Winter hasn’t really come to Munich yet (oh jeez… now I’m really asking for it). There’s only been snow on the ground once, and for less than twenty-four hours. The only time the temperature was really cold was at the end of September. I’ve been comfortable in a hoody for the past month or two. And November was even sunny! But since the Christmas markets rolled away and the New Year’s celebrations ended, we’ve been stuck in the slow trudge of seemingly endless cloudy, rainy, and chilly days. Then yesterday, the sky cleared up, the sun came out, and the temperature reached 10°C/50°F . When Daniel saw the sun come out, he took the rest of the day off, we took some beers to the museum lawn, and spent the next few hours soaking up as much as possible.
I once read that Berlin has two kinds of weather: on and off. The same is true of Munich; I’d even say that on a hourly basis, the city is defined by the weather. On moist, overcast days the city feels dead or abandoned. Stores don’t open and people are nowhere to be seen, and those who must be outside look appropriately grumpy about it.
I offered to walk some visitors through the city on their one day in town last month, a project that would generally take all day. On this particular cold and rainy day, we’d exhausted every point of interest I could think of within two hours, because the central open market was empty, the green spaces were gray and mushy, and there was no energy or excitement to hold our interest in any one spot.
But as soon as the sun comes out, the streets are alive. The sidewalks are instantly covered in tables, the lawns fill up with picnickers and football players, and everyone’s gaze is a little higher (some even declare it a vacation day!).
Since January, I’ve been waiting and planning. Waiting for graduate admissions decisions and planning for the contingencies. I think I’ve spent half my time living in Munich hating it and the other half being able to envision a good life in Germany. These aren’t clear-cut divisions, and now that I look back this was probably predictable for someone living in a foreign country. Anyway, during a phase of strong resistance to all things German, applying to American graduate schools felt like my ticket out: out of cloudy Munich, and boredom in a society where I can still only scratch the surface, and the ongoing search for something to do.
And since then I’ve made a big jump in my German skills, Daniel and I spent a weekend visiting Hamburg (where we agree living would be a big improvement over Munich), and we basically finished furnishing the apartment. So, things are looking up.
If I am offered the opportunity to study, I’ll definitely take it, but there are pros and cons in either scenario. When I thought about what a shame it’d be to leave Europe after only having been here for a year and a half and having seen relatively little of it, I decided to spend some unaccounted for time traveling. At first I thought I’d try to see as much as possible along the Southern (read: warm) coast, Venice to Barcelona. Then it was Venice to Malaga. Then as I whittled away at my itinerary to make it a more reasonable undertaking, I realized that Medieval Islamic history in Andalucía is the thing I’m most excited about seeing, so I decided to land in Barcelona, head south, and take it slow.
It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds.