Looking Back at the Sandwich Winter of 2017/2018

Let’s review the winter of 2017/2018. After all, spring has already started: March 20 at a quarter past five in the afternoon according to the astronomers and on March 1 according to the meteorologists. So: what kind of winter did we have and especially: were there some winterwonderland photo opportunities?

Flowers on Leuvehoofd park in Rotterdam covered with a layer of snow, with Erasmus Bridge in the background
Winter at Erasmus Bridge


The winter of ’17 / ’18 was a sort of sandwich: a grey and boring middle section with some wintery scenes at the beginning and end. It all started promising on Sunday 10 December with a snow front that slowly moved across the Netherlands from the south.

Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam during a snowstorm in december 2017
Snow on Schouwburgplein

Code Red

Also the next day a lot of snow came down and the road and rail traffic all over the Netherlands came to a standstill. The Dutch Royal Meteorological Service proclaimed code red; I proclaimed code white.

Churchill Square in Rotterdam with the Cascade sculpture by Joep van Lieshout during a snowstorm in december 2017
Blizzard on Churchillplein

This nile goose, used though it me be to warmer climates, couldn’t care less, or so it seems

A nilegoose during a snowstorm on the quay near the Maritime Museum at Leuvehaven in Rotterdam
Helena the Harbor Goose

Cold and gray

After that spectacular start, weeks of dull gray weather followed. Chilly but not cold enough for the formation of ice crystals or snowflakes. In the previous winter I made some photo-expeditions to the eastern regions of the country but even there the weather remained boring.

Climate change deniers

Meanwhile, North America was suffering under an unprecedented cold that briefly gave climate change deniers the illusion they were right. Winter sports villages in the Alps were covered under meters of snow. But in the Netherlands a January gale was the only spectacle; code red again but less photogenic. In an average winter, television talkshows keep speculating about the possibility of an Elfstedentocht, a 200 kilometre skating race along all eleven Frisan towns; this year that hardly happened.


Only occasionally the temperature dropped below zero during the night and a thin layer of ice formed on canals and ditches. That resulted in beautiful reflections, such as here near the windmill on Kromme Zandweg in the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Charlois.

Reflection of the windmill at Kromme Zandweg in Rotterdam-Charlois in the ice on the pond
Windmill reflection on thin ice

The Russian Bear

For a while it looked like winter would slowly morph into spring. But in mid-February a surprise was coming our way. The Russian bear, or The Beast from the East. A large reservoir of ice-cold air was “put on transport” (as the meteorologists say) from Siberia with strong eastern winds. Strong wind and frost, that is the moment to go and photograph ice sculptures like here along a lake called Wijde Aa near Hoogmade.

Ice sculptures crated by the strong eastern wind at the banks of Wijde Aa near Hoogmade, Holland
Ice sculptures in Hoogmade


“That wind makes it so cold”. It is a cliché, but during this short but intense winter period it certainly was true. I haven’t felt so cold in recent years. Nevertheless, because of the wind, large water surfaces remained free of ice for a long time. But ultimately the Kralingse Plas was largely frozen over.

Wooden walkways across the frozen and snow-covered Lake Kralingen in Rotterdam
Frozen Kralingse Plas

Warm front

Unfortunately the Bear didn’t carry a lot of snow. Only during its retreat on March 3rd did a warm front bring some whiteness. But that didn’t last long, as could be expected with a warm front.

The colorful Marathon sculpture near Erasmusbridge in Rotterdam is a striking contrast with freshly fallen snow
The Marathon sculpture brings color in a white world


In mid-March, winter made one final attempt, but that didn’t lead to many interesting photo moments. All in all: if you ask me to rate this winter, I would say it’s a meager six out of ten. A rather mediocre winter with some memorable moments but they were short-lived, especially in the always less fortunate southwest of this country.

The Norwegian Sailor's Church in The Park in Rotterdam during one of the rare days with snow in the winter of 2017/2018
The Norwegian church

And now, to be honest, I’m neither expecting nor hoping for cold fronts anymore. Another chance next year, let it be spring now …

Other winters of recent years: ’14/’15’16/’17’18/’19’20/’21

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