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.