If you drove home for Christmas, if you left Berlin and took the train or the plane to get back to your family every year, you might think back about your Kiez, your friends and those who stayed, who always told you that Berlin would become a calm and sedate place during the season. Otherwise, you might enjoy the annual tranquility while you visit your parents somewhere in Reinickendorf or Lichtenberg, or are, if you’re like me, torn between rest and boredom, counting the days until everything is back to normal, the queue at Burgermeister is long and the super markets finally open their doors again.
The central districts fell into hibernation and if it wasn’t for the few falafel stands and Spätis that remained open, for the never-ceasing flocks of tourists crowding East Side Gallery and Brandenburger Tor, one could think the city was abandoned. When the chatter turns from Spanish and English to Russian and Japanese, when Warschauer Straße is not an obstacle course for a change, and when the weather is as rainy as always, it’s probably Christmas time.
Meanwhile, little has changed outside the S-Bahn ring: The streets seem a bit calmer, the bags a bit heavier, the faces a bit happier. Just as dusk approaches and the faint little lights twinkle behind fogged windows, the last gift-buyers rush home, the streets get empty, the city comes to rest. Berlin is as calm as every small town now, a pleasant change, yet it takes some getting used to. By the day after Christmas at the latest, when sweet boredom finally sinks in, families take the occasion to have a slow-paced walk in the park, through the neighbourhood or to the next shopping mall, where the stores may be closed, but the Christmas decoration is still on display. Even the Christmas markets get some peace, where the Ferris wheels keep dully spinning and the fun rides play their shrill sounds to an audience that rather stayed home today.
Alex is as busy as always, but once you reach past the square, the unusual tranquility gets hold of the city again. Strolling past nearly vacant Alexa, one finds the neighbouring Christmas market already being dismantled. It usually stays until early January, but this year, as a carnie complains to me, they had to break camp early because of the series of unfortunate events that struck the fair in the last weeks. After a man jumped off the Ferris wheel at the beginning of the month and the raffle ticket booth caught fire a fews days ago, their business is ruined. However, the “Weihnachtszauber” fair attracted a lot of media attention for all sorts of accidents and crime in the last years, this one being no exception.
Today, only a handful of visitors strolled about the sun-lit market, camera-equipped tourists, just as curious as me. I wondered what their thoughts were, if Berlin was always as calm, small-townish and slightly depressing as it was today. I thought they were lucky, finding Berlin on a rare day of contemplation and humbleness.