Quite like a squirrel, I have been preparing for my impending Winterschlaf. Over the years living here, I have developed something of a system as the days shorten and temperatures drop. Some animals grow a wintercoat and store nuts – I grow a fat coat and if I didn’t have a child, or a job, would almost slip into total hibernation. As it stands, I do a partial hibernation (most of it spent awake, yet in my burrow) and an aggressive sort of positive thinking practice that revolves around ‘it isn’t that bad’ and ‘it could be worse’ weather-related mantras.
Whether or not my system is in the slightest bit effective, or indeed healthy, I cannot say – come January, February and March, I bleat and whine and complain on a nerve-grating level, so my system in that respect does not carry me gaily through the stark, bleak, icy, cold, grey, wet tedium of a seemingly endless winter. But it does fool me into believing, for a few weeks, while the leaves turn and there is the smell of woodsmoke in the air, that I can do this.
So how, you may well ask, do I achieve this sense of ambition, this belief in my ability, despite being reptilian, to thrive when all else around me is leafless and lifeless? Well, I eat. This is the best time of year in Germany to eat, not least because you can wear whatever you like to maximise comfort while eating, and no one will know you’re in lounge wear underneath your winter coat. The Christmas treats have already crept out – Pfeffernusse, Stollen, Lebkuchen, chocolate upon chocolate – and will only become more and more abundant as we head towards December. In December, the Christmas markets will roll out the deep-fried, sugar-coated, piping-hot balls of dough, the slabs of cheese-covered woodfired bread, fresh Zimtsterne, roasted nuts, cones of hot chips smothered in mayo – (a dietary, year-round staple, to be fair) hot Glühwein, hot chocolate, hot any sort of sugar and fat, really. And I will be at those markets, shovelling it all in, possibly begrudgingly sharing with die Lüdde who has already displayed an alarming enjoyment of Pfeffernusse. Like her mother before her.
Another part of my system, involves spending plenty of time on my couch, beneath a quilt, as the term Winterschlaf would imply. Late one night last week, as my Mum and I battled the refusal of my 14 month old to retire to bed before 3am, Netflix congratulated us on watching ten episodes in a row. So that was sobering. And a glimpse of what’s to come.
Hot drinks also feature in the system, particularly hot drinks to take away, because Lord knows cafes are not where bossy toddlers want to be for any length of time, and not where fellow patrons want to be with bossy toddlers. Large hot chocolates or very strong coffees funnelled down gullets are key parts of afternoon fresh-air-taking power walks, and when I say key parts, I mean the only way these power walks are remotely palatable on 1 degrees days. Without them, die Lüdde and I would never receive a breath of fresh air.
Soups, namely ones with cream involved, rotate regularly through the dinner menu. Indeed I invested in a very large soup pot just the other day. There isn’t a vegetable I haven’t roasted, pureed in stock, blended with cream, and called dinner.
And that, my friends, is how I spend October, November, and December. Come January, the key part of my survival system is implemented; leaving Germany for four weeks.