I returned to Berlin late on Friday night after a whirlwind trip to both coasts of the U.S. for the holidays. After my travels took me to Spokane (Washington state), Billings, Yellowstone, and Big Sky (Montana), Washington, D.C., and back to Berlin, I’ve decided that this may well be the coldest year of my entire life! While the faces, the activities, and the sight-seeing changed, the one constant was SNOW.
Much to my surprise, while I was holed up in my host family’s house finishing law school applications after classes ended in December, the view outside my window grew ever-snowier. I’d been told that Berlin in the winter was cold, brown, gray, and sleetish. This is why life indoors in Berlin is so wonderful- Christmas trees with real candles, classical music, double the number of museums most cities have- all are necessary to keep spirits high through the coldest months! As I pounded away on my computer, I paused periodically to relight the candle in my bedroom window and admire the clean, white Christmassy-ness of the outdoors, fully expecting it to be gone once I returned in early January.
Even without the snow, December in Berlin would have been wonderful! The Christmas markets went up as early as November (though I’m pretty sure the first chocolate Santa appeared in stores in late September). I visited the Weihnachtsmarkt on Unter den Linden more than would be allowed if there was a limit on times one person could visit. Desiring to be inclusive of all Christmas markets and vendors, I also visited the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market, the Rotes Rathaus Christmas market, the one in Alexanderplatz, one in Potsdam, and spent a day with my boyfriend and his German host family visiting Leipzig’s three huge Weihnachtsmärkte.
I was equally open-minded when it came to the options for warming up after an hour or two of wandering through a Weihnachtsmarkt, looking at everything from amber jewelry to wooden Räuchermännchen, to pig-shaped cutting boards made out of olive wood, to handcrafted leather journals: we sampled Glühwein, Feuerzangenbowle, roasted chestnuts, and every possible form of Wurst. Even though all would have been tasty eaten in a cozy kitchen, somehow everything tastes better outside when eaten with numb fingers.
Now that I have returned to my Berliner home, I am astounded to see that the snow has not only stayed, but increased! The white sheathing I saw outside my window in January has piled up to veritable comforters of snow covering the suburb of Nikolassee, where I live. I joked with my family yesterday about how I could have cross-country-skied on the sidewalk to the bakery; today I had to stand aside for someone who was doing exactly that!