Our first day in Copenhagen, fresh off the 32 hour flights, we stepped out into the freezing Danish winter. For some reason, our sleep deprived brains thought our son would benefit from seeing daylight. Wrapped up in his pram, rain cover pulled over to keep the freshest air off him, he howled. Presumably wondering what misery his parents were going to inflict on him next. It was cold. Really cold. It has been a mild winter, but those few days around when we arrived were typical winter days. We beat a fairly hasty retreat to our hotel. There we huddled in the warmth, and our son fell into a deep sleep that we couldn’t even wake him from to eat his tea.
The next morning we ventured out again, and walked from our hotel down to the harbour to visit Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction – The Little Mermaid. So how cold was it? Well, what looked like waves cresting at a distance, was actually frozen sea. That’s something I’d only seen on Attenborough documentaries about polar bears.
Within a few days of our arrival in Aarhus a thaw had set in. We haven’t seen any snow since those first few days. It has been cold. It has been grey. It has been wet. The ground has been alternatively frozen, puddled, and muddy. Admittedly the last two have been popular with my son. The other week though, a wonderful thing happened. Flowers. Tiny crocuses and snowdrops are popping up under trees, and along the verges. My son has had a long fascination with flowers, and loved few things more than gathering handfuls of dandelions and daisies (two flowers he has been allowed to pick, rather than just smell). For him, pram trips are once again accompanied by hands reaching over the side, imploring us for a flower to admire.
Spring in northern Europe is such a relief after a long cold winter. Easter also belongs at this time of year. The other weekend was the Danish festival ‘fastelavn’, essentially the beginning of Lent. It seems appropriate to be celebrating the turning of the seasons. It’s a reminder to me how much our idea of seasons is an imported idea to New Zealand. We even follow traditions that conform to a northern calendar. Margaret Mahy has a wonderful poem Christmas in New Zealand, in which she describes exactly this juxtaposition.
And yet around my wall,
On Christmas cards the holly gleams,
And snowflakes coldly fall,
And Robins I have never seen,
Pipe out a Christmas call.
I always miss the evergreen NZ forests when I’m away. I know we won’t get a sweltering summer. After living in Australia for the last three years, I can do with a lack of sweltering to be honest. I don’t know how I’ll manage a full winter here next year. But now, with the days growing longer, and the flowers blooming, Aarhus is growing on me.