beach at bansin in the winter

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I headed up to Usedom, an island in the Baltic Sea, for a visit. My first question was, “What do you do in Usedom in the winter?” It’s a popular resort area in the summer and people crowd to the beach as soon as the weather gets hot. It was much quieter in the winter, but there were still a few people around. There are a lot of lovely towns and cities on the island and it’s a great place to walk around. The icy beaches were beautiful. I come from a slightly warmer coast, so it was something special to see.

winter beach landscape

icy baltic

ice floating in the baltic sea

tree roots
I like to take pictures of trees

dormant tree

typical Baltic style house
This style of house is traditional in the area. Note the straw roof. This one looks fairly new and is probably built to look old, but it’s still interesting.

old stone church in koserow
An old stone church in Koserow

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Just say no to yolo

It’s finally happened: I’m getting old. I know this because there is an increasing number of words and phrases that I can’t stand. When I hear people (especially younger people) say them, it grates on my nerves like the sound cardboard makes when it tears (for the record, I really hate that sound). Here are a few examples. I’ll even define them for you in case you have absolutely no knowledge of pop culture.

YOLO
An abbreviation of “You only live once.” I always hear teens say it on TV when they’re about to do something especially stupid and ill-advised. It sounds ridiculous and as a result of its usage, I associate it with stupid things.

Rando
Short for “Random,” as in “Random guy,” or “random girl.” When did we start saying this? It’s not even just those goddarned kids either. I hear grown women using this word. Even worse, I see it frequently in written form. Stop it.

Cray Cray
People say this in place of “Crazy,” even though it has the same number of syllables. Like “Rando,” this one is frequently used by older people as well as teens. It kind of reminds me of the way the characters talk in the post-apocalyptic chapters of “Cloud Atlas” (both the film and the book). For the record, these characters are illiterate, so that’s not a compliment.

Hashtag
As in the social media command. If you need to start talking exactly like you type on Twitter, you need to stop it immediately. Hashtag kids these days.

I guess the rest don’t particularly annoy me to cardboard-ripping proportions, but I do get the feeling that I’m old when I hear teens speak. Excuse me while I go buy a house with a porch so I can sit on it and tell kids to get off my lawn.

*note: I did some research while researching slang words to see if I missed any (I didn’t) and apparently “Fetch” is happening. It took 10 years, but Gretchen Wieners can finally die happy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get back in your box.

Pete Seeger
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So, Pete Seeger passed away yesterday. The man has been a huge inspiration for me over the past year or so. Although he lived quite a long life, I still feel sad about his passing.

What I find so inspiring about him isn’t just his music (which acted as a gateway to a lot of other folk music), but the fact that he never, ever gave up. He fought for his ideals right until the end. He never gave in and he never grew out of them. He didn’t even let McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities keep him down. He believed in peace, freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, and he held that music could change the world. He was still performing well into old age and he never stopped making music.

We need more Pete Seegers in this world. He should be a role model for all of us.

Maerchenbrunnen Volkspark Friedrichshain in Winter
(The entrance to Volkspark Friedrichshain by the Maerchenbrunnen (Fairy Tale Fountain))

In Berlin, the four seasons are very noticeable. Where I come from, there are pretty much two seasons – rainy and not rainy – but here, there is always some kind of spring, summer, winter, and autumn. Global warming is blurring the lines a little bit and certain seasons have been known to make late appearances, but they’re still there.

Maerchenbrunnen Statue with snow
(A statue at the Maerchenbrunnen covered with snow)

The seasons are visible when you look outside, but you can also see them in people’s moods. In the spring and summer, everyone is smiling and cheery. They spend hours outdoors in parks and café patios, sipping coffee, beer, or wine and chatting. The playgrounds are always full of children. Winter, however, is a different beast. Berlin winters are dark, dreary, grey, and oppressive. The shorter days and colder weather darkens people’s moods, causing them to retreat and huddle up indoors.

