Kinder Scout looms large on the horizon as you drive over the moors towards the Derwent Valley. Almost mesa like, it broods darkly over the lesser heights, blocking off sight of all points north.
I’ve been over Kinder Scout so many times I’ve lost count, from freezing cold winters with the ground covered in drifted snow to baking hot summer days where all around is green and lush, and the warmth radiates back from the peat and the gritstone rocks. But above all Kinder Scout, along with its neighbour Bleaklow, are my springtime go-to hills.
I have been to Warsaw before but still feel a child like thrill as my train pulls into the city. I think because it was a long time goal, a reminder of my first foray to Europe, to Paris waiting for the train home at Gare du Nord. On the departure board there was no Crewe or Doncaster, or Swindon. Instead Brussels, Hannover, Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow. Exotic cities of the Old East.
Gdansk. Danzig. The city where the first shots of World War II were fired and where the opening salvos that finally brought down the crumbling Eastern Bloc were unleashed. And, as that experiment in Empire has collapsed, so it feels that the centuries of wealth has drained and departed from the city: no more the town’s Baltic trade, no more the Free City and no more work at the mighty Lenin shipyards. Though not yet gone.
There is something about city snowfall that takes one back in time. Not the huge snowfalls followed by bright sun that typifies an American winter – strong white under pale blue. No, I mean the type of snow that falls slowly, wetly, all day and blankets the city under the gloomy grey murk of Northern European skies.
Somehow between late 2009 and end 2011, between happy circumstance and a little bit of planning, I contrived to visit a series of European cities. Athens, Madrid, Liverpool, Brussels, Berlin, Hamburg, Koln… Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bucharest, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Inverness, Amsterdam, Krakow…