Winter in Berlin arrived not with a bang but a whimper. From the balmy January temperatures of five degrees to minus twelve in the space of a week, finally my snow boots got an outing and I got used to resembling Bambi in his first tentative steps on the ice. Having fallen down all the steps at one S-Bahn station already (Thanks a lot, Hackesher Markt) I was taking no chances. Dressed like an Arctic explorer prepared for the harshest of winters, I was greeted on my first icy voyage to university by a sea of Germans dressed in stylish ankle boots and beautiful Fjallraven jackets. I looked like an idiot, albeit a very cosy one. Germany: 1, Hannah: 0.
However, my experiences of the Berlin winter thus far cannot detract from the utter revelation that is the German institution of brunch. Brunch isn’t just the meal you have to make a hangover seem less disgraceful; it’s a work of art. Admittedly, my favourite brunch spots in Berlin so far are respectively American and Australian, but I don’t think that takes away from the fact that brunch in Berlin is one of the greatest things a student can experience. Where else is it acceptable to order a beer with your meal at eleven in the morning? Cheery waitresses, prices that mean it’d be rude not to order seconds, and an overall ambience that invites the weak and weary, Berlin on a Sunday is made for eating.
Aside from the chill of winter and warmth of brunch, my January has involved a haze of panic about impending final essay deadlines, a bewildered ponderence of what on earth I’m going to do with the eight weeks I have off university between first and second semester, and several moments of despair when I thought I’d lost one of my gloves. Luckily two of my Thursdays have been spent at the Gortlizer Bahnof ‘Street Food Thursday’, which is essentially a large market hall full of independent vendors selling artisan versions of global street cuisine. My only complaint is that the ‘Fish and Chips’ stall was actually a bread and fish stall. I did feel in some way England was been doing a disservice, but one ice cream sandwich and the best Philly cheesecake I’ve ever had later, and it seemed rude to argue about the way they do things in Berlin.
Club nights have turned into house parties, trading 10 Euro entrance fees for standing in the kitchen sipping German beer and trying to sound like a native rather than the foreigner everyone instinctively knows I am. It’s hard to not miss home in the midst of winter, and whilst absence makes the heart grow fonder, Skype lets you know what you’re missing. Even the English café I visited last week was a pale imitation of all that puts the ‘great’ in Great Britain, not least because they served generic brown sauce instead of the Holy Grail of HP.
With two weeks left of my first term abroad my paranoia about ‘not doing enough’ with my year abroad appears to have hit critical mass, and two internship applications, one awkward German phone interview and several existential crises later, I’ve settled for a ‘To-Do’ list that mainly involves an abundance of museum and gallery visits, checking out more German cinema, and learning to say something other than ‘Do you offer student discount?’ in the native language. Any plans for a modern day Grand Tour may be dashed by money woes, so the two months off between first and second semester will likely be spent in Berlin, watching Parks and Recreation obsessively, patiently waiting for the temperature outside to crawl back above zero.