29 December 2005

Still snowing

BerlinBear avatarSeventy-two hours later, and it is still snowing here in Berlin. Not desperately heavily, mind you, but steadily. All the weather-forecasters have been saying that North-Eastern Germany (that's us) can expect a real snowstorm tonight, with 20-30cm of snowfall. No sign of the storm part yet, but the night is still young.

Being from Auckland - where it apparently once snowed in the 1930s, in Summer, but not since - I am quite captivated by the snow. Apart from in the mountains and at skifields, this is the most snow I've ever seen. It never ceases to amaze me how snow can make the most banal, even ugly, things look captivating and beautiful. Similarly, I am most taken with the way snow muffles all sound. It's quite something. Accordingly, I've been doing the following with alacrity:
  • Standing at the window, watching the snow fall, and watching the cars in our street take up to 15 minutes to get out of their parking spots

  • Going for long walks in the nearby forests

  • Taking lots of photos

  • Frequently going back to the window, to check if it's still snowing
Fun, fun, fun. So much snow has fallen around where we live that when I went for a walk in the woods today, it looked and felt not unlike Narnia before the White Witch's spell is broken. (I kept a lookout for Mr. Tumnus, but saw only a family of wild boar and a few scrawny-looking deer. A shame, really.) Actually, it's kind of like what I imagine Norway or Sweden to be like in winter, only perhaps not so cold. As I've never been to either of those places at all, let alone in winter, I cannot confirm the accuracy of this assumption.

I was amused to see on the local television news today a headline and story which I never saw in over five years living in the UK: Weather does not cause traffic chaos in Berlin and Brandenburg began the news item, and they proceeded to show trains running on time, a few of the 500-odd special vehicles they have for clearing the snow and spreading sand and gravel, and a selection of hardy orange-clad gents clearing footpaths with brooms and shovels. Oh, and a number of minor traffic accidents, of which, the reporter stressed, none were serious. I chuckled to recall the handful of times I'd watched South-East England come to a complete standstill in weather not half as bad as this, and wondered if I'd been too hasty in writing German efficiency off as a myth.

There follows a small selection of the many photos I took today of my own private Narnia.

That is the street I live in, which is too small and insignificant to qualify to be cleared in weather like this. The fellows from Berlin's Winterdienst clearly have bigger fish to fry at present.

The snow has made the cobblestone streets around here very treacherous indeed. They look more like dirt roads at the moment. I've never seen Germans drive so slowly!

The snow can even render a humble garden shed into something more like a romantic log cabin.

Either a) coots are hardier than other birds; b) coots are the only birds to have worked out that the water is warmer than the land in this kind of weather; or c) there is some factual basis to the saying "as crazy as a coot."

The forest near our place is doing it's very best impression of Narnia.

In the Pohlesee, the freeze has begun but is not very advanced. At around -3 degrees C, it's cold enough for snow, but not cold enough to freeze over the lakes around here. Yet.

Not only were the trains running on time, but they also provided the only flashes of colour I saw during my long walk in the woods (except for one particularly hardy jogger wearing a bright red parka. Unfortunately I was too slow on the draw to capture her on camera.)

OK, I promise I'll stop posting photos of the snow now. Unless, that is, something truly amazing happens.