Snow in Amsterdam

We were well into February when it snowed in Amsterdam last winter. We missed all the fun and chaos by being in India at that time but the cold persisted till our return and the canals froze (a once-in-a-many-years kind of event I am told). Still, save for a token snowfall on our return, we didn’t see it snow much.

The snow came in December this time, after what seemed like a never-ending Autumn. I had my fill of seeing it snow and walking in the snow. We even happened to be in Zaanse Schans where the snow’s magic is at its headiest.

A spell of mild weather followed and on some days it felt a touch warm for this time of the year in Amsterdam. When the temperature hovers between 6-8ºC, you don’t quite expect it to snow. This weekend the mercury suddenly dipped again. While walking home at night on Saturday, we noticed that all the cars parked near our house had a thin layer of frost on their roofs. On Monday morning, the roads bore a fine, white coating of frost too.

Monday started with a glorious sunrise and it didn’t look like it would translate into a snowy evening. At around 3:00 PM I got an alert from the National Spoorwagen’s (NS - the national rail here) iPhone app about expected disruptions to the service on the 15th due to snowfall. And by the time I left office, fine, powdery snow was already falling. When I reached home, it had already coated the entire courtyard of our apartment complex.

Most people at work, especially those who have to to take trains from nearby towns, dread the snow for the havoc it wreaks with the train schedules here. Being from India, my expectations from the railways from any other country tend to be low, but this phenomena baffles even me. At the merest mention of snow by the met department, the train timetable here goes for a toss. Such is their commitment to snow, that one almost wonders if there is a secret society for preservation of innocent snowflakes that the National Spoorwagen chairs. I often have a vision of these disruptions coming up in a meeting of the committee for railroad improvement on a warm, June day, when the office is stiflingly hot, and snowfall and the incumbent problems seems like a distant memory of a landscape too disconnected from the sunny present. At this point the meeting is summarily adjourned and the middle-aged bureaucrats, smartly dressed in black suits too warm for the weather that day, step out for a beer. To be fair to NS, snow is a problem for handful of days in a year and the investments in infrastructure required to fix this problem probably don’t add up.

I am a brisk 35 minute walk from work and while I do use the public transport in the morning I am not overly dependent on it. The worst the snow does to me is stretch that 35 minute walk by a few more minutes. I spent Monday night in the anticipation of snow and kept having dreams that vaguely ended in my disappointment at the absence of it. The reality next day didn’t disappoint at all:

Even garbage waiting to be picked up looks clean and pure when snowed in:

Amsterdam is stunningly beautiful when it’s covered in fresh snow. I couldn’t resist a short stroll at lunch:

Our office’s 5th floor cafeteria offers a delightful view of Amsterdam. Rembrandt’s statue at Rembrandtplien, seemed to bear the snow in good humour.

The weather has turned colder over the last two days and the temperatures have been hovering around a good 3-7ºC below zero. The snow has been trodden upon many times and where it is not dirty, messy slush, it is sullied, slippery ice. Speculations are flying thick and fast about a possible repeat of February last year.

It’ll only be fair to end this post by quoting the lyrics of the Dean Martin song whose endless repetition everywhere we went in December drove us a little mad:

Let it snow, let it snow.

P.S. Bicycles covered in snow are my favourite subject these days (something tells me you might’ve noticed already)

P.P.S. It snowed practically all of Tuesday. Big flakes fell from the sky. I had visions of giants in heaven duking it out with the finest quality goose-down feather pillows.

January 17, 2013