Berlin has claimed to be the ‘greenest’ capital out there or at least, rumour has it. Yes, I know that the European Commission declared Copenhagen as the “European Green Capital of 2013”, yet I am not talking about the environment here, but mere green spaces and in this sense, Berlin comes up the list, easily. With more than a fifth of the city being covered by trees, Berlin is a place where, once summer arrives, green is the colour you will stumble upon and in all its varieties. Considering this, the most delightful thing about the extent of nature and green spaces here, is the freedom one is given to explore them. Whether you head to the Zoo, stroll down the Grunewald forest, ‘climb’ the mountain and enjoy the view from Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg, get lost at the Spreepark, do Sunday Karaoke at Mauerpark or go canoeing on the Müggelsee: Berlin offers nature at its best and the chance for you to take full advantage of it.
Accordingly, people do take nature and outdoor activities seriously. And you should, if you consider the wintery months. Winter is tough, very. It is so dark, grey and especially mercilessly cold, that once you start feeling your limbs again, you want to get them properly heated up with some sun. As a consequence, as soon as spring makes space for some proper sunshine, the whole city goes absolutely mental, the state of euphoria is such, you feel the pressure of getting out there and never coming back inside. Eventually, you end up joining the three and something million Berliners either by grilling the entire city's stock of sausages in public parks, swimming in the thousand and one lakes that surround the city or doing one of the most typical things you do: get a beer at a späti (spaeti) , find a (green) spot and sip away.
Better known as späti, this phenomenon is one of the most ubiquitous things I’ve encountered in Berlin. The concept of the ‘convenient store’ or night shop is not precisely typical from Berlin, but you will stumble upon one on every single corner of the eastern part of the city. So convenient, so omnipresent that before you know it, you will make use of it, a lot: on your way to the park, from the park, on your way back home or your way out. The späti is the propeller of the summer nights in the city, as it provides cheap and cold drinks for you to take. Likewise, the beer or club mate ‘to go’ are incredibly popular, becoming the main characters of the Berlin scene of sitting, waiting, wishing and sipping away.
In a place where the drinking culture is based on the ‘drinks to go’, it is hard not to fall into the cosy trap of spotting a green area and publicly sipping a brew or my personal favourite: a ‘Rhabarberschorle’- sparkling rhubarb juice. Also, viewed that public drinking is basically allowed, the temptation of grabbing a brew and setting camp wherever is constantly there. You just can’t let go of it… On top of that, Berlin has such an amount of green and lovely spots; you tend to forget you are in a city, a German one.