Brückenschläge und Schlagworte

„Making Strange“, or Snow in Berlin

Another post in the seasonal department, I feel compelled to write about the beauty of snow.

There is a really good German film called Jenseits der Stille (English Beyond Silence). Now I love German film in general, but this one is especially great. It tells the story of a girl born to deaf parents who has regular hearing ability herself. She learns how to play the clarinette and her music threatens to alienate her from her family because they cannot understand it. At this point I’d just like to say: Watch it, it’s beautiful. Anyway, in one of the very intimate moments between her and her father, they stand and look at snow falling, and he asks her (signing of course): „What does snow sound like? What does it tell you?“ And she answers: „Honestly, snow doesn’t talk much. They even say snow drowns out all the noise. When snow is falling, everything is very quiet.“

Now, Berlin is never quiet. But it is quieter when it is as snowed in as it is now.

Tramtracks snowThe cars go slower, their motor screams muffled in white thickness, and on the large streets they disperse the dirty greyish substance that’s left on the floor like dust. The tram tracks disappear underneath it too.

The way the snow mixes with granulate on the sidewalk reminds me of little villages in Austria where we used to go skiing, and of walking to a gondola that will take you up the mountain where the sun is crisp and the snow is sparkling.


An untouched glistening surface, so pure, so innocent, is sitting between parking cars on the sidewalk. And once it is broken in, there is a trail, showing a path, leading the way into any new adventure. Both images have their very own beauty inscribed into them. Foothigh, there is snow in my yard, laying all the tiny bushes my neighbor is nurturing with so much care, tiny red blossoms peeking out of the covers. The most bizarre plant there is the cactus reaching out high, with his sad little leaves wilting in the cold, like he was having a bad-hair-day.

tracks in snowcactusphoto 5

Snow is covering the roof of the pretty old church in Bohemian Rixdorf in Berlin Neukölln that still carries substance from the 15th century, although most of it has been rebuilt after several destructions in wars. It reminds me of the pretty wooden churches I have seen in Slovakia and Ukraine. This being an area that was first settled by protestant refugees from Bohemia in 1737, and with the church having been rebuilt in 1757, it figures, and the visual evidence of the Eastern influence excites me.  As the church now overlooks the Rixdorf Christmas Market (one of the more traditional ones), its red roof tiles sugar coated, it looks like it was taken out of a fairy tale.

Church Rixdorf

Streets, cars, yards and churches – it all looks different, it is as though the world was in its entirety a work of art in which the artist had distorted, estranged reality for the on-looker to see it anew, as though laying eyes upon it for the first time. I didn’t come up with this concept of „making strange“ or „defamiliarization„, a guy called Viktor Sklovskij did about a hundred years ago, even before the master of German 20th century theatre, Bertolt Brecht, brought the idea to his drama theory. But it is exactly how snow works. I don’t just recognize things I know, walking past them in an unaware, unconscious manner. Instead I look at them, I see them, and I allow myself to rethink them from a new perspective.

Snow makes me look at the world differently. It allows me to rediscover things I thought I knew and see them in a new light and sound – whiter. Quieter. What a gift.

10 Kommentare

  1. I know exactly how you feel about snow! I still get excited about the first snowfall of every year, haha. And Berlin is great! 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s magical. I don’t remember much snow last year, there’s never a guarantee for it, and I love that there’s been so much this year! And yes, Berlin is an amazing place. I freaking love it 🙂 always glad to hear that the expat-community values it just as much, if not more so than the locals.

  2. What a beautiful reflection. I can’t wait for it to snow here!

    Driftwood and Daydreams

    • Thank you, Aryn! I gather from your blog that you’re in Florida? Is it gonna snow there? I was in Miami for Thanksgiving once and it was warm enough for the beach! 🙂

  3. I love snow too. I grew up in Canada and the first snow of the year was always my favorite. In North Carolina we are lucky if we get a couple inches all year! I visited Berlin this summer and the mood was quite different… I would love to see it in the winter.

    • Oh yes, summer and winter make two completely different cities out of Berlin – as I suppose is the case in any city… Do come back to Berlin during the winter, it’s got lots to offer! Even though now the snow is all melted, it doesn’t look like we’ll be so lucky as to have a white Christmas – but it was wonderful while it lasted.

  4. Oh your writing always makes me dreamy! Was snowing here in Zurich today and I feel the snow here is much quieter than snow in Bucharest which for me is more wild and alive – I don’t know why.
    I grew up in Asia so there’s no chance of snow there, so I enjoy every step I make in the snow. Also seeing and feeling snow falling on my dark hair and face, such a beautiful feeling.

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 24, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      What a super sweet compliment, Aggy – making someone dreamy is definitely not the worst thing that could happen 🙂 When I lived in Texas, my friends there didn’t know snow from their homes either, only from going skiing in New Mexico. For me that was completely incomprehensible and really a bit sad. So you enjoy your winter wonderland in Zurich now!

  5. Oh what a poetic reflection 🙂 I have sometimes the feeling that snow can also change a city into a chaotic mess… traffic jams etc. so the mood is definitely different when there is some snow around. I was recently in Zermatt and I definitely prefer this ski resort with some snow. The summer mood is kind of strange (my opinion)

    • bridgekeeper

      Februar 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks, Anita! You’re right, snow is completely different outside of the urban spaces 🙂 I was in Zermat once as a child and remember being utterly impressed by the Matterhorn. I wish I could remember more, seems it is time to go back – and best during winter, apparantly 🙂

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