Diary of an Expat, Part 57
Contentless update!
Of all the things that Americans enjoy complaining about, one of the biggest ones is the way that Christmas seems to slowly creep earlier and earlier every single year. In some distant, long-ago place Christmas was chiefly commented on during December; then Thanksgiving formed a reasonable starting point.

I don't know what it's up to in the United States these days, but the Germans have you guys beat. Starting a couple of weekends ago I started seeing advent calendars for sale in the shopping markets; by now these have branched out and are now flanked by a dense protective layer of wreaths, providing a suitably festive air.

It seems to me that if there is a holiday that Berliners really, really get into it's this one. Most of them could care less about Easter or its various associated holidays; May Day comes a little too early for a good protest and German reunification day is still a little bit of a joke in a city that is still settling real estate disputes from the Cold War.

But, as I think I have said, Christmas appears to have experienced a Christendectomy; for all intents and purposes it has the trappings of a religious holiday but none of the religious seriousness. It's secular, but secular in perhaps a more genuine way than it is back in the states.

In the US, if you don't go in for nativities Christmas chiefly has a commercial air — Black Friday and things of that ilk. I'm pretty sure there's no real equivalent of this in Germany, a country where there are fewer Sunday shopping days than Federal holidays.

Here, the focus of Christmas appears to be on mulled wine and companionship, which as reasons for living go I suppose charts pretty highly. It's getting on cold enough where I could really appreciate some mulled wine, or at least some hot chocolate, and some pleasant conversation wouldn't be remiss either.

That's all I really have to talk about, because to be honest I've had a very, very long week and I'd mostly like to get back to — oh! Right.

So a friend of mine sold me his bed, which is made by a German company and patterned after those wooden puzzles that irritating grandparents give you for Christmas as "brain-teasers." It's also larger than my current mattress, which presents two issues:

a) How to get a new mattress home and
b) How to get rid of the old mattress

The answer to the second question is that, apparently, you "rent a car and drive out to" the city dump, according to a friend of mine in the same position. Given that most Berliners don't have cars, I'm surprised I don't see more mattresses lying discarded on the street — but then that wouldn't be a very neighborly thing to do, and it is the holiday season.

The answer to the first question isn't actually much clearer. Apparently Ikea is open tomorrow, in a fit of pique, and maybe I'll wander down to look at their mattresses. I don't have to, I suppose, but I have been trying to become more domesticated — not to any great effect, but the effort is still there.

On the other hand, this means braving the trains and Ikea, and I generally only have enough patience to get me through one of those. Particularly as, if I'm not mistaken, the easiest way to get down to Tempelhof is by taking one of the surface trains from Hackescher Markt, and walking down that way entails making one's way through a series of mostly stationary Germans.

(The thing that you generally do, incidentally, is not Ikea; generally you visit a standalone mattress store — there are many of these in Berlin, which again suggests to me that lots of people are buying mattresses and again raises the specter of what is happening to the old ones. Maybe there are mattress burning parties?)

I would escalate this as a tip to foreign tourists (please move your friggin' ass) were it not for the fact that they're the ones being reasonable and blending in, and I'm the asshole American tapping their foot trying to shove my way through a crowd. Also because I have a better suggestion, which is this:

Germans don't entirely seem as wedded to pumpkins as Americans are during this time period. They seem to mostly interact with them in soup form, and it's really, really good soup. I seriously have not had bad pumpkin soup here and I've had it from like six different places in the last two weeks.

So forget the schnitzel and the spätzle and the pretzel and the striezel (I mean, don't, because it's good, but...). Kürbissuppe. Come here and make that happen :D
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