Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel


Phew, it has been cold. It began snowing shortly after we arrived home and for once, it actually stuck. Snow rarely sticks around here because our temps are rarely cold enough – we are a mild part of Germany except for light. With light we go all out. Endless summer days and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them winter days. But this February has been one for the books; -13 in our village at night, and most mornings last week I did the Kindy run in -8, which, in my humble opinion, is enormously cold. And some bright, cold sunshine, beaming weakly down from cornflower skies (did you know the cornflower is the national flower of Germany? There you go. In true pragmatic, self-deprecating style, in German it is known as Knapweed. Not quite as pretty as cornflower, but that’s okay. ***) Normally things are pretty dreary this time of year; grey, wet, miserable. I start to go a bit stir-crazy, then into full-blown, tiresome whinging mode, followed by hysterical spring cleaning and then oddly obsintate fashion choices; I like to think that, come March, the winter jacket retires regardless of temp, as do the thicker scarves. After April, I refuse to wear boots. It’s a purely psychological thing, as if wearing lighter clothing will encourage appropriate temps for light clothing. It absolutely bites me on the arse, if you were wondering.

Anyway, here we are, mid-way through the worst month of the year and I am forced to confess, it hasn’t been that bad. Arschkalt but certainly sunnier than January was, a January I skipped which has lost me any credit when it comes to complaining about winter. As if to pay for skipping January, however, we all got beautifully sick this week. Die Lüdde brought something home frmo Kindergarten, gave it to Der Lüdde, lovingly, like a gift, and from there it was coughed onto us big ones. So in amongst the phlegm (Schleim auf Deutsch. Slime. Pragmatic.) and snot and terrible nights of hacking coughs and the occasional fever, I’m washing and bleaching and Durchluften (the art of airing the house out … it’s a German thing. For real.) and administering enormous amounts of Honey Fennel syrup and waiting for spring.

There are signs of spring around. Even though the weather forecast promises temps between -5 and 4 degrees for the next ten bloody days, there are signs of spring. Some mutinous bulbs are pushing through the grass in the garden, thrilled the snow has melted. I’m quite sure a few things that might have survived winter, were unceremoniously killed off by the snowfall and subsequent freeze. The stores have bulbs for sale and florists are selling their little spring bublb arrangements instead of bouquets. That means friends who come over for drinks bring a pot of blooms, and you get a pot of pansies for your birthday instead of a posey. It’s lovely. The air also smells less like winter (dry, cold, somewhat lifeless) and more like spring (wet, earthy, hopeful). I have taken to inspecting any tree I see for new growth. I think the hydrangeas are rustling something up; soon they won’t resemble brown claws breaking through the earth like a corpse.

The best part about winter, is it ending. It’s throwing open the windows and moving, in a rush of warm(er) air, life outside. It’s retiring the winter suits and snow boots and watching the world wake up before your very eyes. It may be cold, but if I listen very carefully, I can hear the rumble of life ready to begin again.


*** So a kind reader alerted me to something, which is that the cornflower, in Vienna, has an historical association with Nazism and absolutely would not thus be the national flower of Germany. I wondered if I had perhaps been wrong in thinking cornflower was Knapweed – perhaps they simply belonged to the same family. But they appear to be essentially the same thing. I first came across the cornflower as Germany’s national flower during a discussion with some German friends a little while ago – we had to google it because no one knew the national flower, and several sources pointed to the Knapweed as such. Anyone care to enlighten me further on this rather interesting subject?


  1. Karin@yumandmore

    18 February, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Such a lovely description of late winter in Germany. We transit between advance signs of spring life in Frankfurt and the deep snowy hills above the Mosel. It’s like going back in time. Like you I look at every tree and shrub to see what’s budding, looking for signs that it’s finally over. Hail to Spring advancing and hau up Winter!

  2. Jule

    19 February, 2018 at 10:09 am

    “did you know the cornflower is the national flower of Germany? There you go. In true pragmatic, self-deprecating style, in German it is known as Knapweed. Not quite as pretty as cornflower, but that’s okay.”

    Not sure where you got that from? I’m German and didn’t know of a Nationalblume, so I tried to look it up, and apparently we don’t have a Nationalblume, just a Nationalbaum, the Deutsche Eiche. The Kornblume seems to be the Nationalblume of Estland, and has some other meanings in other countries, but in Österreich, it was (is?) a sign for Nazis, so I’m pretty sure, Germany would absolutely avoid to make that our Nationalblume. In everyday life I never heard of any negative associations here in Germany, but with that political background – no way that it would become our Nationalblume.

    Well, I personally love Kornblumen, simply as pretty plants. 🙂 But right now I’m just waiting for it to be warm enough that the Krokusse open their buds. 😉 Can’t wait for spring!

    1. Liv

      19 February, 2018 at 11:34 am

      Innnnnteresting. Well, I first found it out a little while back when discussing national flowers of countries, but I didn’t know of the historical connotations. But you know what I think I have done – mixed them up. The knapweed isn’t the cornflower, but belongs to the same family as the cornflower. Shall clarify, thank you!

      1. Jule

        19 February, 2018 at 12:53 pm

        Weird, I tried googling it in English and there it’s on different lists (cornflower/Kornblume and knapweed/Flockenblume), but when I google it in German, mostly questions if and why we don’t have a Nationalblume pop up. I guess someone started that rumor with the cornflower/knapweed on an English website for whatever reason and then everyone who tried to fill up lists with national flowers picked it up and it spread. But we don’t have a national flower, just a national tree. 🙂

        1. Liv

          19 February, 2018 at 3:23 pm

          Yes I googled it in both too and in English found plenty confirming, but in German it was less clear! Super weird. However I did not know that about the tree, so there you go.

  3. crissouli

    23 February, 2018 at 12:11 am

    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    thank you, Chris

    I read your post on a steaming Aussie summer’s day, and for just a moment, shred the cool crisp air of winter… not my favourite season, but I love seeing the contrast.

    1. crissouli

      23 February, 2018 at 12:12 am

      ‘shared’ rather than shred..

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