10th December 2010

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Notes from a snowstorm

It’s odd how much being here affects my perception of the seasons. 

This was a hot summer in Vienna, by any measures. But in my memories it becomes the summeriest of all summers—the heat of the colorful crowds, sunscreen and my ridiculous sunglasses every day, the sudden deep cool of the churches, longing for the river. Ice cream was part of my budget, since it seemed perfectly normal to eat it almost every day. I would take note of how the buildings cast shadows so that at any time of day I could plan a walk that never left the shady side of the streets. 

It was as if I had lived my whole life in summer, with no conception of constantly overcast skies or rain that was not a relief. And in a way I had. My life here began in July; I grew up in the summer, at the start of my long strange year in Europe. Every day was a tentative step forward, pinning up new details to my mental chart, gleaning information to construct my German-speaking world. And that was what I knew. Everything was happening for the first time.

It’s sort of silly to say I had no conception of November, but that’s how it felt at the time. Autumn was fine—the leaves were beautiful, as they are at home, but I wasn’t really prepared for the rest of it. No more baking hot sidewalks, no more blinding river sunlight, no more bright colors. I remember all five or six days when we saw blue sky in November. I would get so excited, like an animal that realizes the world hasn’t ended when the sun comes up in the morning. But surely the ratio of blue sky to overcast isn’t that different at home. I actually like Novembers in New England, or I’ve found things to like—the beauty of the twisted weeds and tree silhouettes, the first fire in the stove, the first snow. But it was all suddenly frightening and alien, and I thought that maybe the whole winter would be coldish and gray and rainy, like an animal that thinks the world ends when the sun goes down.

The first snow came on November 24th, which is also a perfectly reasonable time to have the first snow at home. And everything was okay again. Besides, it coincided with the beginning of Advent, when the whole city starts to get ready for Christmas.

The first snow is always exciting, but sometimes here it feels like I’ve never seen snow before. Perhaps that’s because the snow hasn’t stopped falling for very long since the first flurry, to the delight of everyone except the drivers. I tried to imagine why the snow here, especially, makes me so suddenly happy, and I thought: November is a slow loss of everything since spring and summer, but snow adds something new, by covering everything up with itself. A positive change in the landscape. And novelty is always fun.

So I could say I haven’t posted anything new in over a month because I’ve been snowed in, but that just isn’t true—though it might be, if the weather stays like it is now. Novembered in would be more correct, anyway. In fact, I’ve gotten to get out and do a disproportionate amount of exciting and interesting things, which I’ll write about and try to post in chronological order.

Also, I really love the way streetlights look in the snow. These are some night pictures of Marburg during the heaviest parts of the last storm.

My dorm is near the train tracks, and the road to town crosses a bridge over them.

At the end of the bridge.

View over the soccer fields near the river, from the bridge.

Tagged: OberstadtSpeculationsphotoswalksMarburg


  1. lettersfromdeutsch posted this