“Hard work, efficiency and discipline maybe typical German characteristics but I’ve never heard they are traits for Germans living in the capital. Most Germans view Berliners as the Latin Americans of Germany. Obviously, it’s not down to the weather, rather the more relaxed attitude towards…
Winter had manifested itself in the form of something cold, wet, depressing and lonely.
The whole week was grey and not quite cold enough to wear the winter jacket that my roommate Inga had loaned me. I mostly spent nights alone listening to Washed Out or something equally as synthy yet maybe with a bit of an apathetic musical twang. You know when you are listening to a tune and it is just there and sorta feels like it is weighing you down and not really making you feel any better about the current state of your affairs but you just can’t turn it off? That is the type of music that I was listening to on repeat.
It had been raining sleet for the past week and all my jeans were soaked up to the knees with a mixture of dirt and precipitation that had fallen in every which way from the sky. I didn’t care and I couldn’t be bothered to wash them. My mood was 1 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being “Exuberant” and 1 being “Woebegone” . I couldn’t write so I attempted to read my new book, “Norwegian Wood” by Murakami. I got through the first page and felt like my heart was going to explode if I continued so I just laid in my bed in silence as I stared up at the ceiling which seemed to go on and on and on. I imagined there was a cloud hanging over the top of my bed and if there had really been one, I would not feel too upset or surprised it had started a torrential downpour onto my head because it would have matched my mood perfectly.
This is how my first winter in Berlin started. After the childish glee and premature excitement that I felt over my first sleet/snow experience in early December, I became skeptical of dodgy weather reports that promised snow, snow, snow. I talked back to my computer and swore at the imaginary weatherman inside calculating numbers and throwing them stupidly up on the screen in front of me. All I wanted was a large amount of white fluffy, crunchy snow blanketing the world around me. Largely to rescue me from the current grey palette but also to make me feel something new again.
I grew up in many places throughout the world and they were all warm with an exception of Seattle, Washington which was mostly just wet. I remember winters in California where I would be in my bikini by January and tanned to a golden bronze by February. Snow was a myth - a fairy tale - something that I only knew and visited somewhere in my head or occasionally something that I experienced whilst traveling with my dad to ski in Colorado. I had never lived anywhere so cold that I couldn’t wear a cheeky short dress out on a Saturday night or somewhere where I had to trade in my sandals for shoes. In fact I never wore socks (besides with my sport shoes) until I moved to Berlin and that is the truth. So after a summer that was grey and a fall that mild, I just wanted snow and I was not going to get over my winter slump until I had it dammit.
Saturday morning I met Marco at a nameless slightly posh cafe in Prenzlauerberg. It was colder than usual and I felt something in the air that I could not put my finger on but it lifted my spirits and I liked that I had to bundle up extra tight to keep the cold away from my bare skin. We spent the day talking and I bought a used book about travel and then we parted ways. I could feel the day getting colder and as the sun dipped down beyond the horizon, all I wanted was to be wrapped up inside my brown velvety blanket that I had lugged all the way from California when I first moved to Berlin almost a year before.
Sitting on my bed I snuggled into a comfortable position and read my new book quietly. As I dove deep into my book the hours sorta just disappeared into thin air and it was 6pm when I looked out my window.
All I saw was white.
White swirly snow flakes falling effortlessly from the sky to the earth in wild unison with the wind. Dancing. Twirling. Something in my heart stopped and then immediately I felt warm all over and was reminded of how I felt when I first saw the Pacific Ocean when I moved to Santa Cruz from Texas at age 14. Seeing snow fall is not as immense or epic as first seeing the cliffs that dotted the shoreline of my California childhood but I still got the feeling of a “pitter patter” in my heart, nay, whole body, that gave me the same chills that united those two very different experiences.
No one was outside in my empty industrialized Prenzlauerberg middle class kiez and as the snow fell in buckets. The cars that lined the street in front of my apartment building slowly disappeared into white leaving all the automobiles looking uniform and neat stacked in rows, forming lines, sleeping in the snow, dreaming of the autobahn. I opened my window excitedly and the cold hit me quickly as the warmth from my room was sucked out the window into the evening air. I wasn’t wearing a coat or a long sleeve shirt or even proper pants but the cold didn’t bother me nor did I notice it as a nuisance as I stuck my hand out the window to catch snow flakes before they hit the hard ground. A few rogue semi solid flakes drifted away from the others and landed on my face. One even landed on the tip of my nose dissolving quickly once coming in contact with my warm flesh. I just could not stop smiling.
It had finally snowed and I felt that all the tension that had been built up from the past three months of grey winter had been released in one snow shower from the sky. I felt like some sort of metaphorical bubble had just been burst and my mood immediately shifted from grey to light or bright or dare I say “hopeful”. My melancholy feelings melted away just as fast as the snowflake on my skin, gone in one beautiful instant.
I closed the window but left my curtains opened and stared outside as the snow fall let up in a moment of rest. Everything was so still and quiet and clean and clear and I wanted to stay in that moment for a while so I did, watching the white winter-land that was my neighborhood through new eyes. A fresh perspective that had been hiding somewhere far away was finally right there and I was grabbing it, actually holding on to it and I felt good as the snow started to fall again slowly and more casually this time onto the Berlin neighborhood that I have come to call “home.”
I can’t put down this book right now. Highly recommended!
Alain de Botton - The Art of Travel - Here is a nice summary of the book:
“Few things are as exciting as the idea of travelling somewhere else. But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams. The tragi-comic disappointments are well-known: the disorientation, the mid-afternoon despair, the lethargy before ancient ruins. And yet the reasons behind such disappointments are rarely explored.
We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so. The Art of Travel is a philosophical look at the ubiquitous but peculiar activity of travelling ‘for pleasure’, with thoughts on airports, landscapes, museums, holiday romances, photographs, exotic carpets and the contents of hotel mini-bars. The book mixes personal thought with insights drawn from some of the great figures of the past. Unlike existing guidebooks on travel, it dares to ask what the point of travel might be - and modestly suggests how we could learn to be less silently and guiltily miserable on our journeys. “
It is finally *really winter here (*snow, -10 degrees…etc) in Berlin & I have been searching for some really nice winter tunes to get me through the sometimes grey days. I came across Wolf Maps last week on SoundCloud and fell in love with his ambient yet electronic droney sounds. Wolf Maps is based in London & today “Borderline November” is what I am listening to.
You can also download his EP “Borderline November” for free from his Bandcamp page here.