If Berlin is anything like my mother, who can’t fall into a deep slumber unless it’s pitch black in her bedroom, then the German capital must be quite sleepless these nights. Since the only other time I visited Berlin, some 18 years ago, was in the dead of winter (and that week still holds the distinction of being the coldest I’ve ever been indoors, as the heater in my no-star hotel was either non-existent or permanently on the blink), I wasn’t fully prepared for the surprises of Berlin during the summer.
First, it felt like New York City in autumn, which, though unexpected, was more than welcome after several days spent melting under the sweltering Arabian sun in Dubai. But I didn’t expect the cooler temperatures to come with so much sunlight — not sunshine, mind you (my flight from Abu Dhabi landed at 6am, under a layer of big fluffy white and gray-tinged clouds that never lifted completely during my first day here in Berlin), just sunlight. It was still brightening up the city, though only slightly, at 10pm shortly before I went to bed.
When I woke up and saw morning peeking through the blinds of the bedroom window in my rental apartment, I was impressed. Was Berlin already having such a positive influence on my insomniac soul that I had actually slept through the entire night? A quick glance at my watch on the night stand dashed my enthusiasm. It was 4.25 am. I was still pretty psyched that I’d gotten six hours of straight mostly uninterrupted sleep, but why wasn’t it still dark outside? (That’s a rhetorical question — it doesn’t take being a geography major to know the answer.)
This doesn’t bode well for my jetlag, I thought. My body is already fooling me into thinking it’s three to six hours ahead, now the “night” sky is going to be in on the trickery, too. Is it still nighttime if there’s no darkness involved? “Morning” and “evening” refer to specific periods in the 24-hour cycle, but don’t “day” and “night” refer to the hues that are generally associated with those respective cycles.
Furthermore, my curiosity is likely to get the best of me. Was it still sort of light at midnight? At 2am? At 3? Is it actually evening (technically, the period of decreased daylight between afternoon and night) all “night” long? There’s only one way to find out (short of doing it the boring way and seeking out someone’s else’s experience online), which will mean resisting the urge to turn in before late-night German TV kicks in. (Observation No. 3: Unlike in Buenos Aires and Bangkok, where there is a huge selection of English-language channels, Berlin, or at least the cable plan in my rental, offers only two options: CNN and the BBC news channel, which means I’m about to become as educated about the Travyon Martin/George Zimmerman case as I should have been all along. So far I can see it from both sides regarding the verdict.)
This could get interesting. Will I take advantage of all the daylight and go running at peculiar hours, or will my bacchanalian tendencies win out? There’s a tempting little pub by the entrance of the building that had an attractive collection of patrons sitting on its stoop around 7pm yesterday. Should I have my first beer with Fanta there?
As someone who feels exponentially worse about going too crazy out on the town when I stumble home as the sun is coming up, my walks of shame might be about to get even more guilt-ridden.