10
Jan
10

Hamburg winter looks a lot like Montreal

Excerpt from a letter to a friend who has recently moved to the Canary Islands.

You must have the world’s best timing, because you’ve chosen as your first long winter stretch away from Hamburg the coldest, snowiest winter in the dozen years we’ve been here.  Heavy gusts from the latest storm are hammering the windows right now, though it hasn’t dumped on as much as they said it would.  It’s been wintry for nearly a month and there is talk of the Alster lakes freezing over in a couple of weeks if it keeps up.  Did you go out onto the ice the last time it happened – in 1996?

While out on a walk with K. the other day I repeated for the umpteenth time since it turned cold how much the urban layer of snow, mud, slush and grit has snapped me back nearly 20 years to Montreal, when winter would take hold in early November and hang on to the middle of March, sometimes longer.  Friday we both had a day off, so after finally getting out of bed we headed down to the Elbe for a riverside walk.  I’ve said it before, but I really appreciate shift work for the chance it gives to have the city to yourself.  The park was nearly deserted as was the promenade along the Elbe.  We enjoyed the crunch of cold hard snow under our boots, the glitter of sun on the frost, even the wind blowing billows of stinging ice in our faces.

Stopping for hot chocolate at Teufelsbrück we stood watching the ice flow, getting mesmerised as it whispered under our feet.

About a week ago I started to get lots of hits and queries about skating in Holland from my blog post a year ago, so I went over to the natural ice section of the Dutch Skating Union site and found that nothing’s open yet, but this winter looks like it’s going to be a long one!   I’d love to go again, but I don’t know if I’m going to get the chance this year.  I broke my skates playing hockey a week or so before Christmas and haven’t been able to find a replacement pair yet.  The sporting goods stores in Hamburg either have poorly made crap for the masses – really over-priced, too – or gold-plated blades for professionals.  There’s nothing in between.  I wouldn’t mind shelling out for a really good pair, but there’s no value for money here.  It galls me that the price for the same or even a better model of skate in Canadian dollars online is less than if you’re paying here in Euros that are worth 50% more.


16 Responses to “Hamburg winter looks a lot like Montreal”


  1. January 10, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Wasn’t expecting the ice floe! It is mesmerizing.

    My daughter returned to Hamburg from home to -10C. We’re in shirtsleeves. /gloat To be fair, though, Mt. Hermon has had some snow this year. We’re still hoping for more.

    If you want to see the Negev in snow, here’s a youtube from 2 years ago. A rare occurrence indeed.

  2. January 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Wow, the ice flow is beautiful. Went for a run this morning along the Alster canals and kind of loved seeing parts of it frozen over.

  3. 3 G
    January 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Just have a friend or family member send you a pair. At about $6/pound, it sgould cost less than $20 to get a well protected pair. That’s how we import the clothing items we can’t bear to pay 500% on.

    • January 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      G, I’d really like to do that, but after shipping and customs – they’d charge customs, wouldn’t they? – it wouldn’t be much of a savings. Besides, by the time the box got here, winter’d be over! :-)

  4. January 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I have perfect conditions for reading your lovely post this morning – tucked into a blanket and still shivering here on the balmy Gulf Coast. We’ve been in a hard freeze for days. When I got up this morning and looked out at the water, it looked like ice. I was so astonished I threw on a coat and went down to check. Yep, ice. Nothing as impressive as the Elbe, but still…

    The lowest we’ve had here is 21F with windchill of 11F. It’s so cold in Florida the iguanas are dropping out of the trees – they go dormant and can’t hold on. A lot of us Southerners are having trouble keeping a grip, too. :-)

  5. January 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Winter last year and the year before in Toronto were unusually snowy, starting in November and going on till spring. It reminded me of the “real” winters of my childhood (in Montreal), but it reminded my h of his childhood here in Toronto. I wonder if Canadian Tire would ship to Hamburg and if it would be worth the cost?

  6. January 11, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Hello there,
    Yes, Hamburg looks like Montreal in that photo. I’m delighted that we don’t have any snow to shovel here. The ice flow video was amazingly hypnotic. The big hype in the media is focused on the Olympics and creating the impression that all British Columbians are delighted to go into debt to host this extravaganza for the rich. I don’t know a single person who feels that way. The people in Squamish are royally pissed off because they were led to believe they would benefit. Well, the OOC and VanOC have made sure that isn’t going to happen. Everyone will be driving right on by. Before I start ranting about the provincial neo-lib government I’ll stop and wish you a great 2010. :)

    • January 11, 2010 at 7:35 am

      Hi Timethief,

      It is a very controversial event to be sure, and there are many echoes of the argument on both sides that went on before Expo 86. Squamish has been dealt an Olympic-sized raw deal, because they should have at least been given the chance to build a facility for the Paralympics. They didn’t really have much of a chance squeezed in between the sharks on both sides of the Vancouver – Whistler axis, though. It’s all about money and connections, right? Both places have way more than Squamish ever will.

