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Winter Greetings from Gloomy Glasgow

Before visiting Glasgow for my first urbanHIST secondment starting in January 2018, I heard many different opinions about the Scottish winter. On one hand, it’s quite far north ­­– about the same latitude as the northern urbanHIST base Karlskrona – so snow is likely to fall, but on the other hand there is the Gulf stream, which creates a mild climate that allows even palm trees to grow. Now, after spending already more than two months here and asked to describe my Scottish winter experience in one word, I would say: unpredictable.

It was snowing right after I arrived and I was warmly welcomed with the slightly ironic words, I came to best time to visit Glasgow. Since then, weather has been changing from cold and damp, windy, snowy, icy, rainy, gloomy to cloudy or ­– in very rare occurrences – even sunny. Anyway, in spite of its unstable character, the moody weather stayed a constant topic in conversation with the very nice, friendly and communicative Glaswegians I met. They told me, usually snow doesn’t stay in the city and that this has been the harshest winter since at least eight years ago. But there is one amazing thing about this Nordic weather: the light. Not that you might see the sun very often, but when it’s sunny, it’s reflecting from all the wet surfaces, the ground, facades and the paddles in the streets. It’s really glistering.

After a short milder phase with even snowdrops blossoming in the park, the “beast from the east”, as people fondly call this winter phenomenon, was striking back. It heavily snowed overnight, which caused public transport disruptions, closure of university buildings and a total shut down of the city. All this “because of a few inches of frozen precipitation”, as Students' Association wrote in their notice of closing their service. But as cars driving around with their summer tyres and streets not getting cleared from snow at all, it was surely in the best interest of people’s safety. After five days of some kind of winter sleep, rain fell and washed away the snow – and the city reawakened.

But in the end, there is no reason to complain about the weather as people keep saying: “If you don't like Scottish weather, just wait half an hour, and it is likely to change…”

Text and photo: Helene Bihlmaier


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