Today is a day for celebration. It’s officially the first day of spring! This makes me happy.
I am definitely not a winter person. I never enjoyed even what we Australians would call ‘winter’ back home, but this unforgiving European variety is on another scale entirely. It doesn’t help that I’m one of those people that really feels the cold. I mean, I was wearing thermals all the way back in October! Not a good sign. Everywhere I went, an ominous whisper reminded me that ‘the winter was coming’ in the falling of the last Autumn leaves and the now consistently chilly air, resulting in the definite need for warm winter jackets, beanies and gloves.
I like to hibernate in the wintertime. Snuggling up under a blanket with the hot water bottle and a steaming mug of green tea watching House of Cards is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an evening (or many) in my opinion. Fortunately, the heating and insulation (including double windows) in Berlin apartments are excellent and I never felt cold whilst at home. The Germans are prepared for this season that’s for sure.
There were some good things about winter of course. As the season approached I felt this strange kind of ominous excitement as I watched the temperatures dip lower and lower. How cold was it going to get? When will the first snowfall arrive? Will the long freeze get the better of me? Come December the Christmas Markets opened their doors to throngs of cold but happy Germans, eager for a mug of Glühwein or Feuerzangenbowle to warm their bellies. The end of the year was fast approaching, holidays weren’t far off and the atmosphere was festive. The cold nipped at our faces but we were truly happy to be out with our expat friends being merry, enjoying each other’s company at this special time of year when everyone was missing home. My favourite Christmas Market and arguably the most beautiful of Berlin’s variety of these was the WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt. In a gorgeous location, sandwiched between the French and German Cathedrals and the Konzerthaus, adorned with strings of fairy lights, cute little wooden stalls selling all manner of delicious edible treats and cute stocking-fillers, and topped off with a gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of the square, it really was a lovely place to visit at this time of year.
Ben and I were fortunate enough to spend a very special six days in Paris for Christmas. A post sharing some of our wonderful memories of this will follow shortly I promise.
Come January, we were back in Berlin and Ben was back to work. January lacked the buzz and festivity of December and instead was full of grey and worsening cold. The temperatures dipped further and come the end of the month, I think I was forgetting what the sun once felt like on my face. A cold spell hit us good and hard around the middle of the month and for two weeks we didn’t see a single day reach beyond 0ºC. I awoke one Saturday morning, casually checked the weather on my phone and saw with astonishment that it was -14ºC out! I haven’t experienced such extremes of temperature since we were trekking in the Himalayas over winter in 2012. It’s quite interesting to observe the effect that these kinds of temperatures and the unrelenting grey have on one’s mood in the long-term. Ben and I were both feeling kind of low come the half-way point in this long, chilly season and undoubtedly the lack of Vitamin D we were getting had a lot to do with it. To get through we dreamed of warmer days, sunshine and all of the travel we are hopefully going to be able to do around the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts come summertime.
January prepared me for the worst but February was much better, which took me completely by surprise. So many of our expat friends and other Germans had warned us about this month. I remember the words of one friend in particular: ‘Just wait until February. That’s when it really gets cold. You think this [January’s weather] is bad? Last February I remember it being -20ºC whilst I was walking to work in the morning.’ I literally shuddered at the thought. And I began to prepare myself. But it turned out I didn’t have to. As I wrote recently, spring came early in Berlin. As February marched forward, the days didn’t get colder or snowier, they got warmer and sunnier. The birds returned and the trees are budding with new life. This is apparently very unusual in Berlin for this time of year, considering that last year it was still snowing in April! Personally, I’m not complaining in the slightest.
I lived through a European winter and I’m pretty proud of myself.