Whatever the weather…..

The the recent wet weather has caused havoc in many EU countries, and for the first time in my memory (not that this says very much…) my home city of WOLTERSUM - Military places sandbags on the dike of the Eemskanaal in Woltersum near Groningen. ANP VINCENT JANNINKGroningen has had to resort to sandbags to stop the rising waters from flooding parts of the city.  OK, I know that the Netherlands is asking for trouble, since most of it lies well below sea levels.  Parts of the west lies no less than 6.7 metres below sea level, which is about the same height as a two-storey house.  Of course, this is where the Netherlands gets its name – in most countries its name simply means the low countries and in these parts of the world a serious spell of heavy rain can cause chaos in no time at all.

Sandbags and Sluice Gates

Dangerously rising water levels required drastic measure last week, and sand bags alone were no longer sufficient.  By Friday night, 33 Lauwersoog Flooding -Photo Telegraaf.jpgmillion cubic metres of water was sluiced out into the North Sea in just 5 hours and since then the sluice gates have continued to drain off excess water. No-one could ever say the Dutch are not efficient in managing the threat of flooding. 🙂  Meanwhile, the winds caused havoc in many more countries, trees were uprooted and people found themselves roofless and without electricity in many parts of Europe.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen?

The old centre of Warsaw - photo Annemieke Waite.jpgIt all reminded me of holidays.  No, it’s not that we have had much difficulty with the weather – if anything we’ve had extraordinarily wonderful weather when we have been out and about around Europe, but there were some magical wet moments…! In Warsaw we experienced the most spectacular thunder storm, while eating under a canopy in a smart restaurant. Like only regular troopers, mad dogs and Englishmen do, we thought we should ride out the storm. People near the edge of the canopy had long evacuated their seats for dry spots indoors, but we persevered – put on our rain jackets and continued to play our card game, much to the amusement of other guests and the waiting staff. Goodness knows what they though of us. 🙂

…the most fun we’ve ever had…

The storm hung about so long that staff threatened to close the restaurant and we finally decided to run home through the storm. Accompanied by lightening strikes and thunderclaps, we sprinted through the night – the kids screaming with hysterical laughter that “this was the most fun they’d ever had….”. Stupid we were indeed! Next day we realised that three people had died as a result of the storm – while we had sat on the windowsill of our room trying to get photographic evidence of forked lightning.

Arctic Circle - photo Annemieke Waite.JPGWind and rain have of course played a massive role in the lives of people since the year dot and none more so than up in the Arctic, where the Sami made their home thousands of years ago. We loved the Arctic, but then we were there in summer. In winter time it is a hostile, frozen land mass, and when you do visit it for yourself, you may be forgiven for wondering how on earth people ever came to the conclusion that this was a great place to settle. So let me finish by telling you a little story that a Sami woman told us when we met her in Northern Finland.

An Old Sami Tale of the Four Winds

Some 10,000 years ago, when the ice had just about melted, the very first man arrived in the north. He was not happy though, because it was a harsh climate and not an easy place to live. All four winds, North, East, South and West, were blowing constantly, and all at the same time Sami Tent - photo Annemieke Waite.JPGtoo, which made life unbearable. The man was very lonely, having only the four winds for company, and he could not find a woman who would come to live with him while the winds were blowing all the time. He thought about his problem for a long time and then made a decision. He built himself a Kote (a Sami tent) and lit a huge big fire. He then invited in the four winds. One by one they came into his Kote and settled down by the fire. The man started telling them brilliant stories, so wonderful that one by one the winds fell asleep. The man collected up the winds and put them inside a special hat – with one wind in each corner. He quickly tied the corners up so they could not escape. Well, you can imagine that when the winds woke up they were furious! They demanded being freed, but the man wouldn’t let them out. The winds pleaded with him, but still he refused.

Finally the winds realised that they had no choice. They promised that if the man would let them go, they would never blow again atFour Winds Hat - photo Nordic Shop.jpg the same time.  Of course, that was exactly what the man had hoped for. After a bit more discussion they agreed that each wind would get its own season to huff and puff to its hearts content. The north wind got the winter, the south wind the summer, the west wind the spring and the east wind the autumn. The agreement was sealed, and the man let the winds go. After that, life settled down very nicely. The man was very happy and found many wives to love and come and live with him, and this was the start of the Sami culture. And just before you don’t believe this story – check out this fact: to this day Sami people still wear colourful four-winds hats – as a reminder to the winds that they still have to keep their promise. And they usually do!

I wish you a calm and storm-free start to 2012 – and keep those feet dry…. 🙂

Annemieke Waite is a freelance travel writer who specialises in writing for families and young people about EU travel destinations.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Aleida Brinkman
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    a lovely and interesting story!

    Keep writing please ??/

  2. Brian Staines
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I love the story about 4 winds
    Also great to be reminded of weather.I love the wind
    Reminds me of being in Scotland ideally in a boat??

    Happy writing

  3. Fleur de Lacey-Baudelaire
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Mmm… I love that story!! Give me more!

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