Much of northern Europe has endured some pretty wintry weather these past couple of weeks. Last night, temperatures plummeted to below minus 30 degrees Celsius over a large area of northern Scandinavia and northwest Russia.
Here on the North Frisian island of Sylt, where hidden europe has been relaxing for the holidays, large areas of the sea around the coast of the island are completely frozen. The closing pics in this selection on our website show those ice-clad coasts.
Browsing Europe's media, it is very evident that there is one country in Europe which has been utterly disquieted by the cold weather. England has been colder than normal, but the cold spell has broken few records there, either for its length or for its intensity. Yet, if those media reports are anything to go by, the English are united in a chorus of complaints about their roads not being gritted. It might come to a surprise to our English readers to discover that, even in areas of Europe that endure terrible winters, most roads remain untreated by the municipal authorities.
The road where we live in Berlin can have weeks of compacted winter snow. Not a gritting lorry in sight. Most local councils do not see gritting as a top priority and nor do most of the inhabitants of continental Europe. True, there is some attention to motorways and a limited number of priority routes. That helps some folk, but most of us adapt our daily lives to accommodate to the climate in which we live. We travel less, we use winter tyres on our cars, and yes, we allow the weather to dictate in some measure that which we can and cannot do on any particular day.
Some folk in England evidently take a different view of such matters. Instead of seeing a cold spell or a heavy snowfall as an invitation to rethink their over-scheduled lives, they seem to plough on regardless. And of course things go wrong. Someone has to get the blame. The media rush to blame hard pressed local authorities for failing to grit roads. Across great tracts of wintry Europe, gritted roads are seen as a waste of public resources. In some parts of England, apparently, grit on the side streets around your house is judged to be a basic human right. Normal life must continue, it seems, no matter what the weatherman says!
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries