Summer is a charming flirt. Easy-going and casual. Summer doesn’t huff and puff to win our affections. It has us at “Hello.” Winter broods like the tortured protagonist of big fat Russian novel. It is daunting and dramatic, burning with a slow intensity.
The season’s reputation precedes itself, and often, not in a good way. It has a way of whittling down everything to its bare bones. Even relationships not attuned to its ebbs and flows can fray. At a dinner conversation I once attended, I listened in bemusement as a recent divorcee made the case that it was the Scandinavian frost that had cooled his ex-wife’s ardour. How original.
Winter travel is an exercise in negotiation, especially for sunshine souls. “How many extra clothes do I have to pack now?” “The weather is minus-what-did-you-say?” All valid concerns but the recommendations far outweigh them. Take one trivial scoring point: the winter wardrobe, which is tres chic, and can make the most sartorially challenged among us look like runway models.
The allure of winter lies in nature—so immense, overwhelming and, of course, achingly beautiful. In his collection of letters to an unborn daughter, Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgård meditates on the sounds of the season. “The screech of a crow, for instance, which in summer is just one note in a greater tapestry of sound, is in winter allowed to fill the air alone, and every single nuance in its rasping, hoarse, seemingly consonant-filled caws stands out.” Winter’s silences are missives from a distant world, electric and profound.
Solitary revelations aside, winter can match summer for convivial fun. Think of Yuletide. Is there a more exuberant time of the year? To me, it’s the greatest incentive to plan a December trip to the west. To experience Christmas in its festive splendour, in all the clichés from postcards and fairy-tales.
Our October edition has delightful winter escapes, spanning some of the prettiest landscapes in Europe. Finland is an underrated joyride, marked by reindeer rides and an unforgettable trip to catch the Northern Lights. In the Swedish city of Gothenburg, a Delhiite grapples with the quirks of winter anew. Paris in December remains the lovers’ rapturous fever dream while Copenhagen is a dizzying array of winter activities. In addition to which, an amateur and a professional offer differing accounts of skiing in Switzerland and Gulmarg.
Unlike summer, winter is not a flash in the pan. But if those great novels of the past are any indication, you will get lost in the story of winter with every page you turn.
Lakshmi Sankaran fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Editor in Chief at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.