Berlins winters have become famous for snow, rain, darkness and perpetual negative degrees, but that’s only half of the story. The real winter of Berlin – seasoned veterans know – is not terrible for its intensity, but for its duration.
For all of you who didn’t know: Those three consecutive days of 20° and sunshine in fucking March was just God forgetting that he’s still mad about Hitler. Winter rebounds in full force by April, usually extends right into June, and transforms ‘summer’ into a lukewarm, sloppy odyssey of bad festivals and mud. (And then you get 4,5 days of 35°C in August, and a real heatwave at the beginning of October to match hell on earth. That’s it. The rest is winter.)
And now you’re disappointed. Where are the excessive open air raves, the boat rides, the good spirited people, the Biergärten, the walks in parks, the long nights at the Späti, the improv-theatre in Görli, the Karaoke in Mauerpark, the flowers, the cherries, the strawberries, where is all that stuff you signed up for? Don’t worry, my friend – here’s a tried & tested list of things you can do when it’s spring in Berlin but it’s still cold, mostly the ideas of my dear friend Josie (who is an amazing writer and more amazing friend), who never seems to be annoyed with me when I ask for validation, even though I know I’m REALLY walking a thin line at this point:
Go plant shopping, get your tropical feeling on
You wanted urban gardening, but now everything’s covered in dog shit and dirt? Don’t panic! Plants are the new mattresses / concrete walls / avocado on toast in Berlin, so use your chance now while you can get super-hype macramé plant hangers. I suggest a trip to the Kleingärtnerei Matk for succulents (I finally found someone who wrote about it before I did, Rachel, so now I can do it!) or order in via Palmenmann for a grown up, big ass, tropical af banana. Of course, if flowers are your thing, Blumen Dilek will be there for you 24/7 (except for Sundays).
If you’re really freezing out there, go to the tropical parts of the Botanical Garden and get sweating with all of your favorite exotic plants, but without the exotic bugs.
And if you just want the macramé stuff, and the cute, colorful handmade things that will make your heart melt, definitely stop by at Nandi, the buyable embodiment of summer.
Buy clothes on sale for your untoned, flabby body
Every person has a perfect body, but that doesn’t mean insecurities aren’t a widespread reality. If you’re one of those poor souls who thinks they must hide their untoned winter skin, please rest assured there is a place in this world where everybody meets the same fate: Berlin – where nobody will ever have to wear revealing clothes because of a warm climate, and where everyone therefore is always covered up.
It’s the 9th of May, I wore a scarf today, and I’m going to buy a new winter coat tomorrow which will be on sale because it’s “summer and spring season”, and I’ll wear it all the way til August.
Book a holiday to a warm European country
From October to March, the only sunshine you’ll see is if you travel to another continent. But from March til September, it’s literally warm EVERYWHERE in Europe – except for Berlin (and London). Flights are affordable, so why don’t you book yourself a nice, soothing trip to Athens for the Documenta or Venice for the Biennale? After all, all your cool friends are already there, lounging in stylish Airbnbs, eating avocado on toast, looking at post-internet art from Berlin, laughing manically over the bad coke they’re snorting — aww, it’s like a home away from home, except it’s probably warmer.
If you’d rather go to a place where your mental health issues will be embraced instead of repressed, just go to London. The weather won’t be better but you’ll be able to get drunk with people who have lost all hope and learned to cope with their demise.
Visit at a public indoor pool, pretend you’re outside
Gösser, Pommes, Gras: The axis of summer at the public pool. Columbiabad, Prinzenbad, Weißensee, there’s nothing in this world that screams “urban summer” as much as squeezing yourself into a exorbitant jaccuzzi of kiddie piss and smelly youths. BUT I LOVE IT, more than I could ever love the beach (fucking sand).
But the Berliner Bäderbetriebe are going to go broke over the shitty weather (it’s hailing while I’m writing this article) if we don’t compensate. Go and have a good swim at their indoor pools all across the city. My favorite is the Spreewaldbad in Kreuzberg – there, they’ve got a wave machine. :’) Also, the newly restored Stadtbad Oderberger Straße is supposed to be beautiful and is part of a hotel now (which means it may or may not be nicer than the public pools).
Visit an indoor flea market
Tourists love flea markets because they can buy rubbish and tell their friends at home they got it from an ‘authentic local’ for a cheap price. Sorry to burst your bubble darling but that shit was industrially produced to look like it’s been worn out and used. If you want a real flea market with real crap, you should head to Arena on weekends. The flea market here has everything you couldn’t possibly ever want or need, and major bonus: it’s indoors.
If, by a shocking twist of events, the sun should creep out and the temperature suddenly rise, you can quickly get undressed and head over to the Badeschiff to cool down with drinks at the pool (but don’t get your hopes up).
Have brunch, the only day-drinking activity that can easily waste more than 8 hours without anyone judging you for being a secret alcoholic
I’ve got a new favorite brunch spot: Spindler in Kreuzberg. Not because it’s exceptional, but because it’s usually only crowded on the terrace. Which is weird, because the restaurant is really pretty, and even when the sun is shining you can sit inside and watch the lively Paul-Lincke-Ufer crowd pass-by through the big panoramic windows.
If you’d rather just get drunk and pretend it’s “brunch”, I can also recommend Geist im Glas. I don’t know any good brunch spots in Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg, and don’t let anybody tell you that there are: there’s a difference between a mere breakfast and six Bloody Marys and a Sunday roast kind of brunch and I’m pedantic enough to enforce it.
Go see a Star War or something
I mean, indoor activities, right? Choose from one of the many museums, the plenty little arthouse cinemas or sports clubs and pair everything with a healthy dose of alcohol to get over the fact that you’re stuck here and all you can do is consume and nothing is free and nothing ever happens outside and Berlin is dead because urban spontaneity doesn’t happen when people are curled up in balls and waiting for the new House of Cards season to drop.