If you happen to travel to Berlin, I might have something for you. During the winter, I watched a ridiculous number of architecture and history documentaries about the city and given I really like to create things, I’ve turned my obsession into a pocket-sized guide to Berlin’s architecture. It might be a handy gift or something you might give to yourself for your next trip. The print run was limited, so please get it before it’s all gone.
Just wanted to quickly drop in and let you know I’m introducing two new rewards to help the Kickstarter campaign reach its funding.
You can get the architecture guide and also last year's guide to Berlin's café scene.
... and if you’d like to join me for a photowalk to take pictures together and for me to show you how I edit pictures with my phone, then let’s do that. I’ll take you to some interesting spots in Berlin (or Vienna as I'll be there a lot in March) and teach you what you can do with different apps to get the most out of your pictures. You’ll get a set of #kathmoscards on top as well!
Hope to be photowalking with you soon!
On Sunday, I hopped on a plane to Paris to join a Sunday gathering at Jim Haynes’ atelier where I would also stay for two nights. It’s not that I knew James. As a matter of fact, I had not heard about him until I googled “Conversation Salons” and stumbled upon a video posted on the Guardian just a few weeks prior to my visit. I knew he was the sort of person I really needed to interview for the book I’m currently working on. Yet, I must admit, this was the first time I flew somewhere for an in-person interview.
When I arrived at the atelier on a dreamy Parisian street, I entered the door code, pushed the heavy gate open, and found myself in a leafy backyard with beautiful brick buildings with large windows. I quickly found the door I was looking for and when I knocked, I pushed it open and fell straight into the kitchen. A woman who immediately introduced herself as Mary and a man called Michael welcomed me warmly, even though they didn’t quite know who I was. Jim, the man I came to visit, was tucked under a blanket in the corner enjoying the slightly ridiculous scene I caused. Both Mary and Jim were cooking in what must have been 20l pots.
Jim, who just turned 85, has been hosting Sunday dinners for the past 40 years. Every Sunday, and even if he wasn’t in town, he’d arrange for the dinner to happen. Over the years, it’s become a regular gathering of expats, tourists, and locals who’d mingle and enjoy home cooked meals and as many glasses of wine as they wished to drink.
The hospitality of this man, and also his assistant, Christian, knows no boundaries. Upon my initial email request, more or less the same one I have sent to everyone who I ever emailed wanting to feature them in one of my books, this has been the first time someone asked me to come in person. “Given the subject matter, we believe you should come to Paris.” And given Jim’s age, I knew I should and also would love to. For a small contribution, they also offered for me to stay at the atelier.
Knowing about the dinners, I thought the space would be large and would have tables of some sort. Yet I quickly learned that the two-story building was the actual space on which these dinners would happen. Downstairs and within the maybe 35-square-meter kitchen (without a dishwasher!), the gatherings took place. Often, up to 90 people would gather there in the winters and during summers, thanks to the backyard, it can be up to 120 guests.
The dinners start every Sunday at 8pm. Forty years ago, these gatherings started as (flea) markets initiated to help support the creative community. There, one of Jim’s friends, a dancer, offered to cook. The event grew in popularity. It was Jim’s ask to always bring someone he didn’t know that made the community grow organically. From a retired dominatrix to a conductor or a young poet, you’d never know who you would get to meet on Sundays. The crowd is indeed quite eclectic.
Jim’s always had a thing for gathering people; he’s one of the founding figures of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the cofounder of the International Drama Conference, and the creator of the Wet Dream Film Festival, which pretty much is what you think it is. :)
Once the crowds started pouring through the door and a queue would build to snatch some of the incredible Thanksgiving dinner, I felt incredibly grateful for the possibility to move freely between the countries in Europe and stuff my face with a few slices of turkey, a proper American filling, brussels sprouts, carrots, pecan pie, and of course, a piece of pumpkin pie with cream served by Paul, who’s been in charge of cutting the festive turkey for the past eight years. I felt grateful for the opportunity to connect with people outside my age group and my social bubble in a city far away from home.
Often, they start cooking on Thursdays. Jim has always had someone cook. When Cathy, the first chef of Jim’s dinners, couldn’t make it as she had to go to a rehearsal, she organized someone to cook instead of her and that’s when Jim knew this was a thing to stay. Somehow, he’s always had people who offered to take on the task, gather friends to help, and cook up a meal for the people who’ve requested to join the meal via email or telephone.
For Jim, it’s always been about connecting people. During the communist time, he’d publish books filled with names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people living in countries, such as Romania, Czechoslovakia, or Poland, you could call up in case you were visiting and wanted to meet someone local.
Even though the format’s different, the spirit in all his work is sort of the same; people who join on Sundays are a curious crowd with a lust for exploration. One of the guests, David, recited parts of Shakespeare to me. Leslie, a woman in her 60s who’s left the USA for the first time, laughed so wholeheartedly I forgot to ask her how she felt about her first international trip to a country where she didn’t speak the language. You really never know who you get to talk to here on a Sunday, yet when you ask Jim, he’ll say many marriages, friendships, and babies have been a result, and one baby who is now in her 40s was even conceived upstairs in one of the rooms.
I admire Jim for his dedication to show up each week. For his hospitality to welcome a complete stranger in his house and have me stay for two nights to conduct an interview. I admire Jim for the community he’s created. And I really do wish for more spaces where I’d get to talk to such an eclectic crowd more regularly.
The past few weeks working on this new book has been a journey; I got to think about dinners as theatre performances, dinners as platforms for political activism, dinners to inspire meaningful conversations, and also dinners to give you the platform to peak outside your bubble and speak to a poet from Nepal who somehow also happens to be here, on a Sunday, at Jim’s party.
