Unter den Linden – underneath the linden trees – is the perfume that first captured my attention and the one I needed to try first from Berlin-based organic perfume company April Aromatics. Find out more about the line on the company’s website.
The name spoke to me as much as the perfume itself, and that is probably a deeply set cultural phenomenon, because the linden tree has special, tenderly emotional connotations in the German speaking world.
Unter den Linden was created by Tanja Bochnig and includes notes of lindenblossom from Bulgaria & France, mimosa from France, frangipani from India, honey extract, bergamot from Italy and a gardenia accord.
My friend Asali wrote a fantastic review about this perfume on Ines’s blog All I Am – A Redhead. I let her speak here, because I couldn’t put it better anyway, and her associations are the same as mine, we share the same feeling of tugging at the heart strings by the name alone, compounded by the beautiful scent.
“First of all, the famous Boulevard in Berlin, the place where for the last three and a half centuries Berliners and visitors alike have been taking their Sunday strolls. It’s also the calling name for the famous old Staatsoper Berlin, also called Staatsoper Unter den Linden (as opposed to the (former) West-Berlin opera called Deutsche Oper Berlin), in short Unter den Linden.
Then there are the numerous poetic references to linden tree in the German literature as being the tree of love. From Walter von der Vogelweide’s (1170-1230) ‘Unter den Linden’ to the Romantic poetry, the linden tree becomes the symbol of love and harmony, the place where lovers meet, below the linden trees. Perhaps most famous of all is Müller’s poem from Schubert’s Winterreise ‘Der Lindenbaum’ or ‘Am Brunnen von dem Tore’ as it’s called when sung as a simple strophic version of Schubert’s more complicated artsong. My own favourite song of linden trees is Mahler’s interpretation of a Rückert poem ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’ (I breathed a gentle fragrance), where Rückert plays with the different meanings of the word Linde in German to make it respectively: the twig of lime blossoms and gentle, soothing, with ease. It is also under the linden tree that the thwarted lover seeks and finds eternal peace (as in ‘Am Brunnen…’, or another Mahler song ‘Die zwei blauen Augen’). So there is also sadness in this idyll. You probably see where this is going…”
Yes, I see were this is going: Unter den Linden manages to convey that particular, ambivalent, bitter-sweet feeling of longing, of pining away, of unfulfilled desires, of uncertain futures and missed chances, but also the exhilaration of new love, the promise of pleasures to come, the tender expectations are there right along with the memories of things inevitably in the past, never to be recovered again – or maybe only for a fleeting second while inhaling the gentle fragrance of linden blossom and mimosa, honey-tinged and soft. Barely sweet, but full of enticement, luring you in, calming, soothing, tender, Unter den Linden is both a harbinger of the things to come and a reminder of what is gone forever.
It captures the essence of time, which is the fact that the only moment we really have is this one right now.
And poof, in an expelled breath, a soft sigh, the blink of an eye, flying away on the wings of angels, it is gone again.
If you are interested, here is the text of Schubert’s Der Lindenbaum, a poem by Wilhelm Müller in a translation by Walter A. Aue.
The Linden Tree
At wellside, past the ramparts,
there stands a linden tree.
While sleeping in its shadow,
sweet dreams it sent to me.
And in its bark I chiseled
my messages of love:
My pleasures and my sorrows
were welcomed from above.
Today I had to pass it,
well in the depth of night -
and still, in all the darkness,
my eyes closed to its sight.
Its branches bent and rustled,
as if they called to me:
Come here, come here, companion,
your haven I shall be!
The icy winds were blowing,
straight in my face they ground.
The hat tore off my forehead.
I did not turn around.
Away I walked for hours
whence stands the linden tree,
and still I hear it whisp’ring:
You’ll find your peace with me!