Bicultural Urbanite Luke Berlin Summer Loving

Summer bliss at Teufelsberg.
Summer bliss at Teufelsberg. | © Luke Troynar

It’s happened again, thank god. The Berlin sun has returned from its annual sabbatical some place far, far away. From here on in, things escalate pretty quickly. The moment temperatures creep above 15 degrees, the number of people on the streets quadruples and shirt buttons start bursting open with unbridled gusto. The birds are singing, the drinks are flowing, and that peculiar German fondness for nakedness is finding its yearly stride—it’s time for Berlin summer loving.

Since I previously detailed my Australian-native woes of surviving the long Berlin winters, it seems only fair to give the summertime the sterling write-up it deserves. For Berlin is a city of two faces—a seasonal duality so severe it sends well-heeled expats fleeing to sunnier getaways for a sizeable chunk of each year. I know a lovely Kiwi who used to do exactly that: every year he would live six months in Berlin, running some great events, and then head back to New Zealand once the frost started to gather on the old-country cobblestone. I don’t believe I ever saw him without a grin from ear to ear.

Things are heating up along the canal in Kreuzberg. Things are heating up along the canal in Kreuzberg. | © Luke Troynar That said, it can be a beautiful thing to battle through your first grey Berlin winter and come out the other end to witness the whole city suddenly blossom into colour. Like any good treat, it’s all the sweeter when you feel you’ve earned it. And come late April, as a host of seasonal venues along handsome canals are reopening their doors, and quaint strawberry stands are popping up at train stations like summer signposts on the journey to your favourite lakeside hangouts, you know you’ve earned it. The kinder face of Germany’s capital has emerged and, for a short while at least, the good mood is unanimous.
There’s one element of Berlin’s summer season, however, that remains more contentious: the heavy influx of tourists. By the time peak season rolls around in June/July, it can start to feel as if there’s twice as many people in town. And many Berliners—the genuine locals, the longtime settlers from around Germany, the well-seasoned expats—find the hordes of visitors moseying their way through Berlin’s cultural and party scenes nothing but an irksome thorn in their summertime side. I personally find the rush of fresh faces mostly invigorating.

Summer sunsets on Maybachufer. Summer sunsets on Maybachufer. | © Luke Troynar Granted, it’s annoying when large groups of dawdlers clog up the streets and swamp public transport; and of course there’ll always be that appalling brand of tourist who rubs everyone the wrong way. But one mustn’t forget many ‘real’ Berlin settlers were once tourists, too. I’ll certainly always remember my first two-week holiday here soaking up the European sun, long before I had finessed the correct etiquette for placating the locals and blending in. Despite my complete ignorance at the time—or maybe precisely because of it?—that fortnight sticks in my memory as one of the best intervals of my life, and there’s a certain pleasure to watching the latest summer arrivals get their turn.
Love or hate the rush of holidaymakers, one thing is for sure: as an Australian accustomed to an entirely different range of seasons, the glory of Berlin summer is something you have to experience first-hand to really understand. Since temperatures ‘dropping’ to 15 degrees in Melbourne mean my mother cranking up the central heating, it’s initially quite a sight to see folk getting all nude and gleeful in central city parks on what seems a slightly nippy day. Then you settle in, a bunch of years whirl by, and before you know it you’re ripping off your own clothes with a vengeance on a mild spring day. Perhaps that’s what it really means to ‘be’ a ‘Berliner’.