This is another alien moment. You know. Just when you think you’ve become immune to every weird thing life in Germany can throw at you… something happens that makes you feel totally, utterly abroad.
This was what happened yesterday when my daughter came home from school. She said she’d called in at the bakery in Düsseldorf to pick up a belegtes Brötchen on her way into school.
“And they gave me a free Christmas gift, Mum.”
“Ooh, lovely dear. What was it?”
“A butter Christmas tree.”
It was all true. On the table was indeed a butter Christmas tree. There was no denying it. I might not immediately have recognised it, but it said “Weihnachtsbaum” on it in big letters, so there could be no doubt.
Just when you thought you’d got the Germans completely sussed… the sensible, practical Germans. People who can build Audis and Porsches, precision tools and high powered microscopes. And then they bring you the butter Christmas tree.
What a remarkably impractical gift, first thing in the morning, for any school child or office worker who is buying their morning sandwich. For a start, a 100 gram lump of butter is not an ideal extra little snack to round off your breakfast. No, you’re going to have to carry it around with you all day. First into your centrally-heated classroom or office, where it will sit, melting in your coat pocket for several hours.
At the point when it has reached maximum squidginess, you’ll be just getting onto a crowded commuter tram home… with other passengers pressing up against your butter-tree, crushing the packaging (trust me, the lid pops off easily!) and letting the sticky butter embed itself into the lining of your jacket.
For the lucky ones who get a seat on the tram, there will be the heater next to your leg, gently liquefying the butter sludge, so that it oozes from your coat lining and forms an oily puddle on the tram’s upholstery. Soaking into your trousers in the meantime, of course.
I can guarantee that I won’t be taking public transport into Düsseldorf for the next few days… or if I do, I’ll avoid the rush hour and be very cautious about sitting down. I wonder how often they clean the seat covers….