Taking the Path Less Travelled

Manuel Iljitsch on his seasonal Happy Place

Freelance writer, copywriter and actor Manuel Iljitsch puts the expression ‘seize the day’ to good use.

Although Berlin-based, he spends most of his time breaking foreign ground more than anywhere else – including L.A., only hours before meeting with us in Berlin. We sat down with him in his Berlin home in Charlottenburg to talk about what it is that characterises the festive season, and why his happy place remains to be one that he is yet to explore.

What makes you feel festivities have begun?
It's music for me. I bought five tickets for classical concerts and I just went to see Schubert’s ‘Die Winterreise’ at the Philharmonie. That was pretty festive. It’s also the Christmas markets, the lights and the mood. Something about the way people are hurrying more but they also feel like they should relax – I like that ambivalent atmosphere. But yeah, mostly music and Christmas markets!

It seems like you’ve been almost everywhere… So how would you describe your Happy Place?

Well this might be because I’ve read too much Marcel Proust because what he says is your happy place is always the one that you don’t know yet. I think that no matter where you go, even though there are so many places I’ve visited that I’ve really liked, I like the mystery of a place that you can only imagine. And I think my way of travelling is not being prepared at all or I like that the most – to just go there and be completely overwhelmed or immersed. So my happy place would be Marseilles. I really like the Southern parts of Europe in winter because it’s not as touristic and it’s really real. And I like the sea a lot when it’s not in use – when it’s it’s just a backdrop for the whole thing. The aesthetic of it.

Is there a special or secret holiday tradition you and your family or friends do every year?

Yeah there is one: it’s basically that I go skiing every March or April in the Easter holidays and I’ve been doing that for around twenty years. With my dad. And I have six half-siblings, eight step-siblings – they all come and it’s chaotic!

And for New years eve?

No I wouldn’t say so, but I think I’ll spend New Years in Berlin this year because I have been away more than I’ve actually been here. And it kind of feels like a holiday being here. So I think I’ll go to this big dinner at a friend’s place and then go out somewhere.

Do you celebrate the festive season in the same location every year?

Well, except for one year in my life, I’ve always been to my Mum’s place. So I’ll be at my Mum’s place on the 24th, my Dad’s place on the 25th and then at my brother’s place on the 26th. So it’s Göttingen (Germany) and my brother lives close to Hamburg. I would want to be away but I think my family would be mad at me because I’m gone all year anyway!

If you could spend Christmas anywhere where would it be?

Mexico! I’ve never been but I feel like it must be amazing. I kind of like the Mexican approach to festivities, the religious traditions are still mixed with ancient aztec or Maya traditions. That’s what I like about the festive season, it’s not only happy and bright but there are candles and it’s gloomy. You really get the feeling that it comes from a long way back in history.

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