Rolling with the Heat Wave

I decide to take a walk after finishing work and drink in the beauty of Planten un Blomen park in full summer bloom. Same spots, always a different, lovely view. Never gets old.

Feeling inspired, I lengthen my route and emerge at the foot of the bridge to Dammtor train station. Now, this bridge is fun to walk on, because it occasionally vibrates, either due to the trains going by not far off or the street traffic underneath. But it’s also notorious for pairs of people with badges lying in wait to pounce on pedestrians, all for the purpose of conducting a survey. “Hello, do you have time, you simply have to stop…” and they then bend and skip to half-block your way.

I’ve caught myself avoiding that walk more than once, and hey, I know most of them are just doing their job, they have a quota to fill, but I just really want to keep moving. I automatically go through a list of polite, but firm responses should I get insistently approached, arrange my face so that I look extra absorbed in the music I’m listening to, hope the sunglasses AND the headphones combined will assure me some peace…and discover the targets of my intended actions are not there! Not one.

I pass like Harry Potter through the barrier at Platform 9 3/4 and everything is fantastic. The sun is shining, everyone around me seems mellow and the train station interior provides a welcome respite from the heat outside. This little experience gets me thinking about the advantages of hot summer weather.

There’s the obvious ones: no coats, no scarves, no sweaters, you can leave the house without the aforementioned and you’ll still be fine in the evening. Heck, you can even leave your umbrella. If it rains, it’ll probably be like a refreshing shower. At this point, optimism reigns supreme. Everything will work out.

Blinds get drawn down starting early in the morning at work and this seems to contribute to the general productivity-inspiring quiet. You’re not that hungry at lunch, but stuff your face with strawberries throughout the day. So healthy. Plus you definitely drink more than your day’s fill of water. The wonderful smell of sunscreen wafts through the corridors.

Nobody is running anywhere. Slower walking is the norm. Even butterflies seem to slow down. Ice cream shops are open late into the evening. It’s totally appropriate to go there for dinner.

Shade discovering skills are as intact as ever, and I don’t want to throw any, I just want to lie in it.




Summer in Germany: The Bare Facts

The picture of a bare-assed man on a bike snapped from the back is what first stops my gaze during a routine afternoon online browse in one of Hamburg’s local papers. Then with a rising feeling of foreboding I read the headline: Phew, It’s Warm! In the Car, In the Garden – Where You Can be Naked and Where Not. In this case, “can” translates as “allowed”, and by allowed one obviously means the law.

We are a few hours away from another heat wave after weeks of cooler weather and once again everyone is preparing. The city is serious about this, with memories of last year’s summer still fresh. Even the DJs on my favorite morning radio show suggested taking care of anything that needed to be done ouside today, because, to quote Disney’s The Little Mermaid, “It’s gonna be hot in my big silver pot”.

People are also serious about this, and apparently some might go so far as to bare all in search of relief from the heat or a blatant display of confidence. While I sincerely hope we will avoid running into each other (please, God, no), Germany’s so-called Freik√∂rperkultur (FKK), translating as free body culture, is known the world over. Somehow we didn’t cover the topic all those years ago in my German classes, but now it’s definitely visible to the naked eye.

I decided to finally research the subject to know my rights as a clothed citizen and, to be fair, those of the “textile-free”. The aforementioned article provided some useful bits of information. First of all, walking around without clothes in Germany is not punishable by law. However, being able to continue with the decision depends on a combination of the chosen location, legal details in laws relating to misdemeanors and disturbance of the peace, various safety regulations, and, perhaps most importantly, on whether or not other people glimpsing you naked on your bike or balcony feel “disturbed” by the view.

An incident during Germany’s June heat wave in Brandenburg made international headlines, when local police stopped a naked man riding a moped. At least he had his helmet on. A picture posted on the police’s Twitter account was accompanied by a question about how to best caption it, because law enforcement themselves were “speechless”. The moped rider’s answer delivered in local dialect? “It’s warm, isn’t it?”

