It has been two years since I was in Berlin for the Christmas season. Last time I visited there was no pandemic, only a faint murmur on the media wind of a new virus that was running amok in China, in a city called Wuhan. I had never heard of it.
I spent that Christmas being shown the seasonal sights of Berlin by my beloved. She took me to the City Weihnachtsmarkt in the centre of Berlin and I goggled at the huge Christmas Pyramid and drank in the sights and wonderful smells coming from the stalls as we pushed through the crowds. We visited the Christmas Garden at the Botanischer Garten, wandering entranced through tunnels of stars, leafy dells bathed in mysterious laser clouds and lawns that danced with rainbow lights. She even took me to a traditional fair where I tried my hand at archery, drank Gluhwein while I watched fire eaters and then staggered home with bags of freshly baked bread.
This Christmas in Berlin is very different. Necessary restrictions kept us apart for the last one, and I didn’t believe until I was sat in the seat on the plane that I was actually going to make it to Germany this year. Unwilling to risk the crowded trains to get to the city, we have stayed close to her home near the lakes. We have relaxed in each other’s company, played games, written words and taken walks. It has been a blissfully quiet retreat that has helped me detox from a difficult year.
And some things, the really important ones, have not changed. The warm hug from her dad, collecting me from the airport. The smell of fresh baking when I walked through the house to more welcoming hugs from her mum and sister. Small stringed lights, baubles and stars decorate every nook and cranny around the house, turning it into a magical grotto. I am proud to say that my own contributions of Gonks and paper chains have now found a place among them.
I have been embraced in a warmest way by her family, spoilt rotten with wonderful food and drink. I fly back to my own family in a few days feeling loved and cherished. I am truly blessed.
Merry Christmas Everyone.