6 Ideas To Beat The Blues and Survive Winter In Germany
Winter can be a depressing time in Germany, especially for recent arrivals still struggling to find their feet. Whilst many of us may like to dream up romantic images of a Winter wonderland landscape of snow and clear, crisp days, the reality more often than not is very different. Damp days, grey skies and only around 8 or so hours of daylight in the grip of Winter can be tough on anybody's soul, especially if you are used to more sunnier climes.
Being from the U.K., I was pretty much used to this type of weather (although I most definitely am not a fan of it), but what I didn't factor in was that Germans also seem to hibernate in Winter. The outdoors lifestyle of pavement cafes and beer gardens and weekend cycling tours pretty much disappears from late October to the end of March. Sundays especially can be boring when you factor in that all of the shops are closed but the weather is too miserable to get out into the countryside.
To combat the Winter blues, here are 6 suggestions to help you through the dark, grey months of Winter in Germany until we can all rejoice when the daffodils and tulips appear!
1. Learn to Ski
Learning to ski does not always have to mean a pricey trip to the Alps, especially this Winter, with bumper snowfalls in areas which are normally not at all snow-sure. Within easy reach of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hanover, Leipzig and Dresden, it is possible to go skiing for the day if the snow conditions in the mountains allow. If you're in Stuttgart or Munich then you're pretty much spoilt with access to the Black Forest and the Alps practically on your doorstep. All reasonable sized resorts will provide somewhere to rent equipment. Look out for an upcoming post on the best ski resorts in Germany.
2. Visit a spa
Germany is blessed with some of the best spas in the world and the number of officially recognised thermal baths throughout the country is definitely in spolit-for-choice category. Spending a day at the thermal baths is a great way to beat the Winter blues, especially if it's crisp and frosty outside and the pool has an outdoor section! If you really want to splurge and treat yourselves, consider a day in Wiesbaden or Baden-Baden to experience the style of two of Germany's premier spa towns.
3. Spend a romantic night in a castle
If it's cold, grey and damp outside, what better way to stay cosy and warm than spending the night in a fairytale castle for a lot less money than you may think. Enjoy a banquet fit for a knight and relax in the surroundings and olde-worlde charm. A few examples of castles offering overnight accommodation are Schloss Eckberg in Dresden, Schloss Rheinfels and Schloss Schoenburg along the Rhine and within easy reach of the Rhein-Main cities, Schloss Lieser on the beautiful Mosel, Burg Wernberg and Burg Colmberg, both not far from Nuremberg, Schloss Waldeck in Northern Hesse, Wasserburg Anholt in Westphalia
4. Visit museums and galleries
I know this is something which you could do anytime, but saving a trip to a local museum or gallery in your new adopted home city is a great way to spend a cold, wet Sunday during Winter in Germany. Tourist attractions such as these do not close on Sundays and museums and galleries offer a cheap and educational way to spend an otherwise dull day a long way from home. Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt in particular have numerous options to choose from but even smaller German cities will usually have a city museum and gallery and a couple of specific seasonal exhibitions.
5. Take a holiday somewhere sunny
Whilst 2 weeks in Thailand or Bali sounds great compared to Winter in Germany, it doesn't necessarily have to be an exclusive, long distance destination if you're on a tighter budget. The Canary Islands have daytime Winter temperatures around 20 degrees C. Coastal Andalucia in southern Spain and the Algarve in Portugal, even in January, both average about 15. From most parts of Germany it is easy to reach all of these destinations on budget airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and Germanwings. Unless you're Scottish, granted this is not shorts and beach weather, but never underestimate the power of blue sky and sunshine for a few days in the middle of a damp, grey German Winter.
6. Join a sports club
Especially in January, lots of people are focussed on getting fit and sticking to new year's resolutions. Avoid the gyms which are crowded with new year fad members and join a sports club instead. You can beat the Winter boredom and to improve your condition at the same time. Not only are sports clubs more inexpensive than gyms but can also be a great way to meet locals, particularly if you've arrived in Germany recently and want to learn German and get to know some locals in a more relaxed atmosphere than the office. Some Winter-friendly sports which don't require expensive amounts of kit are volleyball, handball, badminton and squash. Look on the website of your local municipality which will usually have a directory of sports clubs (Sportvereine).