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  • Writer's pictureDIe Frau

Waiting for spring

How to survive the winter in Berlin

Where I'm from - the southeastern United States - there's a common phrase everyone uses to explain the hell that is the months of July and August. Let me know if you've heard it:

"It's not the heat, it's the humidity."

Yes, well.

As Berlin is in northern Germany, you would expect the opposite problem. And, I was prepared for it to be cold. Like, cold cold. We made sure we all had base layers and heavy parkas for the winter time. The kids got new boots. (I definitely recommend it. It makes traipsing along slippery cobblestone streets and sidewalks much easier.)

But the thing that's hardest about winter in Berlin is not the cold.

It's the dark.

Three smiling people holding up glasses of egg punch around a wooden table.
Warm glasses of Eierpunsch at a Weihnachtsmarkt - one way to fight off that winter chill.

And I know that this winter - our first here - has been relatively mild. We have had a few days of sub-zero temps here and there. One weeklong cold snap in December.

But it has not been weeks and weeks of freezing or sub-freezing weather. It hasn't even snowed that much. (We've seen more snow in March than we have December - February, and it mostly melts by the middle of the day.)

But ... the dark. The lack of light. I was not prepared for.

As I am writing this, we are actually getting back a lot more of our daylight.

It's almost always cloudy. But we are getting almost 12 hours of daylight today, March 8, 2023 - with a sunrise a little after 6:30 and sunset around 6 p.m.

Contrast that with mid-December when the sun would not be up until after 8 a.m. and would be totally gone - like it looks like the middle of the night - by 4 p.m.

I think my kids may have gone weeks without seeing the sun. They leave here just after 6 a.m. to get to school by 8 and get home around 4:30 or 5.

Somehow I had no idea the days would be that much shorter. Back in Georgia, the days get shorter, but not that much shorter.

I remember reading a Reddit thread where someone pointed out how close we are here to the Arctic Circle. To give you an idea: The 49th parallel N, which is roughly where the U.S. border with Canada is, runs through the south of Germany. Down around North Rhine-Westphalia.

We're north of that. By a lot.

I'm counting my blessings that we're not dealing with a polar night situation like northern Sweden and Norway. But it has been an adjustment.

We've invested in lots of artificial lights, electric candles, real candles , lamps, strings of fairy lights even the background fireplace videos run on a loop in our living room.

It's still depressing.

I've started watching those virtual tour videos on YouTube - the ones where someone with a high-definition video camera walks around Florence or Marseille, or Barcelona. Just to remind myself that there will be sunshine again.

I know a lot of long-time Berliners take a long vacation after the winter holidays. My daughter's hair stylist closed his salon from January through March.

A parent at my kids' school recommends Italian food to counteract the winter blues. What kind of Italian food?

"The Italian food that you eat when you leave here and go to Italy."


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