I may be completely lacking in objectivity as I boldly claim that, come summer in Germany – real summer – there is no better place in this country to be, than up north. You can keep your mountains and your lakes, I’ll take the open sea, salty hair and sandy feet. Days on the beach and afternoons with a drink on the fjord. Strolls through the cool forest and that glimpse of blue through the thicket of green. (Oh how I love that moment when water comes into view. I remember as a kid, driving to Manly to visit family friends, and there is a hill that you crest just before the water comes into sight, blue and sparkly. It’s like the drive to Macmasters; you climb a little, just before you wind down to the beach. Up there, it’s blue for miles.)
Coastal cities come alive in the summer, and here it is no different. The grey lifts, the sun sweeps in, the parks and the woods burst into vivid green, and the wildflowers grow like weeds. The strawberries go cheap, then make way for the cherries.
Life moves entirely outside. With daylight stretching until 10pm, there is no reason to wander home from whatever beach you’ve bee on, or park you’ve been grilling in. Unless a big old storm rolls in, with plenty of thunder and lightening to break the heat; the perfect end to a long, hot summer’s day. (Best watched with a glass of cold white wine, from the comfort and safety of your cooled-down living room.) Otherwise, summer days beg to be spent entirely outside. If you’re home before 8pm, it better be because you have tired kids, with dirty feet, sandy hair and sticky sunscreen skin, for whom bath and bed is of top priority.
This is my third summer up here. Prior to spending 6 months in a little Dachgeschosswohnung in 2013, while SG did a six month placement in the middle of our Bavarian stint, I was acquainted with only the grey, cold days of winter in Kiel. I knew the promenade running along the sparkling fjord only as a gloomy purveyor of ice winds.
But then the sun came out.
Summer up here is people lying on, and jumping off, the piers that intermittently jut into the blue fjord. It is lying in sunbeds at Hiroshima Park, while kids run screaming through the fountain. It is the beach, and fighting for a park once you’re there. It is barbecues, lots and lots of barbecues. It is piping hot Backfisch with pommes after a day on the beach, with a Danish Softeis chaser. It is sitting at Seebar watching people swim, sipping on a Hugo. It is lots and lots of boats – the big cruise ships, the little white sailing boats, the old wooden tall ships doing tours.
But mostly, summer up here is defined by water. I come from the east coast of a big old island, from a city with one of the most (the most?) beautiful harbours in the world. I grew up spending summer on the central coast beaches of NSW, with every second dinner coming in off the barbie. My summers back home were dry and baking hot, and not so green, with more bindis than wildflowers. But they were spent in, around, and by the water.
Up here, they love water as much as I do. We were always going to get along. Especially in the summer.