Europe in the spring

Paris in the spring…With a few more days to go of nights drawing in, it’s harder to imagine a time where the light will become clearer again, even beautiful.

There is something about spring light, and the promise it holds of cheer now, and cheerful times to come.

For me, spring is also linked to travel to Europe.  In spring, we start to move out of our near-hibernation, into broader activities, and for me, travelling to ‘the continent’ seems bound up with that move to wider spaces.

Looking back through my notebook for writing ideas, and our travel-related posts, it seems a shame to miss this one out, especially in the dark of the year where we need things to look forward to.

Europe in the spring started with German exchanges.  In the days before cheap flights (and from reading others’ Facebook posts, even now), school trips abroad tended to involve lots of long overland travel.

So we got the obligatory 5am coach ride from the Midlands to Dover, got on a ferry to Ostende, and from Ostende onto a train that would take us through Belgium and down the Rhine in Germany, for our host families to meet us in Mainz.

I was at an event celebrating Germany yesterday, and one of the activities in the group for young people was talking about things we saw in Germany that surprised us.

Even before getting to Germany itself, our group discovered the older kind of European train rolling stock, with seats that push together in the middle of the compartment to make beds.  We had no idea that German trains would be so conducive to playing sardines, and set off to see how many teenagers we could fit in one compartment…

One of the advantages of going to Europe in the spring is that it’s a few weeks ahead of the UK for signs of spring – blossom is already out, trees are in leaf, people are already sitting outside cafes (and not just because there’s a smoking ban).

Life starts to feel more expansive, more open to possibility.  Even when you have to go back to the UK, there is hope that these options are not too far away for us too.

Later, studying German at university, and trying to keep up some Polish, spring became a good time to try to go back to either country to see people.

Certainly in the first year or two, before grants were frozen, my travel plans took in quite a few places – with the opportunity to travel by train, heading through wider landscapes, and gaining more of that spring fever.

Since then, worktrips have enabled me to continue the trend, as our main set of annual meetings with agencies abroad is usually around Easter time.

It’s not just about the travel, good though that is, or the places themselves.  Europe in the spring has become something of a state of mind, a boost for the synapses as well as the spirits.

As the year draws to a close, we tend to go back into familiar patterns, traditions for Christmas and New Year, reviews of what has passed.  It’s good to remind myself that there is also a time for new things to come after this, new perspectives – and new delights the world has to offer.

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