Every year, in China, not too far from the Russian border, the people of Harbin celebrate winter by creating a city out of ice. This is the entrance:
Outside the world’s northernmost club, a man is urinating. A crowd has gathered around him, not to watch him pee, but because he’s pulled his trousers and pants down to his ankles and is exposing his bare backside to the cold night air.
The cold night air is extremely cold here — about -25 degrees, maybe more with the breeze. As a pampered city boy, I find this remarkable. In a climate like this each second surely brings our friend closer and closer to an unsavoury case of frostbite. But he’s clearly from round here, and has probably done this before. For him, there’s obviously no such thing as too much exposure. Continue reading
Christmas is a rotten bully. It likes to toy with people’s minds. Every year, it orders us to love it, to feel it, to suck it up through our nostrils and radiate it from every pore. Yet at the same time it weighs us down with a cumbersome chain of deadlines, chores and obligations. Most years I don’t have the time or energy to feel festive — I’m far too busy trying to survive Christmas.
So if, like me, you often find yourself in mid-December, desperate to somehow squeeze the first jot of festive cheer from your hollow carcass, try this: jump onto the Eurostar and head to Bruges — a city so Christmassy, it makes Lapland feel like Luton. Continue reading