We are well into winter here in Germany, even though technically the first day of winter isn’t until December 21st. Most days the temperatures are right above or right below freezing, sometimes even colder. We’ve already had more snow this season than Atlanta normally gets in two years. Freiburg is also in the southwestern corner of Germany, and it’s the sunniest part of the country. Though you’d never know it by looking out the window these days.
Don’t blink, you’ll miss the sun
Andy recently wrote about how Germany gets dark in winter, and as much as I hate that we get just a little more than eight hours of daylight each day, that’s not the thing that bothers me the most. What really gets to me is the cold. I lived in New Jersey until I was 15, and I spent an entire winter in Minnesota for a training program when I was 25, so I’ve definitely lived through cold winters. But living in Atlanta for 16 years probably made me a bit soft. It does get cold there, and occasionally a few flakes of snow even reach the ground. But overall, it’s a milder and shorter winter.
I need more Glühwein
I missed most of winter here last year while I was on my round the world trip. My first full winter in Freiburg is off to a rough start, and we still have a solid three or four months to go. The Christmas markets have started, which helps because it’s something fun to do and there’s alcohol involved, but it still means being outside in the cold. Besides, that ends at Christmas. Unfortunately there are no Valentine’s markets or January Sucks markets.
Fresh air or torture technique?
Germans have this thing with fresh air. I get it, fresh air is a good thing. But I get enough of it walking to and from tram stops several times a day. That’s not enough for your average German, so they like to open windows. It could be 35F (2C) and my German teacher will open the windows, letting in all kinds of frigid air. Luckily she has backed off a little recently, but I could easily keep my coat on all morning if she opens the windows for even a few minutes.
Stress and bad fashion
I’m a miserable person when I’m cold. I’m surprised Andy wanted to see me again after meeting me in person for the first time in Prague with snow and below freezing temperatures. When I’m cold, I get stressed out more easily, I’m much more impatient, and I just want to hide under the covers.
The wind and overall winter weather wrecks my hair. It irritates me to have to wear my hair in a ponytail nearly every day. (How do so many women wear winter hats without their hair looking like crap afterwards?) My skin is constantly dry. I’m also really short (5’1″ or 155 cm) which means my pants are usually too long. In this weather, that means a big chunk of the bottom gets wet, so now I’ve taken to folding them up. It’s not an attractive look.
Combine all of these things with stubborn culture shock, and winter becomes disastrous.
Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much, if anything, I can do about this. I will continue to bundle up to trudge out to school everyday. I will do whatever I can to minimize how often I have to be outside. I will indulge in some Glühwein at the Christmas markets, you know, for warmth. And I will keep dreaming of tropical places.
Unless any of you have any magical powers that will give me my own personal bubble of warmth? No? Then maybe I’ll just try to escape to a warmer location next winter.
Note: The three pictures of the buildings (which are the apartments across the street from ours) were taken from our living room through the glass door of our balcony. I was unwilling to open the door to go out in the cold to take the pictures. I’m sure you can understand.