Great rivers make great journeys.
I’m just old enough to remember when regular steamers sped down the Clyde from Glasgow’s Broomielaw, to Largs and Rothesay and Dunoon. We all make journeys (or we did, pre-Covid-19), for pleasure or necessity, on our great local rivers, wherever we are.
In these days of mass tourism, of course, we can all enjoy each other’s river journeys. I’ve travelled by Bateau Mouches on the Seine in Paris and have swept down to the O2 Arena on London’s Thames Clippers. I have happy memories of pootling about Ghent and Bruges in Belgium on boat trips, albeit on canals. More recently, I sailed down the Danube past Budapest’s stunning parliament building.
I felt very close to home in this city. Our boat embarked from quays near the Chain Bridge, which crosses to the square named Clark Adam Ter. It commemorates Adam Clark, the Scottish engineer who supervised the building of the bridge. Also near the quays is a street named Jane Haining Rakpart, commemorating the Scottish Christian missionary who protected Jewish children in Budapest during the Second World War and who died in Auschwitz. Scotland and Hungary, Clyde and Danube, many hundreds of miles apart; but Europe is one.
That Budapest adventure was part of a rail-based holiday that took me by Eurostar to the continent, and then onward by train to Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Vienna. It was a joyous experience but a poignant one, because this immersive experience amongst our European partners and neighbours came in July 2016, just a couple of weeks after the bombshell of the Brexit Referendum.
All those cities, all those rivers, Clyde, Thames, Seine, Danube, they all flow to the sea and their waters mingle. They’ll continue to do that even after Brexit. All rivers are one, Europe is one, and I hope this truth becomes apparent to all again, and that the United Kingdom, or Scotland at least, returns home. It’s important to believe there’s a future.
Let the rivers flow.