  7. January 11, 2010 at 2:17 am

    The photo is amazing and yes it also reminds me of Montreal winters. I remember a winter in the early 70’s when there was a record 124 inches of snow. Some hung around until May. I’ve heard your having a bit of a rough winter in northern Germany. So far we’ve been lucky here in T-dot, not too much snow just freezing cold. Stay safe…ciao

  8. 11 Jeffrey -- New York
    January 13, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Ian,

    I just returned from traveling around Mexico for two weeks and I can tell you that the Mixtec Indians freezing their asses off in the mountains around Oaxaca City would not be amused about your “global warming” nonsense. Yes, this global cold front has reached all the way into Mexico. In one Mexico City hotel, I had to use three blankets to stay warm. Weather versus climate? Please, don’t embarrass yourself. I would pay good money to put you in front of one of those Indians and have you explain to him the difference.

    • January 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

      If you’re willing to say that it’s OK to keep on pumping our atmosphere with trillions of tonnes of CO2 in the greatest uncontrolled experiment this planet has ever seen with untold consequences for life as we know it, fine. I think it’s stupid. In the meantime, read about the Arctic Oscillation. This winter is not a reversal of a trend, or haven’t you seen any photos of 100-year-old glaciers, how huge they were 100 years ago and how puny they are now? Some have almost disappeared. There’s a huge indicator of a long-term warming trend, and there are many others.
      But if you’re still stuck on short-term wobbles, then how about this: much of the Canadian Arctic, north Africa and the Middle East have been 10 degrees C above normal for this time of year, and the southern hemisphere is going through record highs.
      BTW, next time you’re cold in a Mexico hotel room, bitch to the front desk, not to me. You’re the embarrassment, pal.

  9. 13 G
    January 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    There are so many easy to understand explanations about the shifting of the Gulf current and the airflow that carries cold across the continents that it’s hard to understand how anyone can not realize that the world’s weather is changing through man’s destruction of the ecosphere. I come from the snowbelt and it’s been easy to see how it has shifted up and down due to changes in the air current. It’s also clear to anyone who can look at a graph that major and, in a gloabal context, almost instantaneous, warming is occurring in a global manner.As those who rely on glacial water are currently thirsty, it is getting worse so fast it’s put the world in the same state of denial that a stage 4 diagnosis of cancer works on individuals.
    Imho.
    But to skates- we no longer have surface from the states, so it generally takes 4-5 days for packages to get to me from NY. Do you still have the surface option in Canada? In which case, can I get some heavy and yet low cost things through you?:)As for customs, it’s tiny on personal items and in my experience only very rarely asked for.

  10. January 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    @Ian
    Yes, the Olympics is all about money and connections. It galls me that all the Provincial taxpayers will be paying for this extravaganza that benefits only the fortunate few for 30 years or more. arrrgghh!

  11. 15 Jeffrey -- New York
    January 14, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Ian,

    Um, I’m not your pal. I just stop by now and then to laugh at your very Germanic (acquired, I guess) hand-wringing and prognostications of eternal doom.

    TRILLIONS OF TONNES! Wow! That must be a lot, right?

    By the way, I had a nice conversation with a German guy on top of Monte Alban (Zapotec ruins) outside Oaxaca City. He had just spent a few days freezing his ass off with the Indians in the mountains. I couldn’t help chuckling at this old German hippie shivering all night with the local Indians in their “natural environment.” Too funny.

    *

    • January 14, 2010 at 7:19 am

      What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate – all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways.

      The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all. That prospect is a new factor in human affairs. It is comparable in its implications to the discovery of how to split the atom. Indeed, its results could be even more far-reaching.

      Gee, I wish I’d said that… only it was Margaret Thatcher more than 20 years ago before the UN. Too bad she didn’t use her influence other than to make sure everything stayed business as usual.

      Thanks for contributing your cheap shots and regurgitations of previous comments, pal. I get a good laugh out of them, too.


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