Alle Jahre wieder. It’s the same every winter when the first snowflakes slowly fall from the grey, Winterdepression-inducing sky: winter chaos on German roads, railway tracks, airports, and sidewalks. As if they had never experienced snow before (or changing seasons, for that matter—it’s always too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for immer wieder aufs Neue suprised Deutsche), Germans struggle to cope with Schnee. Everyone who has not switched summer for winter tires (Sommer- und Winterreifen–all season tires are for Americans) either slides across the road for some Blechschaden or frantically tries to get a Termin with their Autohändler, an appointment with their car dealership of choice to get the season-correct tires montiert (I suggest to have that done BEFORE the first snow will mostly likely fall, but so much concerning the world-renowned Voraussicht, the farsightedness of Germans who usually plan everything in advance—or so you would think). At least you might get some blankets and hot beverages from the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (or the Johanniter [Protestant] or Malteser [Catholic] paramedics or whoever comes along in their Krankenwagen) when you are snowed in, or eingeschneit, on the Autobahn. Maybe all those with eingebaute Vorfahrt should wait for the Schneepflug in front of them to plow away the snow instead of overtaking it and then possibly sliding straight to death instead of cursing the driver of the plow.
And beware of the Deutsche Bahn (this Institution begs for an entry of its own on this blog). In the summer, you might pass out because the Klimaanlage (AC) is out and windows cannot be opened. In the winter, you might want to think of taking extra clothing with you so you don’t freeze to death, or erfrieren, in a Deutsche Bahn railroad car. Or at least bring some extra time with you because the Deutsche Bahn might have trouble clearing snow off the tracks, thereby leading to Verspätungen (delays). A little snowfall can also aus dem Konzept bringen an airport—it screws up its daily Schönwetter (fair weather) routine. Runways need to be cleared, airplanes defrosted. Beware of Verspätungen.
Many things in Germany are regulated. One regulation states that the owner of a house has to clear the sidewalk in front of it off snow (in some towns 1.50 meters, in other 1.75 meters, in wieder anderen … you get it). If you live in a rented apartment, you might want to check your contract—because it might stipulate that YOU have to do the Schnee schippen (lucky you if the janitor takes care of that). And don’t forget to streuen—either throw salt or gravel (Streusalz and Winterstreu–what a fancy name for sand or Splitt) on the cleared path. One could only wish that everybody actually did Schnee schippen and streuen … But that is only wishful thinking, and because of Germans’ erratic snow clearing regime, walking becomes something like a Hinderniskurs, an obstacle course, circumventing icey sections, crossing the street to avoid Tiefschnee parts of a couple of centimeters of snow, just to cross it again. Hals- und Beinbruch (break a leg)–literally.
I enjoy Schnee. But only when I sit in a warm room and watch the Schneeflocken (snowflakes) pile up on each other outside. There are the Wintersportbegeisterte, the winter sports fanatics, though. Not all of them are Bavarian. Actually, es gehört zum guten Ton (it’s customary) to have your kid practice the Klavier (or piano), send it to Gymnasium, and do a winter vacation or two (which need not be around Weihnachten [Christmas] but could also be around Ostern [Easter] where the Schneekanonen [snow cannons] roam), most preferably in the Alpen (Swiss and Austrian Alps are fine) to do some Skifahren, skiing (or snowboarding for the more youthful—or whatever is in at the moment). Abfahrt, or Ski Alpin, that is. Langlauf (cross-country skiing) is not hip enough (and you would “only” go to the Sauerland or eastern Germany for that, and who actually wants that). If you lack the funds for such trips, at least buy your kids a Schlitten (sleigh) and see if you can find a hill near your Reihenhaussiedlung of alike-looking houses. There will still be time to watch the winter olympics or some other winter sports tournament where Germans win all the medals …
Each winter day is a day less until summer arrives.