Many have asked me what the angle or format of this new book is going to be, and even though I’ve already conducted 14 interviews, I still don’t quite know what I want to make out of it. A how to guide? A coffee table book on gatherings? A collection of short stories about how I got to experience these events and what I admire and love about the people who host them?
What would you say you’d be interested in? Or is this not a topic you care about at all?
How do you feel about living in a city versus what do you associate with living in the countryside? For years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much longer it might take until people start fleeing cities. Paying rent has become such a widely discussed topic, so it would only make sense for people to just give up on it. Yet, of course, it seems crazy to just give up on the friends we’ve found and start from scratch all over again. And, it especially might seem crazy to you that I’m bringing up this topic, given it’s not too long since I myself exchanged Vienna for Berlin, one of the cities with the most rapidly rising rents.
Personally, I’m not planning to leave Berlin anytime soon. I fully acknowledge the move has bumped up my monthly fixed costs by €500, which has clearly also impacted my priorities and how I’m spending my time. I acknowledge it and feel fortunate for being able to live the life I do. Regardless of whether it means I’m now more conscious of money than I previously had to be. However, despite all that, the topic of moving to the countryside remains an interesting one.
When I came across the recently published book City Quitters, I didn’t hesitate getting it even for just a second. I was curious. I understood why people would move away, but as someone who loves living in the city, yet also someone who grew up in the countryside and hated it, I wanted to understand how people ‘actually’ made it work.
Over two hundred pages later, I believe to have found a shared pattern and what many of the people who are happier living in villages seem to have in common. It’s how they practice intention.
It’s obvious paying less rent gives people the necessary time to be intentional. They consciously create the environments they want to live in. They are the ones who make things happen. The ones who initiate. The ones who gather, craft, and make. They host book club potlucks, they organize regular food share gatherings, they teach themselves about the traits unique to their environment and pass on the knowledge to visitors, but also locals. By doing all these things, they build communities and with that, a sense of belonging.
By being the ones who create, who proactively think about how to make their environment better, they feel happie
In a city, there’s so much to choose from. Initiating gatherings, and especially doing so regularly, might feel like a constraint. Which is why not that many do. Planning to meet up with one busy friend often feels like a hassle already. Organizing a group that’s larger, and given everyone’s busy with their careers and their millions of other commitments, creating regularity and gathering people is quite the task. If someone dares to do that, one can’t do it and only care partially. Not if a gathering should be remembered as meaningful.
Since moving back to Berlin, I’ve been thinking a lot about gatherings and organizing activities. This email might have been an unfinished thought, yet one I wanted to share, given it’s what I’m thinking about a lot lately and especially because of the book project I’m currently working on. I know it’s early on a Wednesday morning, yet I’d love to leave you with the prompt to think about something you’d love to see happen in your community. Then take the first step to making it happen.
Do you remember my pocket sized guide to Berlin's café scene I launched on Kickstarter earlier this year? You can now get the cards on Etsy!
I've curated Berlin's 50 best coffee places and shared a little story explaining why I find them unique.
Whether you’re visiting Berlin or have lived here for a while, you’ll most likely never run out of places to see. New cafés, bars, and neighborhood hangouts are popping up everywhere. It’s hard to keep track. Every neighborhood has some exceptional spots that are worth discovering.
Head over to Etsy to check out the offer. Plus, it's free shipping to all EU countries!
It’s the end of October. Which means it’s been almost three years since I found myself in a mouldy room in London. With a leaking ceiling. Without functioning heat. Wondering whether “this” was what freelancing was about: insecurity, shitty projects, lots of struggles. Just the memory of it gives me goosebumps.
Those who know me personally know how much I loved the job at Somewhere I had before. Going freelance was something that while it made sense at the time, wasn’t anything I was planning on doing. I needed to be location independent and had no other option. I had to learn to deal with the situation and do so quickly.
Over time, I have learned that sometimes, we need to fall deep to pick ourselves up in a whole new glory.
My way out of that mess and how I was feeling then was the first book. A book I conceptualized, produced, and financed within three months. I had the idea because I needed to learn how to freelance myself, and the insights of the women were so cool, I thought I should share them, so I did.
It actually still baffles me how many people wrote me after they read the book about how much it made their year different. How it encouraged them to make a leap and go freelance.
Given for the past three years around this time, I was mostly at home interviewing people, transcribing their interviews, editing, or writing, I’m now wondering if I should do it again. Or if I should do something different. I’m also thinking about ways to make it something more.
When looking at the numbers, none of the books were financially feasible. At least not directly. Each one helped me produce the next one, and with each, I still took a personal loss. It’s not even what I would have paid everyone who worked on the books what I believe they deserved for their excellent work. Most certainly, without the three Kickstarter campaigns I ran, none of the books would have been realized. To this day, the biggest benefit I got from writing these books was the feedback I received from the ones amongst you who felt encouraged to create and do so in self-initiative.
I’ve conducted a little questionnaire. It’s for me to learn about your needs and wants. Given it’s Christmas soon and you have probably already heard “Last Christmas” at least once, I’ve decided to raffle five books amongst those who fill out the questionnaire:
Click here to view survey
Thank you for your help,
Just a quick heads up, Work Trips and Road Trips is now available on Amazon!
If you’re wondering what book to bring along for your vacation, this might be the perfect read. It’s, once again, 15 personal interviews and a great bunch of tips and tricks. I’ve talked to the ladies quite a bit about finances too, so if you’re wondering how others are managing their money to be able to go on vacation, Work Trips and Road Trips might have the answers for you!
You can get the book here.