And so begins the mental hibernation process

This post will have a corresponding photo tomorrow after I am once again able to swap my woefully slow internet stick for the merely laughably slow stick; in the meantime please imagine an image of lots of people standing in the snow at a remote train station in the middle of nowhere, all of them looking disappointed.

It snowed in Berlin at the beginning of this week, which was an utter surprise as every Winter in Germany is accompanied by tropical heat, a gentle cheek-tickling breeze and the migration of thousands of lime-green parakeets into the city centre. Oh wait – no, it snows every single year without fail and yet the minute a flake touched the ground the city was in uproar. Every S-Bahn began to run erratically if at all, meaning that the few that did come were so embarrassingly full of people that I was once pushed off a train I got onto simply because I was rejected for being a weaker member of the commuter pack. Because the S-Bahns had lost it completely, the U-Bahns were then relied on by everyone, meaning that they too were as full as a tightly-packed Wurst. Everyone was late to everything all the time regardless how early they set off, and I bought myself a Thermos mug in anticipation of Things Not Getting Better Soon.

And there we have it; the first snow and snow-related panic of the year (from what I hear this is also a crisis in the UK currently) and with that the sudden beginning of what I have decided to call the ‘Kuschelzeit’ (‘kuschel’ meaning cosy, warm, snuggly and generally like a cat’s belly). The ‘Kuschelzeit’ is the time of the year when people like myself suddenly embrace winter by behaving like a cross between a pregnant woman and a drowsy kitten: we begin nesting, collecting and buying things that are furry and warm and chunky like chenille socks and making our beds so they are less like a bed and more like a burrow in nature. We happily wear twelve layers of clothing and develop the habit of chain-drinking tea. We make and eat only foods like soup, warm bread and root vegetables (imagine here a photo of some rather splendid leek, celeriac and smoked bacon soup I invented the other day). Travelling anywhere by vehicle is too difficult so we retract our limbs and necks into our giant coats like turtles and march out into the snow barely able to see through the scarf wound around our entire upper body. It’s shameful and I love it. I have an excuse to crochet things and go to the library a lot and watch Fargo in German for no reason whatsoever.

Having spent a good long time now complaining about Germany and Berlin on this blog, I also wanted to mention in this post that there are a lot of things I love about being here and that I perhaps often fail to point out. These are the following (though there are of course many more outside of this list):

– Germany/Berlin wants you to know that it knows that you’re annoyed about it and that it’s sorry. They’ve been renovating countless transport links and this has been causing many people severe irritation, and unlike in the UK, where they would just appease the nation by broadcasting a video of an old man shrugging, they have brought in several ‘Entschuldigungsmaβnahmen’ (measures of apology). This means that certain tickets are cheaper or valid for much longer and it’s fantastic. What also really gets me is that they are shouting this from the rooftops so everyone knows! In England even if they did have the grace to introduce such a measure they would announce it by whispering the announcement into an empty glass bottle, firmly pressing the cork into its mouth and then releasing it into the river Severn assuming that someone will find it while walking their dog.

– people are endlessly generous here. I met my old flatmate for a cinema trip the other day and she gave me not only an advent calendar but also a present for me to open on Nikolaus. And when you go to a party in Germany they ask you what you want to drink and present to you a fridge bursting with booze, whereas in the UK the fridge boasts only tumbleweed unless you’ve brought something yourself. You feel cared for and cared about among your friends here, all the time.

– Wurst really is everywhere here, and the more you settle into the culture the more you realise just how important it is. People eat it as a snack the way British people might eat a KitKat; there was a man on the train the other day who spent a dedicated half-hour sucking the meat out of the skin of a Leberwurst and no-one even grimaced. Also, when you begin to appreciate Wurst you learn from this culture that there are many more properties to a sausage than you ever thought there could be. One TV ad boasts that their sausages are wonderfully crunchy. And therefore perfect for Christmas.

– The queues in shops are ridiculously huge, but the people on the tills are so fast you want to applaud when they shunt three trolley’s worth of shopping through the scanner in about seven seconds.

– No-one cares how they look here when it’s cold! There are no hotpants or spaghetti straps to be seen because people realise that it is FREEZING and you don’t have to dress like a prostitute on a Saturday night when it’s -8 degrees. Also, girls go to fancy dress parties in actual costumes as opposed to the minimum amount of clothes deemed legal in public plus a plastic devil-horn hairband.

– finally, for now, I love the German custom of giving you a pair of slippers when you come to anyone’s house as a guest, and that for this purpose every house/flat has a selection in different sizes. It’s just a shame that everyone bursts out in astonished laughter when they find out that despite my minuscule height my feet are still giant flapping oars.

It’s a great place to live.

Rose T