How many of you had to make a Season Wheel at school, where you divided a paper plate into quarters and drew a picture for spring, summer, autumn and winter? Growing up in Cape Town, you’d draw flowers for spring, sunshine for summer, falling leaves for autumn and rain for winter. Yet, it was only when I moved to Berlin that I really experienced the dramatic four seasons. In Cape Town it’s too warm for very strong autumn colours, there’s no snow, and there’s less flowering trees. I imagine if you grew up somewhere like Thailand or Senegal where it’s always warm, you’d draw your seasons very differently too, maybe with wet and dry, windy or stormy seasons. And in some countries, it might rain all year round.
Right now it’s autumn in Berlin, and the trees are getting noticeably barer as the last of the golden leaves fall off. It starts getting darker by 3:30pm already and it looks like midnight by 5pm. We’re heading to the long, dark time of year. We had a great long summer this year, with warm temperatures starting in May and lasting right up till October. This was a big contrast to last year, when there was basically no summer, and it stayed cold and rainy throughout the year. This year winter was very long, but spring flew by very quickly as temperatures warmed up fast, leading to a long warm summer. Autumn seemed fairly short as well, since the summer was so long.
As I haven’t posted any seasonal updates all year despite taking a gazillion leaf and flower pictures as usual, I thought I’d do a round up of the months and seasons before we enter winter, to show how the seasons look in central Europe. Unlike in English or German where the month names are derived from the names of Roman gods (e.g. March from Mars), numbers (e.g. September from septem, meaning seven) or the Caesars (e.g. July from Julius Caesar), in Czech, the month names are often related to the season. For fun (and because I should learn them) I thought I would list the Czech month names here too, along with their meanings. Note that in Czech the names of months are not capitalized. Continue reading
It’s the little things that keep you going. Weekly small pleasures is Mani’s blog event where you share the things that made you happy during the week and I have to say that the last few weeks it has been very simple things which have made me happy: the birds starting to sing again, the wind rustling the newly formed leaves on trees that were bare for months, the smell of rain, the spring flowers, the increased light hours. Continue reading
If you need another reason to visit Berlin in spring, here it is: in April and May you can visit Britzer Garten in the south of Berlin to walk among all the beautiful tulips. I didn’t even know there were so many different types of tulips before visiting this park, but they come in all shapes, sizes and colours! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so now I’ll keep quiet and post some photos so that you can see for yourself.
PS – the park is huge, so put on your walking shoes! For the elderly and those with kids, there’s even a little train that runs around the park. Continue reading
“How many bicycles are there in Utrecht?”
“More than people,” my Dutch friend assured me. Continue reading
May is almost over, so there’s only a short time left to gather together your photos of wild flowers for Jude’s Garden Challenge! I already put some photos up of the bear leek growing on the island of Rügen in north Germany; now I’d like to show some more photos of wild flowers I’ve spotted growing around Europe. I don’t know the names of most of them – I should really buy a book of European plants. If anyone can label any of them, I’d love to hear what they are called. Of course I do recognize poppies, and they are among my favourite flowers. They pop up on many roadsides at this time of year (often around railway tracks for some reason), but you can also see them grown commercially for the seeds (presumably they also grow them somewhere to make codeine and morphine). In Germany, poppyseeds are called Mohn, and they are used in lots of sweet cakes, pastries and dumplings. A piece of Mohnkuchen is delicious, with an almond-like flavour, and if you ever visit Germany i’d recommend popping into a bakery to try a piece.
We are headed off on another adventure in few minutes, but before we go I wanted to do a Weekly Small Pleasures blog post. Weekly Small pleasures is Mani’s blog event where you highlight the little things that made you happy this week. For her post and other people’s, head here. Here are mine:
What’s not to love about May in Berlin: it’s a month full of public holidays. 1 May is Worker’s day, but this year it was a Sunday and they didn’t give the Monday off, so we lost out on that one. Then there is “Himmelfahrt” (Ascension Thursday – date varies by year) and also “Pfingsten” (Pentecost – date varies by year), which seem to always fall in May too. So last Thursday instead of sitting in the office I was kayaking in Neu Venedig (New Venice), and this weekend is a long weekend and we’re headed off for a bike tour in the Alsace wine region of France! This promises to be quite an adventure (possibly an uncomfortable one, since we’re taking two night trains and sleeping on tatami mats in a Yurt one night, with a dry toilet and cold shower, oh the horror) – but I guess that’s what the wine is for. Unfortunately being away means this year we’ll miss the Carnival of Cultures.
It feels like not long ago I was wearing boots, a jacket, scarf and gloves, and now I’m in a T-shirt and need to carry sunglasses. This is how rapidly the temperatures can increase in Berlin! But I’m not complaining, I much prefer warm weather. Plus, I’m pretty sure my vitamin D levels must have been super low after the long grey season and now is a chance to soak up some sun and make some more! I feel more energetic already.
The trees have flowers.
I haven’t got over the novelty of flowers on all the trees yet. Yes, the little pieces of flowers blowing in the wind get into your eyes when you’re on the cycling lane – but everything is so beautiful!
Actually, we weren’t supposed to go to Paris in the springtime. We were supposed to go in autumn, but exactly one week before our trip we were checking the news before going to sleep at night and read, to our shock, about the terror attacks that had occurred. In the wake of the sad events, it did not seem the appropriate time to visit the city. So, we postponed our trip to April. Then at the end of March, there were more terrorist attacks in Brussels. It was therefore with a slight feeling of unease that I set out for Paris, hoping we would have an uneventful trip. Well, luckily we did, and once you are in Paris you start to forget about what happened, because everyone is just going on about their daily lives, enjoying life. The city is huge and there must be only a handful of people who would go so far as to harm others. I did feel a bit uneasy traveling on the metro, but otherwise enjoyed walking around the city, eating in cafes and mingling with the locals.