted. Our mass of sewing is avoided in the simpler life, - no tucks, ruffles, wash dresses! It is a hard philosophy to cast away so much that we have groen accustomed to, but it is philosophy, and, as such, worthy of a following. No wonder the German women grow stout, are slow, contented, healthy. Our baking days, liekwise, exist not. Hot biscuits, hot cakes, home-made bread, pies, - far be these things from the German household! Coffee cake, baked in earthen bowls, is the chief cake; and in most families cake is never seen except in holiday seasons, - but then they revel in it! We are spoiled, but in this simple, substantial way is the philosophy of living. German philosophy is not found in the schools alone, but pervades the domestic life.
It is easy and cheap for Americans spending a winter here, to keep house. At the butcher-shops, which are marvels of artistic beauty, various cooked meats can be had, from slices of roast bees to a most elaborately decorated and garnished fowl. See, how easily company can be entertained without the labor of preparation; meat with vegetables, neatly arranged, from the butcher; fruit and Torte from the Conditorei, coffee from the Wirth, - all very cheap, and with little trouble. The broiling, baking, worry at the thought of company, never invades the German kitchen. All is deliberately done. They are too sensible to have such a variety and quantity as we think necessary on such occasions. They substitute their own company for entertainment.
Is there not something pleasing in domestic life as known in Germany? There is less senseless luxury, less vulgar ostentation, than we know, and a simple, frugal domestic life is a national characteristic. Our tendency is to the contrary. Man does not live by bread alone, and material lige ought not to subordinate higher living. With all our practical tendencies, we ought to be able to combine the German theories of a simple, less laborious domestic life with our greater comfort, and yet afford opportunity for higher culture, freedom from all absorbing lower cares, strangth for higher thought.
"Seven little berries" the Americans call my German home; - and that is the literal translation of it. Numero 7 Kleinbeeren Strasse. The family are determined I shall see something of German life, although a foreigner can never really interpret a strange people. We stand on the threshold of the national life, and catch glimpses of something moving within - a glimpse, nothing more. This glimpse may do for the passing pleasure, and teach certain features of life, but can never give broad enough knowledge upon which to base true and certain judgment of a people.