The most frequent question I’ve been asked since I live in Berlin – especially from Italian friends – is: how do you survive the Berliner Winter?
For those who cannot really image how the winter here looks like, I want to tell you a little bit more about it.
After the 15th August, when people from the European South are still swimming in the bluest of the seas and enjoying a mid summer sun, here in Berlin you slowly realize that something is changing all around. The days are getting shorter and darker. When it rains, you can already feel the cold (the temperature can go down up to 12, 13° in August!!). The city gives the first signs that the summer is about to end, even if you feel you had just began to enjoy it.
Then, when you resign yourself on an already gone summer, September and October are the months where you need to start getting used of a new Berlin face. September, in the best case, might also turn to be a fresh sunny month, where the beauty of the Fall is easy to spot in the parks, on the streets, some clubs are still open and celebrate the end of the season.
In October the situation drastically changes. Along the whole month, the days get shorter and shorter, the sun is going down earlier and earlier, in the morning the light raises later and later. You change your clothes, put your hat and your scarf on you, your shoes against the never ending rains. It’s usually humid, dark and an uncomfortable temperature does not encourage you to go out. The worst moment is when at the end of October the time changes, so we set the clock one hour back and from the day after it seems like Berlin has became Mordor. Bye Bye light, bye bye sun, bye bye life.
Well, if you think November and December were bad enough, you usually forgot (or didn’t know) that the winter in Berlin officially begins on December 21st. What you’ve experienced until that point was some typical Autumn’s days.
And you only realize that it was no winter yet, when you wake up on the second week of January and there is no more than -1° (which is considered GOOD for the winter, here!) for days and days, a glacial wind coming from the North or from Poland, and a lot of snow all around. At this point you really pray you could stay at home, hibernate under your blankets and say goodbye to life until the end of March.
No, we cannot really hibernate and we cannot stop living our life even if the weather or the season are not the warmest. And trust me, there is something nice and unique in Berlin also when it’s terribly cold and dark.
So… how do I survive the winter in Berlin?
1. ACCEPT NEW HABITS
The most important thing you need in order to survive the winter in Berlin is to accept it and become tolerant. There is nothing you can really do to change the weather and the darkness. The more you accept it the better your winter time there will be. When you decided to settle there, you should’ve been aware of the good and the bad of this city and you know, winter belongs for sure to this last one.
Try to think about your experience in the city as a relationship: we are supposed to love and stand by our person in their best and in their worse.
If you cannot face this first step, well… it’s better to start considering a new city where to live!
2. ENJOY INDOOR ACTIVITIES LIKE YOGA, CINEMA, DINNER AT HOME
Summer is the outdoor season par excellence, especially after spending so many months in the dark. During this season is much unlikely that we get stuck inside a fitness or yoga studio, at the cinema or theater. The days are longer, pub and cafés are open til late and it’s lovely to enjoy the summer vibes pulsating all around. When the winter comes there is no better chance to start again with your outdoor activities and enjoy your winter habits. Why not organizing a dinner with friends at home or cook some handmade pasta? You can go back to some authentic You-Time and live the winter as a kind of mental and physical retreat.
3. COLD SUNNY DAY AND WINTER NATURE
Even if you might have the impression that the nature in winter is quiet dead, I am sure there is a hidden beauty in the winter landscapes too. The best winter days are those sunny and cold, when the sky has a metallic light blue colour, the air is freezing and you can breath its pureness. The colours are bright and cold, everything seems so clean and clear. I simply love it, despite the fact that those days don’t come too often. Parks and gardens have their own charm when surrounded by the shades of grey and the fog. Sure, it’s a little bit depressing staring at the sleepy nature for too long, but it’s not always a bad view. Snow it’s definitely better than the rain! Even if I am not a big snow fan, I appreciate more the city covered by the snow than hit by the rain!
