BERLIN, Germany — For most Germans, the blizzard that hit the country over the weekend was a true nightmare. Hundreds of flights were canceled and airports and highways were closed. At the French border trucks were delayed for hours. On the Baltic Sea, some car drivers found themselves stranded in the snow overnight, and the Red Cross intervened to provide them with blankets and warm drinks until the police could reach them. The government declared an emergency and instructed the population to stock up on basic supplies for up to four days.
Yet on Sunday, a morning stroll through the snow in the Berlin's Regierungsviertel, the capital's government district, revealed a very unexpected and amusing sight. Some active Berliners had found a way to make the most out of the foot of snow that was covering the city, turning some of the its most well-known spots into a winter sports arena.
(A snowboarder slides off the very steep slope below the exclusive kindergarten for the chidren of German members of parliament — Quirin Wildgen/GlobalPost)
Undisturbed by public officials, a group of snowboarders converged on familiar architectural features of the governmental buildings in the district of Mitte, appropriating them into ramps for their stunts.
(A snowboarder jumps off a staircase next to Marie-Elisabeth-Lueders-Haus — Quirin Wildgen/GlobalPost)
Virtually any concrete shape with a slope became part of their game: the steep incline below the bridge of the exclusive kindergarten for the children of German members of parliament, the staircases that lead down to the riverbanks between the Paul-Loebe-Haus and the
Marie-Elisabeth-Lueders-Haus. It all took place within 500 meters of the Reichstag, the building that houses the German parliament.
(A snowboarder jumps off a wall with the Reichstag in the background — Quirin Wildgen/GlobalPost)
"I heard the weather forecast for the weekend, and I was so frustrated about not being able to go snowboarding," said a 26-year-old who declined to have his name associated with the stunt (just in case). "Then the other day as I was driving near here, I saw all these ramps covered in snow, and I figured that by Sunday there would be even more. So I said to myself, I might not be able to go to the mountains, but nothing stops me from having fun right here."
(A snowboarder jumps off a staircase and then off the ramp he built with his friends. The trick consists of touching the wall with the bottom of the board, which is why the wall looks like it has been bombarded with snowballs — Anna Lai/GlobalPost)
The process was not a quick one: Armed with shovels, the snowboarders gathered snow from less interesting flat areas nearby in order to thicken the layer that covered the ramps. Next they amassed the snow into soft spots to crash on in case of emergency landings. Finally they were ready to slide, much to the amusement of the small crowd of bystanders that had by then gathered to watch.
(A snowboarder jumps off a wall on the riverbank opposite the Reichstag — Quirin Wildgen/GlobalPost)
It was a humorous race against time — as well as against the city employees in charge of shoveling the staircases for the safety of pedestrians. But the happy team managed to be always one step ahead of them.
"Just try to do that in D.C.!" said another one of the snowboarders.
Down by the river there were also cross-country skiers, who glided quietly along the rounded, snow-covered river's edge past a swan or two. They and a few diehard runners in particular seemed to be enjoying the silence of the riverbank, broken only by the cool jazz notes of a musician, whose tunes were heard very clearly thanks to the extraordinary acoustics of the place.
(A cross-country skier glides along the riverbank next to the Marie-Elisabeth-Lueders-Haus in the government quarter, or Regierungsviertel — Anna Lai/GlobalPost)
(A runner passes under the bridge that connects the Paul-Loebe-Haus and the Marie-Elisabeth-Lueders-Haus in the government district of Berlin — Anna Lai/GlobalPost)
(A musician plays some jazz in the freezing morning next to the kindergarten for children of members of parliament — Anna Lai/GlobalPost)
(Winter isn't the only time of year when Germans find creative spots for their outdoor activities. Check out photos of surfers in Munich, a land-locked city.)
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Quirin Wildgen's name.