Things I like about Berlin: the Summer lifestyle

Here in Berlin, in Summer they live a totally different lifestyle to that which I am used to.

Wait.

Sorry. I’m going too fast, aren’t I.

Summer“: This is a season which is, in many countries warm and dry and comes both before and after Winter. Usually it is also preceded and followed by seasons known as “Spring” and “Autumn”.

In my country, Scotland, we have only one season, known as “Dreich”, or “Minging”. It stands in place of all the above seasons and is typified by being mostly cloudy and wet. At certain times of the year the cloudy wetness becomes warmer or colder, and there may or may not be longer breaks in the clouds to allow through some sunshine.

The arrival of said sunshine will cause the native Scots to erupt into paroxysms of joy and clothing removal in order to get as much of it on their skins as possible. If they are very lucky, they may even, through prolonged exposure (anything over 1 day) succeed in changing their skin tone from “Hypothermia Blue” (Dulux colour sample 125) to “Translucent White with patches of Lobster Red”, which is a rather cheery combo.

Anyway, here it seems that they have four distinct seasons, and I’ve pitched up near the end of the nice, hot one – Summer.

And God I love it.

I by no means pretend to understand the German psyche, but I have noticed that they are accustomed enough to hot weather to actively want to avoid it from time to time. Today it is 32 degrees (and it’s nearly September! I’m in heaven!) and the few Germans I know are seeking shelter, staying out of the sun because it’s too hot. I’m not there yet: I still have the UK mentality that sunshine is a precious commodity not to be wasted, and if it’s out there, so am I. Wearing as few clothes as I can get away with..

(Incidentally, remind me to come back to my admiration of the German attitude to the human body and nudity).

Because they have a long hot summer season, they have lots of things which they can do outdoors. They have an extremely prolific cafe culture which, to me, is only improved by the fact that they all front onto the street with outside tables and large removable windows: here’s where I am right now, for instance:

My favourite cafe on Marienburger Strasse

(The woman who owns this cafe is lovely: she lets me fumble around in German when I want to practise even though she speaks perfect English, and it must be torture for her)

The coffees are cheap, they do nice juice and lovely cheap food and I could quite happily sit for hours reading in the window. According to fantastically sarcastic blog Ich Werde Ein Berliner, that is totally appropriate.

Into the same category fall Biergartens – where better to be on a hot night than an outdoor pub with lots of trees and booths that sell various combinations of Meat On Bread. Awesome.

In the Summer evenings in Berlin there are three Freiluftkinos, which are open air cinemas that show films once it gets dark.

Freiluftkino am Friedrichschain

They have benches or little grassy knolls where you can lay out a blanket and drink a beer, and whilst some the technical bits and pieces in the film I watched, may not have met The Boy’s (a projectionist) exacting standards, mine are much lower so I was happy enough. Admittedly, however, going to see a really, really boring French film dubbed into German may have been a mistake.

Such a thing just couldn’t exist in Scotland. You couldn’t have something like that set up for 3 months for several reasons: mainly that idiot fucknuts would scratch or graffiti the screen for something to do when they were pissed, and that it would get rained off every night anyway.

It’s rained once since I’ve been here. Once. Know why? Because it’s Summer. And it doesn’t rain much in Summer. Because it’s Summer and that’s not what Summer is supposed to be like, apparently. Who knew?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not like this all year here- Winters are proper Winters: last December it was -17C in Berlin, so I’m aware it’s not all Biergartens and Freiluftkinos. The thing is the Germans are aware of this too so they make the most of it when they can. In the wider area of Berlin are several freshwater lakes which the inhabitants of the city go to to escape the heat and get some outdoor exercise whilst they can.

Last Sunday I visited Liepnizsee with some friends to swim in the lake and it was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life.

Swimming at Liepnizsee

I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up with that as normal- for me it was such a treat to be able to swim in such a beautiful, clean lake in this heat and if I wanted to, I could go there for free every weekend during the summer.

Outdoor exercise for Europeans who experience proper seasons appears to be very important- they make hay while the sun shines: kayaking; swimming; running; hiking,cycling; sailing. I intend to jump right on the back of that particular bandwagon as long as the weather remains nice.

To experience such a change in climate and culture is in some ways unexpected: since I’m only a £40 Ryanair flight away. If I wanted to I could be home in 2 hours to meet you for dinner, and I’m actually looking forward to seeing what Berlin Autumns, Winters and Springs are like.

Perhaps I’ll like them just as much.

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