North German Impressions: Winter

Winters in North Germany are mild and tend to be a bit glum. Snow is rare and if it does come, it is usually just a few flakes and not more than 2 cm.

This winter has been particularly mild. In December I found new blossoms on my rose bush and a small daffodil was blooming over Christmas. Rose im Dezember12366457_1064847266880393_7209227666087789598_n

In January we had a short spell of cold weather and everyone was speculating whether it would get cold enough for the lakes to freeze. Ice-skating and ice-hockey are the only wintersports in this part of the world . Well, the ice never got thick enough, but I am glad  I had the opportunity to take some  walks with the dog, catching a bit of winter spirit.

After 5 days of frost the temperature climbed back to 11° C and since then we have had a mixture of fog, wind and rain. Lot’s of rain. The ground is full of water and can’t take any more and as often at this time of the year the fields around the river Stör are flooded.

So, how do North Germans get through winter?

Basically, only by  looking forward to spring, watching winter sports on TV, meeting friends and wearing watertight clothes. And searching the sky over Hamburg for some signs of weather change.

View from the office
View from the office

What North Germans talked about this week: Prokon, Traffic and the weather

Maybe you have heard about ‘Prokon’. It is a company financing and building wind power plants. It employs about 500 people in its office in Itzehoe. There have been rumors about the company’s business policies being questionable.

Last week ‘Prokon’ announced the danger of a planned insolvency and made it very clear that the reason for it are investors pulling out money. They appealed to  their investors to sign a statement that they would leave their money in the company until  October and  asked people who wanted to withdraw their money to sign a form stating  that they were aware they  were contributing to the company’s bankruptcy.

Of course there have been many discussions and comments in the newspapers  trying to answer the question, whether it Is  right to put that kind of moral pressure on investors. However, when people talk about ‘Prokon’ they talk about the decline of the area around Itzehoe.

One of the biggest employers in Itzehoe is ‘Prinovis’, one of five or six printing houses in Germany. “Geo” magazine, “Stern” and many other well-known magazines are printed in Itzehoe.’ Prinovis’ will close this year. About 1000  work places will be lost, and some estimate that 2.500 others are endangered. Some years ago the government withdrew the military sites in and around Itzehoe. Soldiers and their families left the region,  and another few thousand jobs were lost. The threat of another 500 jobs gone is indeed an alarming prospect.

Empty shops in the center of Itzehoe
Empty shops in the center of Itzehoe

Itzehoe is a rural center and could be a nice little town to visit. During the last months more and more shops have closed. This afternoon I counted 8 empty shops, and you can’t blame that on amazon, eBay and zalando alone. It is sad to see, how a to town and its surrounding are going down.







How the finished cover could look according to the "Hamburger Abendblatt"
How the finished cover could look according to the “Hamburger Abendblatt”

Another topic widely discussed  and talked about is the planned cover across the A 7. The A 7 is one of the most frequented motorways in Germany, going from the Danish border at Flensburg to the very South of Germany. In Hamburg the  A 7 turns into a 3.3 km long  tunnel going underneath  the river. The A 7 is notorious for its traffic jams. To change that there shall be a new lane on each side between the Elbtunnel and Bordesholm. The motorway running through the city shall get a cover  in three places. On top of the cover shall be parks, playgrounds and walkways. All existing lanes shall remain open while the building goes on, but  they will be narrower and there will be no place at the side for broken down vehicles.  Many people are afraid of even longer traffic jams, of building noises and accidents. Being stuck in traffic myself almost every morning I am not looking forward to the hustle with all that building, but in the long run it will be a huge improvement both for the traffic situation and for the quality of life of those who live close to the motorway. We commuters at work are already exchanging ideas which side route to take.






Of course, like everywhere in the world, people are talking about the weather. We have had a lot of rain, dark days without sunshine and very mild temperatures up to 12°C. Here and there you find things blooming, that shouldn’t and when walking across the lawn my heels disappear into the ground. Shall it get cold next week? Will we have frost, or even snow? Each day, when walking the dog, I discuss these questions with one neighbour or the other, I think it is great not to have any snow but if I should believe the radio forecast there is a chance of snow during the next days. Then it takes at least half an hour more to get to work as we all have forgotten how to handle a car when there is snow on the road.

Golden October

My youngest sun was born at the beginning of October and I cannot remember that we had any of his birthday parties inside. The last days of September and the first weeks of October are usually warm and sunny during the day and only at night the temperatures drop down to under 10°C.

When I walk the dog around 5.30 am it is very chilly and still totally dark.  An hour later, when I leave for work the sun is coming up and fog starts forming over the fields. Dew covers the grass and flowers. Later in the day the sky turns blue and the autumn colours are clear, bright and powerful. Around 6 o’clock the temperatures start falling and by 7 o’clock it is almost dark.

Sun coming up at the Stör

The 3rd of October is a public holiday (German reunification) and I took off work for a few day. One morning when I woke up early I took a walk along the river Stör, which flows not far from Hohenlockstedt.  it is only a small river, but very popular for canoeing. This morning however it was totally quiet and I could enjoy my “Golden October”.

Early morning at the Stör
Early morning at the Stör

I don’t exactly know why this period is called “Goldener Oktober”, but maybe it has something to do with the special light at this time of the year. In the mornings and evenings it is often a bit hazy, giving everything a mellow, “golden” touch.

At no other time of the year will you find that many colours and different lights as in early October. A sunny bright autumn dayThe first yellow and red leaves appear on the trees and the fruit and vegetables which are now ripe  are a feast for the eyes.  I visited my parents on Sunday and took home some goodies from their garden. The taste and aroma of home-grown apples is special and in my opinion no apple bought in a shop can measure up to it. Please note, that grapes are also growing in North Germany, proving that the weather in the North is much better than it’s reputation.  Grapes grow in North Germany, tooI am looking forward to apple cake

However, according to the weather forecast the weather will turn to cold, grey and rainy during the next days, as always when approaching mid-October. I will go back to work tomorrow, happy that I could enjoy these fabulous days out in the countryside.