When I moved into my house in Berlin’s former East years ago, one of the typical lime trees lining our street had grown so far towards the house that someone had put a Christmas bauble on the twig reaching up to my kitchen window. I enjoyed the gentle tap tap during windy days and never removed the bauble. Nowadays, the authorities look a little closer and there is a lot of trimming going on.

Not long ago, I was able to watch a pair of so-called tree surgeons ‘preparing’ city trees for the cold months. I was sitting outside with a rapidly cooling coffee when the spectacle began. Truth be told, I felt for this particular tree, which was still in full (yellow) foliage glamour. The show began – he to swing the chainsaw, she to watch and secure both him and the surrounding area. It was downright vaudeville material, the way they talked all the way through preparations and there was a lot of bragging going on from his side, bordering strongly on flirting. Meanwhile, they both looked supremely important in their flashy safety outfits.

I watched the guy being lifted high until reaching the main part of the beautiful crown, and soon he was sawing away with glee. However, the tree must have had different thoughts about the unannounced operation. After sawing off some of the smaller branches, the tree surgeon set about amputating the bigger ones, and at that point either he was too busy showing off, or the tree simply had it.

I had only stopped watching for a few minutes, but suddenly the guy was down on the ground again and I heard the sound of an ambulance in the distance. Still chatting excitedly, the man waved his arm at the approaching paramedics. As it turned out, the tree had thumped him: A big branch he was sawing away at had hit him in the chest and basically floored him.

Next time at the cafe, I was sorry to see that the tree had quickly been operated on by another team, and is now displaying one sole left arm with a small yellow rest of foliage, defiantly pointing up to the sky. This sorry sight got me thinking about what we as citizens do to thousands of fir trees during the month of December. Bought at a convenient wholesaler at a ridiculous price, we put them in overheated homes for two weeks tops and then, come early January, the street corners of Berlin start looking like deserted battlefields: Trees piled upon trees, often for weeks on end as no one really knows or cares about official pick-up days – so the poor things are just lying there, displaying a sad rest of tinsel.

Now, I know that not everyone living in a big city necessarily ends up a tree nut, but here are my five cents: Why not enjoy them WHERE THEY ARE, namely outside? Fir trees stay green all through winter, and for all I know, nobody will mind if you put some tinsel on them – or why not decorate an accommodating linden branch with a bauble? It would be very Berlin.

Merry Christmas!

Berlin Notes: Town of coffee

Photo: Coline Mattée

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