My First Summer in Berlin: Heatwaves, Canals and the Importance of Looking Up

Welcome to Berlin (and the Heatwave of 2018)

It’s been just over a month since I’ve been in Germany, and I have to say that it’s been quite the experience so far. I haven’t done a lot of writing, blogging, or really much of anything because I’ve been so wiped out. Not so much because the move in general, more because we managed to move during a serious heatwave. We’re talking 95˚F (35˚C) and above, which isn’t terrible per se. In fact it seems like it’s been fairly in line with Chicago weather this summer. I’ve been told constantly by longtime residents that this is a very unusual summer, which I hope is true. But there is one thing that has made things a little more challenging for this American…

No air conditioning!

It is definitely something that takes getting used to, especially at these temperatures. Even nights didn’t cool down, so my overall desire to do anything was at an all time low. The thing is, I didn’t really find myself craving American-style air conditioning, which seemed a little odd to me at first. Then it hit me – back home no matter where you go, the AC is always on full blast. I tend to run cold, so this meant I was freezing and uncomfortable everywhere I went. No matter how hot it was during the summer, I always wore long pants and brought along a sweater or jacket with me to curb the cold at my destination. Even in Phoenix. But here? I can dress like a normal person in summer and not carry a sweater with me everywhere I go. I may not be super productive at the peak, but it’s nice to be comfortable most of the time.

We were staying with family near Checkpoint Charlie before finding a place of our own, but there was really no relief those first couple weeks. The days here seem longer than in Chicago, and the hottest time of day seemed closer to two or three instead of noon. We did go out almost every day, but we tried to stick to early morning or later afternoon. While biking seems to be one of the best ways to get around the city, we’re still doing a lot more walking. Berlin is an amazing city to walk around in, and we’ve found some lovely spots all over. There’s so much green space incorporated into the daily life here, every day can be an actual walk in the park. Luckily, things seem like they’ve gone back to normal and temps seen to hover in the low 70’s (~21˚C) and that’s perfectly pleasant. The pic below was snapped at the Berlin Zoological Garden, and it was close to 100˚F (~ 38˚C) that day. I’m pretty sure that seal embodied the spirit of my soul that first couple weeks.

Berlin Heatwave
Basically me during the Berlin heatwave.

Sommer Wunderland

I haven’t taken my camera out a lot since I’ve been here. Partially because the laws are way different regarding street photography and I was a little too lazy to figure everything out right away, and partially because my camera seems ten pounds heavier when I’m melting. One of the things that I’ve enjoy most about this city when the weather eased up a bit – just walking around. I especially love being able to wander along the canals. The last time I was here was in the winter, and I was sick for a most of that trip and didn’t get out that much. I’m glad to finally experience the city!

Residents have made a point to let me know that I should enjoy the summer days while they last because winter can be quite gray and dreary. Given that I’ve lived in Portland, the Bay Area, and most recently Chicago, I’m guessing that I can handle it. How can it be worse than the perpetual rain of the northwest, rolling fog of the Bay, or a Chicago Snowpocalypse?

So… That may be a “famous last words” situation on my end.

Apparently it’s much further north than any of those cities, and you know what that means, right? Very short days. Turns out around winter solstice, which have the shortest days of the year, there’s not even eight hours of sunlight.


Upon discovering that little gem, I’ve found that I’m more than happy to find at least a little time to venture outside every day. Even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Although if I’m being completely honest, those usually turn into leisurely afternoon strolls along the nearest canal. The good news is that the flip side is also true – summertime means long days! Its definitely getting noticeably shorter now, but when we got here it seemed like the sun didn’t go down until after 10 pm. I can see why people keep telling me to enjoy it while it lasts.

Landwehr Canal at Hallesches Tor U-Bahn

Landwehr Canal at Hallesches Tor U-Bahn
Landwehr Canal at Hallesches Tor U-Bahn. Berlin, Germany

Things are Looking Up

When I’m in a new city, I’m always looking at maps and street signs to try and figure out exactly where I am. Something I noticed right away on every single walk we would take, I’d look up at the street signs and see these cute little cork figurines virtually everywhere. They’re always in different positions. Sometimes they’re doing yoga, running, or seemingly cheering me on to find my way like this little guy, but they always managed to bring a little charm and whimsy to my day. It’s a pleasant sight to see, and I think it’s especially nice to have in a city that has some rather dark historical significance.

Say hello.
Hello up there!

Remnants of The Berlin Wall still run prominently through the city, and maybe it’s due to my delicate American sensibilities, but sometimes it can feel a little heavy. Back home, it feels like our history either gets over simplified and watered down, or we try and remove some of our dark and complicated past completely. It’s not really confronted head-on. Then we forget about it until we can’t anymore. I’m discovering that there’s really no hiding from the past in Berlin. In the time I’ve been here, just over a month, they’ve found new remnants of The Wall that were previously thought to be dismantled or destroyed, and nearby forest fires have threatened to detonate long buried WWII munitions. Here, ignoring history can literally blow up in your face.

But the reality is that Berlin has always been a city for artists, and that remains very true to this day. Everywhere I look and everywhere I go, there’s creativity flowing from every single crevice of this city. Music, art and history are ingrained into the culture in a way I haven’t really seen before, and it’s refreshing. Especially because of everything this city has experienced. Even though there may be some very serious historical significance present, there’s also a lot of hope in the vibrant art scene that thrives throughout the city. Whether it’s music, urban art, or delightful little cork figures helping me find my way around my new home, I find it to be an unexpected but welcome sign that hope may be closer than we think.

Comments or Questions? Let Me Know!

Do you have any questions for me about Germany? Right now I’m navigating the process of acquiring my residency permit along with health insurance. My next step is registering my jewelry business so I can legally operate here.

Aside from that, life in general is so different and interesting. There’s certainly a few topics  that stand out to me that I’d love to write about, but I’d love to know if you have questions.

Let me know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “My First Summer in Berlin: Heatwaves, Canals and the Importance of Looking Up

  1. Have fun! We just got back from a fantastic year in Munich and loved everything about Germany. We are not too happy to be back in Chicago!

    1. Thanks, Elena! We’ll certainly try 😉 Munich sounds wonderful, I haven’t been in years. At least it’s a short trip now! I’m sure you’ll find another new adventure soon, take care 🙂

  2. Hi Zurina,
    I’m so excited you started this blog. I love those little cork figures. Please continue with what you are blogging about. I would love to see and hear about cute shops you like.
    Take care, Sandy

    1. Thank you so much for the encourgement, Sandy! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It’s such an amazing place, I can’t wait to write more. There’s definitely some great shops and also monthly markets, I’ll make sure to add that on my list of blog topics! Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

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