Our Northern European editor shares some pro tips for staying comfortable in cold weather
This time of the year is not particularly spectacular in Malta, and the pull of upcoming cute Christmas markets in continental Europe, coupled with cheap flights to cities that host them, can be hard to resist. You may have heard of the Danish term hygge, which is about cosiness, comfort, candles, and staying at home snugly. It all looks great in magazines, travel brochures, and on Instagram. Look at the duty free shops at Copenhagen airport, and you’ll realise that hygge has become the cornerstone of national branding over there. Look at images from Germany, Czech Republic and other Central European countries in winter, and you’ll almost start smelling mulled wine with roasted almonds. Yet, visual appeal aside, the questions I often hear in the Mediterranean point to a strong concern: can this cosiness be experienced in travel? After all, isn’t it too numbingly cold to explore those places in winter? Isn’t the Northern outdoor fun only for people who are used to it?
Like extreme heat, extreme cold needs a management strategy. Just like you didn’t walk around too long with your head exposed to the sun during heatwave Lucifer this summer, you shouldn’t travel to winter destinations without a strategy. Once you get the essentials covered, it becomes relative easy.
1. Technology is your friend
Travelling in the North is not endurance training. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. Scientists and product designers constantly work to make your life easier in winter. The Japanese especially are masters of this. When a friend visited me from Israel and we set off to explore a magical island castle in January, she got herself foot-warmers from a local pharmacy. With a pair of these thin stickers placed inside her shoes, she marched on the snow all day like a scout. Various little gadgets, fabrics and chemicals are emerging on the market to allow you full enjoyment of winter without wrapping yourself in too many layers of clothing.
I think by now I have said his to everyone I know in Malta: it’s not that we’re used to cold. There’s no need to get used to unpleasant experience. The trick is to minimise exposure. Again, science comes to the rescue. Forget the stereotype of Northern people walking in heavy fur coats and hats. Travel shops offer a good range of coats made from modern, lightweight insulating fabrics. Look for them in shops that cater for fans of skiing or mountain hiking. If you’re not happy with the supply in Malta, stock a few of those items on your next trip to Italy, buy them online, or visit some shops at your destination.
3. Invest in good shoes
With your feet protected from cold and leaks, you will feel comfortable even if your upper body is a bit chilly. You will see local hipsters in Northern and Central Europe braving the cold with their sneakers and exposed ankles – don’t follow them! Leave sneakers at home and treat yourself to good waterproof boots. After I followed my friend’s recommendation to try Columbia I look no further, but there are various other brands that can help you feel fully comfortable even on an icy pavement.
There are lots of products developed specifically for cold climate – from protective facial creams and lip balms to touchscreen-friendly gloves. How many of them you need depends on the length of your trip and your travel preferences. However, knowing that over the past years it suddenly snowed in places like Turkey and Greece, you may actually see that your travel purchases can even be useful at home.
Are you thinking of a winter escape?
Do you have any further tips to add? Tell us in the comments section!