Volkspark Friedrichshain in Winter
(the park in the snow)

This winter came very late. Most of December and early January was as warm as autumn and early spring and on top of that, it was uncharacteristically sunny. Then, early last week, the temperature suddenly dropped. It snowed long enough to signal to everyone that winter had arrived.

Lamp Post Volkspark Friedrichshain
(Lamp post in the park)

A few days of snow left the city gleaming and white and on top of that, it’s bright and sunny. It’s one of those unusual winter days where people are almost as cheerful as they are at the height of summer. Many people are outside taking advantage of the crisp, fresh air and brilliant sun. Children are out in full force and although the playgrounds remain empty, the hills are covered with toboggan tracks. Volkspark Friedrichshain is full of people strolling through the snow, jogging, or walking their dogs. Afterwards, many of them funnel into nearby cafes to warm up with a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Everyone is smiling and spirits are high.

The Spanish Civil War monument in the snow
(The Spanish Civil War monument covered with snow)

The sun reflects off of the snow, which is still fresh enough to be white, causing the landscape to appear almost brilliant. It’s a perfect winter day, one that almost lets you forget that it’s well below zero outside.

A frozen pond in Volkspark Friedrichshain
(The pond is frozen solid!)

Cafe Schoenbrunn at Volkspark Friedrichshain
(Cafe Schoenbrunn in the snow. Although the patio is totally empty, inside it’s totally full)

Berlin playground in winter
(An empty playground in the snow)

*Note* If you’re a local and you’re wondering, “Where is this sun you speak of?”, I wrote this yesterday after I went for a long walk in the park.

20140123-153715.jpg

Earlier this week, I made a trip over to the Turkish Market on Maybachufer to buy some cheap fruits and vegetables. For those who aren’t in the know, this is a great place to buy produce, with prices far below those in the supermarkets. I was hoping to pick up a few avocados and possibly some jalapeños, as I got a big bag of them for 76 cents just before New Year’s. Sadly, they had no jalapeños and avocados were three for a Euro (which I still snapped up because that’s cheaper than the supermarket price), but one stall had lemons on sale for 10 for a Euro. I greedily bought the whole 10, but then I wondered, “What am I going to do with 10 lemons?” My first thought was lemonade, but as I looked out the window and saw the ground covered with snow, a cool glass of lemonade didn’t seem appealing. I’m currently reading, “Winter’s Tale,” by Mark Helprin, and the book is full of descriptions of hot traditional drinks (some real and some made up). After reading about hot cider for the umpteenth time, I had an idea of my own. I would make a hot, spicy version of lemonade.

Hot Spicy Lemonade Recipe

Makes 1 glass

Ingredients:

-Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, depending on how strong you want it
-1 tsp maple syrup
-1 tsp sugar
-1 pinch cinnamon
-1 pinch nutmeg
-A dash of brandy (optional)

Method:
Combine the ingredients in a mug and stir thoroughly. You can use any sugar you choose. I chose a mixture of maple syrup and white sugar because I’m Canadian and therefore know that maple syrup makes everything wonderful. You can add a dash (or even a shot) of brandy for flavour, but it’s not essential to the recipe. Top off the mug with boiling water and stir the mixture again.
Optional: Stare out the window listlessly and listen to folk music (Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Leonard Cohen, and early Bob Dylan make excellent choices).

HipstersvsBeats
Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Corso in the ’50s*

Has anyone noticed that hipsters these days are starting to look a lot like the Beat Generation (who also frequently used the word “hipster”, by the way)? I see a lot of comments about them dressing like slightly cooler “nerds,” but just look at these guys. Ginsberg’s glasses and sweater, Kerouac’s plaid shirt, Corso’s haircut. If you transported them forward in time 60 or so years, no one would notice.

*Image via Google Image search. I’m not sure of the original source, but it comes up in several blogs and pages.

I was recently approached by an interesting website called Multicoolty to do an interview about my experiences as an expat living in Germany. I happily participated, and you can read my full interview here.

I also recommend checking out the other stories on the website. If you’re interested in life in Germany or what it’s like to be a foreigner in this country, there are lots of interesting first-hand experiences to give you a good idea. You can find the homepage here.

Happy reading!

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