This winter has been one of the greyest on record in Germany. Never mind the cold temperatures, it has been the permanent cloud that has really got the population into a depression these last few weeks, with few people venturing out in their spare time. There was really only one exception - the wonderful Bremen tradition of Kohl und Pinkelfahrt in January and February.
But yesterday the first sunshine for what seemed like months finally arrived, and today it was even slightly warm. And in Bremen that means that thousands of people, young, middling and old, meet up along the river after school or work, or if they're lucky earlier in the day, to soak up the joy-giving rays of sunshine. And inevitably, most of them get to and from the river by bicycle.
Many people gather in groups on the river dyke to chat, play ball games or have an impromptu drink. Groups like this one, older teenagers, will have cycled at least 2 or 3 kilometres from school, and will be cycling another 3 or 4 kilometres to their various homes. In towns and cities where cycling is not the norm, these events are unlikely to take place. Schoolkids who rely on public transport, walking, or even worse being collected by mama taxi service, find it a real hassle to take such a detour on their way home. But here it is part of the deal that comes with the independence cycling offers.
The great thing is that, on days like this, all kinds of people arrive by bike to enjoy the sun, side by side, in their different ways. As we moved along the river, our first thought was that a fair number of people might have arrived by some other means, since we often spotted them without bicycles. But then we watched as individual started to head off home and, almost inevitably, they walked the 30 metres or so to where their bicycle was parked before cycling off. Far more people, it seems, are cycling into the sun today.