My questions, meanwhile, are these: isn’t it extremely uncomfortable, not to mention painful, to park your naked butt and additional exposed skin on what will clearly be a very hot surface? Isn’t the discomfort and pain consideration relevant even without hot weather?

Further Googling on being naked in Germany produces a fountain of satisfying headlines. Nudity in Germany: The Naked Truth, mentions nude beaches where disrobing completely is required by all visitors. “Summer in the parks of Berlin and Munich brings the chance of encountering a middle-aged, bronzed German wearing only a hat and the BILD-Zeitung, Germany’s favorite tabloid.” Making notes right now on where not to go, but no worries, public FKK areas are signposted. There’s also a handful of online sources detailing where nude bathing is allowed.

The more straightforward, practical Where to Get Naked in Germany additionally explains the culture and where to live it. Finally, The Dos And Don’ts of Public Nudity in Germany are very helpful for those feeling somewhat lost even after reading the material linked in this post. However, after seeing a suggestion to try nude hiking, I’m done.

My Travel

Summer Airport Notes

“Is this for drugs?” the guy who exited the metal detector frame at Charles de Gaulle Airport asks loudly in an American accent as he points at the security area. Um. Perhaps not the best question to demand an answer to from staff, judging by their facial expressions. Or the best wording. I go on my way.

It’s been another weekend trip through Hamburg and Paris airports. As usual, observations on human nature and additions to my list of travel practicalities are abundant.

Summer travel has always been wrapped in a special mood for me, be it a short getaway or a proper vacation. People aren’t burdened by coats or hats, most often the sun is shining, it’s easier to get around and that wonderful feeling of more time for everything due to longer days fills you up to the brim.

Two teenage girls walk ahead of me in the departure hall. One is trying to strut in what I suspect are currently very uncomfortable heeled sandals she’s been wearing for a while, judging by the many plasters on her feet, and the other is resolutely looking straight ahead while attempting to quickly tug down the hemline of a clingy skirt that just about covers her butt. I think that I will continue to never be that girl and hope she won’t be cold if she trusts herself to sit down, because I don’t see any leggings, just unevenly shaved bare legs. Both girls are lucky I’m just another quiet woman and not some creepy older man approaching them with unasked for advice.

Sandals are great and heels are fine, everyone makes their own footwear decisions. I’m sticking to my discounted black sneakers that I’ve actually become advanced enough to wear with a dress, my jeans (because you can always roll them up if you get hot during a journey, but you can’t roll down shorts, WISDOM) and the ubiquitous scarf you carry around with you after spending a few weeks in Hamburg (air conditioning can be a moody thing).

I stop by my usual shop to get a snack and see two women stop in front of the chocolate bars on display. English-accented conversation commences. “Oh. My God. What is that?” – “That’s a white chocolate KitKat. I love them.” – “Really? Wow! What do you think we should get? I suppose it depends on what you like. Wait. Oh. My God. What’s that? Is that also white chocolate? Oh. My God. I love white chocolate.” And so on.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us standing in line for some pastry, the guy behind the counter is conducting what he thinks is a show. I’ve seen it before on other trips when it was his shift. “Next please, the pretty lady. Yes, the others are pretty too.” More lines like this one follow as he serves the woman ahead of me. When my turn arrives, I get a bit more than I bargained for. “You may gladly become my wife if you’re single. What, you want your order to go? What a shame. But here’s my number on the receipt, you can find me here.” Everyone in line is both a bit perplexed and laughing, myself included, though I leave without saying anything.

The man next to me on the plane dozes off and as often happens you can’t quite avoid not brushing your arm against someone else. We’re both wearing shirts with short sleeves, since it’s summer (see above). The only difference is that his arms are covered with coarse hairs that stand upright and unfortunately even the very brief contact with my skin makes the spot itch. Ew. But at least his head didn’t roll over on my shoulder when he fell asleep.

More importantly, when drinks were served on the plane, my favorite phrase, “Je voudrais un chocolat chaud, s’il vous plait” went down without a hitch.