A German once told me: “They say you can call yourself a Berliner when you have survived seven winters in Berlin.”
So far I have survived three. The first one was the darkest, coldest and snowiest of the three. I just assumed it was always like that, and since the snow was a novelty, it didn’t bother me. But by the time it came to Easter and it was still snowing, I was wishing for spring along with everybody else.
Living in Berlin teaches you to appreciate the sun. In South Africa, you take sun for granted because it is almost always there. In winter there are patches where it will rain the whole week, but the sun doesn’t take too long to reappear. In Berlin, this past December, we had 29 hours of light total. And I don’t think any of those hours, or at least very few, were sunny. So you grow to appreciate each ray of sunlight – and learning to appreciate things is a good thing.
When spring comes, the city comes alive. People re-emerge from wherever they have been hibernating and fill the streets, sitting at street cafes, alongside the Spree, in parks, in beer gardens, anywhere outside. First come the daffodils, usually while it is still cold. They are the first sign that spring is coming.
But usually it is still cold until Easter, the same way that Cape Town it is usually warm until Easter. Once Easter has passed, somehow the weather changes. There are normally warm temperatures, some rain, and then the trees burst into life, full of blossoms or new leaves. My first spring here, it happened suddenly, in an explosion. This year it has been more gradual. You start to see more daffodils, tulips, bluebells and blossoms.
It’s a great time to visit the Gaerten der Welt, the Botanical garden, Treptower park or even San Souci, places where there are many colourful flowerbeds.
As spring progresses, the trees all bloom with flowers in Berlin – almost every tree seems to have flowers. The air becomes heavy with the perfume of a million blossoms. The hayfever also starts, for those who suffer from it. There are festivals in nearby villages like the Baumblütenfest in Werder an Havel, where you can drink fruit wine (more about this later, and see http://www.werder-havel.de/content/baumbluete/baumbluetenfest_willkommen.php, this year’s festival runs from the 25 April to the 3 May)
If you go to Ruegen in May you can see fields of bright yellow canola (Raps) and white rivers of Baerlauch plants, which taste mildly garlicky and start to appear in seasonal menus. It is also Spargel (asparagus) season. The beloved white Spargel is usually served with a Hollandaise sauce and some ham on the side, or just with some melted butter over it.
It always feels like, the whole of Berlin heaves a collective sigh when the warm weather and the sunshine comes back, people can start living again.
P.S. – If you happen to find yourself near Brussels rather than Berlin, it seems it would be well worth checking out Hallerbos, a forest full of bluebells, described here:
I would certainly love to see this!