4. PLAN FEW GATEWAYS SOMEWHERE WARM
If you live in Berlin, you need to consider few gateways somewhere warm during the winter. It’s absolutely necessary to escape the season once or twice between November and March. If you are planning your vacations over the year, it’s always good to take some days off during this time and enjoy the sun and the warm temperatures somewhere like Canary Islands, Italy or even more far away, like South America, South Africa or South East Asia. Germans are known to leave Berlin for one, sometimes up to two months in winter. A break in a warmer country it’s a true miracle. Visiting a place with sun, light, colours and sea blesses your mind and soul and help your mental health to keep safe and to face the rest of the winter in Berlin.
5. FOCUS ON YOUR PROJECTS
A cliché about the Northern countries say that people from this part of the world are more productive, because they are not hit by too high temperatures. The cold and bad weather conditions make them focus on work and projects more than Southern countries. True or not, I think winter is the best time to focus on our projects, no matter where you are in the world. Even if the lack of sun might be highly demotivating and depressing for some people, I use to take this time to go deeper into my work and ideas or get incredibly busy to ignore what’s happening outside. Being focus on my own things (work, university, Italian classes, ecc…) make me partially forget the darkness and the bad weather and helps me going through the days a little bit faster.
6. SPA AND SWIMMING POOL
No better time than winter to enjoy the Spa life. Berlin has lots of Saunas and wellness places with a wide offer of massages, hot water swimming pools, sauna (every kind of!) and sometimes even fitness and aqua fitness activities. If you feel tired and you need to regenerate after a bad week, turn off your phone, take a good book and go to a Spa to fill your bones with some real heat!
7. DO SPORTS
In January, after making your good resolutions’ list, choose a good fitness studio and go back to the gym. Doing sports, even for only 45 minutes per week, helps your body to stay fit but also your mind to stay relaxed and happy. Ask a personal trainer to make a program adapted to your body and your needs and then try to go there at least once per week. Ask your friends to go with you, so you can also get the chance to meet and chat for few hours! It’s gonna be a moment just for yourself, to forget the rest of the world for some hours and regenerate your body after or before a long winter working day.
8. FACE THE DARK AND GET USED TO IT
Avoiding the darkness and the cold is almost impossible. In winter you could wake up with the dark and go out of work still with the dark. At this point it’s better to face the situation than avoid it, so buy some warm clothes, dress properly and start getting used to it. Winter it’s gonna be long and it’s better to find a good solution to fight it. Don’t be afraid of going out if it’s dark or cold: most of the times you only need to reach a bar or a restaurant and then you will spend a lovely night in a cozy place with friends. It’s really worth it to go into the dark for few minutes if then you can enjoy some valuable time with people you love!
9. VISIT MUSEUMS, GALLERIES AND EXHIBITIONS
Berlin has a big artistic heart. Every week there are new exhibitions or art events to attend and it’s really worth it to put them in your calendar and join them. The artistic scene is incredibly rich and vibrant. There is space for every form of art and lots of international artists who offer inspiration and works from all over the world. Exploring the art scene in Berlin can be an unique adventure and a perfect way to live the authentic side of the city. Follow some collectives or art groups on Facebook and stay updated about galleries, exhibitions and museums. You won’t miss the latest news and get the chance to spend your weekend inside a beautiful creative world.
10. ENJOY THE COFFEE AND GASTRONOMY CULTURE IN BERLIN
Berlin has a magnificent coffee culture. This is one of the reason why I love this city so much, I couldn’t live in a place where finding a good cup of coffee would be almost impossible. Not only it’s pretty easy to find a good coffee in Berlin, but also the cafés are a pure exhibition of great intern designs. The city offers a huge number of different places with different styles, from more minimalistic and radical chic, to picturesque and eccentric ones. There is a place for every taste! The cafés are ideal if you want to drink something and enjoy a meeting with friends, but also if you want to work on your projects, study, read a book. Same for the restaurants and bistrot. Berlin offers a huge range of cuisines: you only need to pick your favourite one and explore the gastronomy scene. Have a testing tour around the city might be one of the best entertainment of a winter night!