Winter in Berlin: Snow and Ice

As a South African that lives by the coast, winter in Berlin has been a very different experience of winter.  Port Elizabeth's is a coastal city which means the weather is moderate and sunny, if windy at times.  The average winter temperature is between 15-18 Celsius with the odd low or high spike and it's mostly sunny, even in winter.

When I saw how much sun we have in Port Elizabeth, I understood why I felt so depressed by the lack of sun in Berlin. 
Berlin's summer sunhours are just a litte more than PE's in winter!
Berlin has an average winter temperature that hovers around freezing.  This year Europe had a very cold spell as well, which was a whole new adventure!  I'm glad I could experience snow and ice and frozen nose hairs!  Glad to going back to moderate though!  I had to get used to how dark it is here in winter.  Berlin has an average of 37 sunshine hours in December.  It is pitch dark by 4pm, which seriously messed with my mojo! Fortunately, Christmas lights everywhere made the dark seemed more festive and cosy.  The average sunshine hours picks ups rapidly however and the March average is 120 hours!
The first snow of the season...very light.  
I love snow while it's falling.  Peaceful and beautiful!

Just as I thought I have survived the winter, the temperatures dropped quite dramatically.  
At first I thought -8C was cold.  

Then I realised -8C could be considered quite mild compared to -18C.  That was the coldest temperature I  experienced.  
Ice forming after less than an hour
Ice cubes the Berlin-way
Yup, frozen rock hard outside!
Early morning after it snowed during the night.  I checked how much by how many cm's of snow on my balcony's railing
During one snow shower.   This time it was big flakes that quickly covered the ground. 
This is how I survived those cold days.  3 pairs of pants, legwarmers, 2 pairs of socks in furry, watertight boots.  Yes, legwarmers - very 80s Flashdance I know.  Adapt or Die, baby.
Trying to capture the snow falling on me.  
Like in the sun, my skin just goes RED in the cold.  I had to buy new lip-ice as the South African stuff just emulsified in this cold!  
Waiting for a train while it's snowing.  This is the regional train whooshing by.  
Snowing quite hard.  My block of flats in the back ground. 
Fascinated with snow flakes.  Each one really looks different! 
Ducks swimming in the Spree among pieces of ice.  Hardcore! 
Amazing how these birds adapted to severe weather. 
The opposite of a microwave.  Cool stirfry quickly by putting it outside for a few minutes. 
Usually this is a green lawn.  Looks totally different with  snow.
Leafless trees looks amazingly dramatic when covered with snow
Taking pictures while waiting for the bus.  Ja, life goes on even in uncomfortable weather conditions. 


Oldest Jewish Cemetery in Berlin

While there is sunshine in Berlin, I decided to just wander the streets and take pictures of interesting buildings.  I came across this Jewish cemetery in Große Hamburger Straße.  This is the oldest of Berlin's Jewish cemeteries, in use between 1672 and 1827.   It was destroyed in WW2.

The first thing you see is a sculpture of a group of figures depicting hollow-eyed, emaciated adults and children.  Obviously a reference to suffering. 

Apparently the first Jewish home for the aged and a Jewish school for boys were erected right across and next to the cemetery.  While the Nazi's were in power, these building were converted into internment centres from where Jews were transported to extermination camps.  Apparently about 55000 Jews were deported from this site.  

The cemetery is now a peaceful open garden
In I943 the cemetery was destroyed on orders of the Gestapo.  The demolished gravestones were used to reinforce the walls of air raid shelters built on top of the cemetery.  

In the 1980s, the GDR removed the remaining Jewish gravestones and the wooden crosses that marked the mass graves for soldiers and civilians killed during Allied air raids.  Apparently about 3000 war victims were buried here.  

A symbolic grave of Moses Mendelssohn (a Jewish German philosopher that lived in the 1700s.    I think the concrete part behind the gravestone is a sarcophagus filled with destroyed gravestones

Note the stones on top of the grave stones.  It's apparently a Jewish custom similar to leaving flowers.  You place the stones with your left hand.  This custom might have had its origins in the millennia before gravestones existed.  Then a heap of rocks indicated that a person was buried there. 
I think this might be pieces of gravestones used to reinforce the shelter walls?  

These gravestones were not removed by the Nazi's as they couldn't pry them from the walls.  

It looks like fire damage...maybe during bombing?

View from one end of the cemetery
A little memorial hidden between trees.  The candle was burning.


St Nikolai church in Berlin

I love old buildings and there are plenty of those in Berlin!  So, one cold Saturday I went to the oldest church in Berlin, St Nikolai church.  The church was built between 1220 and 1230.  Unfortunately due to bombing in the second world war, large parts of the church had to be reconstructed in the 1980s.  Yes, it took the GDR more than 30 years to even start the reconstruction!  The church is not in use as a church any more but is a well organised museum.  You have to pay for everything though - entry fee, audio guide and you have to pay 2euro to take pictures.  And so I payed and here are some of the 100s of pics I took.

An oak statue of St Nicolas 

The church is filled with tombs payed for by rich families.  They are beautifully decorated . 

This painting of a pious family shows the church as it was used in the background.  

These windows were damaged by bombing

An example of damage done by bombing. 
One can sit on the galery, put on headphones and listen to choral music. 
View of the church while listening to the music.  Stunning.
More ceiling and pillar detail. 

People who bought space for tombs in the church also commissioned the most beautiful ornate scroll work.  I've taken a few pictures of these railings. 
A pillar

The altar piece is spectacular

I totally loved this altar cloth
One of the little scenes on the altar cloth.  This picture is taken from the computerised display. 

This is a picture of the actual altar cloth. 

Here is the real chasuble dating back from the late 1400s.  Amazing. 

You can sit and watch a a presentation on the history of the church and area.  Your audio device automatically syncronises with the looping presentation.  
How the church looked in previous centuries

View of this huge church from the back