Why all this talk about sunshine

As the dreary post-Christmas winter settles upon us here in Düsseldorf, I’m sure I will start complaining about the weather again. While I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to ride my bike in the rain in a while, my biggest point of contention is still the lack of sunshine for what feels like days (and sometimes weeks) on end.

Nice people who can’t fully fathom my climate-related distress are always trying to pep me up with statements like, “but it’s so nice to be inside and cozy and warm while it’s gray outside,” or “cloudy days make you appreciate the sunny ones that much more” (see more here). Oh, you poor people, I always say…

To put my obsession with sunshine and generally good weather into perspective, I grew up in the second sunniest place on the face of the planet, really. www.currentresults.com says so.

And, while researching sunshine stats, I also ran across this on weatherspark.com: “The median cloud cover [in Düsseldorf] is 85% (mostly cloudy) and does not vary substantially over the course of the year. On June 17, the clearest day of the year, the sky is clear, mostly clear, or partly cloudy 17% of the time, and overcast or mostly cloudy 40% of the time.”

Numbers don’t lie. I’m not crazy after all.

And a final word, for all you pepper-uppers, “Düsseldorf has…no dry season.” (weatherspark.com)

Average hours of sunshine for the ten sunniest places on earth
Country Place Year Day
United States Yuma, Arizona 4015 11.0
United States Phoenix, Arizona 3872 10.6
Egypt Asswan 3863 10.6
United States Las Vegas, Nevada 3825 10.5
Sudan Dongola 3814 10.4
United States Tucson, Arizona 3806 10.4
Chad Faya-Largeau 3792 10.4
Egypt Kharga 3791 10.4
Sudan Abu Hamed 3763 10.3
United States El Paso, Texas 3763 10.3

Sunny Sunday

Germany is a nation of walkers. Sure, in general, people travel by foot way more here than other places I’ve lived. But spazieren gehen, to stroll or to go for a walk, merely for the walking itself, is an actual pastime, a way to actively enjoy your free time. ‘Hey, want to go spazieren?’

There doesn’t necessarily have to be a destination in mind or even a set amount of time to be spent walking. You just go and see what happens. Maybe you meet some friends, maybe you stop for a coffee, maybe you just sit on a bench and watch the people passing by. The idea is to just be out in the fresh air.

Yesterday was the perfect combination of sunny and Sunday, so Toby and I headed out for a two-hour Spaziergang, walk, along the Rhine in the afternoon sun. We certainly weren’t the only ones! Here are some impressions:

20140105 01 Spazieren

20140105 02 Spazieren

20140105 03 Spazieren

A German moment

After the darkest winter and coldest spring on record, plus snow for Easter, I had a real German moment. On Monday, the sun was shining and it was a whopping 6°C (43°F – that’s not a lot where I come from). So what did Toby and I do? Take the convertible out for a spin, naturally!

Top down, beanies, down jackets. Ah, it’s really starting to feel like spring around here… Not.

spring???

March Madness

It’s been a hard week of weather to deal with in Düsseldorf. Spring, which the budding trees, the chirping birds, and I have been patiently (why lie?) waiting for, is taking her sweet time. First it looked like there was hope – the sun was shining, and I was giddy at the sight of my own shadow. And with good reason. It was “the darkest [German] winter of all time.” (See? There’s more to my weather drama than the fact that I’m an Arizona girl through and through!)

Then we had another bout of snow, or Schnee.

Schnee Auto

I appeased myself with trips to the coffee house and with cozy pots of tea at home.

Coffee house

Cozy tea

Then we had snow and sun. Oh, what a glorious combination – light and color in the world again!

Sun and snow

The crocuses and those who dared sit outside at the coffee house despite the freezing temperatures weren’t showing any weakness.

Crocuses and snow

Outdoor coffee

Then the snow was gone, and Toby and I took advantage of a sunny day with a long walk along the Rhine.

Rhine in March

Yesterday it was so nice that I actually rode my bike to work without a beanie, my hair blowing in the wind (something I haven’t felt in longer than I care to remember). This is in stark contrast to my winter riding gear, which I’ve taken to calling the Reverse Mask of Zorro.

Reverse Mask of Zorro

Too bad we’re back to a lovely combination of rain and snow again today. Somebody stop the madness!

Transformation

I’ve decided that November in Düsseldorf is not so bad – three parts wonderful, one part yuck. These are pretty good odds based on my 16 months of research. While the temperatures are dropping, the sun shines more days than not and is always accompanied by clear, blue skies. Back are the thick jackets, scarves, and beanies. The trees in the Hofgarten have lost nearly all their leaves, and the sun now shines straight into our living room.

Despite the inevitable start to winter, the timbre of the city takes on a decidedly livelier note with the approach of the accompanying holiday season. Store windows present their best holiday wares, and the Christmas markets that have been under construction are finally open. Their friendly lights, delightful food smells (Nutella crêpes anyone?), and Glühwein bring people out to celebrate friendship and good times.

The fact that I find myself liking this time is an astounding transformation in and of itself. This past weekend I had the very German urge to go for a Spaziergang (a walk, merely for the sake of walking) despite, or maybe because of, the crisp air. Why let a little winter stop me when I can cuddle into my down jacket, wrap a scarf around my neck, and go out for a bit of fresh air?

Did I just say that?!

It’s all relative

I’ve been sitting on this for a while but absolutely had to share. Check out the email my sister got at her work as a perfect example of relativity at its finest. Remember, she lives and works in Phoenix.

“Effective Monday, October 8: All associates will be switching to “winter appearance” as our Valley temperatures are now consistently below 100°F.”

Okey dokey.

The German flip-flop

I’ve discovered that shoes are an interesting matter when living in Düsseldorf. Regardless of winter or “summer” (or whatever they call it here), the key is to keep your feet dry. In winter, the obvious choice is boots. Any style, any shape, and any color will do. I made friends with tall, flat boots paired with skinny jeans.

What was funny was when I started trying to wear my sandals once the temperatures warmed up a bit. For this Arizona girl, summer equals sandals, specifically flip-flops. Trip to the grocery store? Put on your flip-flops. Happy hour? Bust out your flip-flops. Saturday afternoon at the coffee house? You got it – flip-flops. There was no real danger in baring your toes (unless you were moving too fast, flipped one too hard, and ended up on the hot asphalt – but only beginners do that).

Imagine my surprise when I left the apartment one morning, in my flip-flops, only to have totally wet feet a few hours later because the sunny blue skies had turned to rain-producing cloudy skies. Because this sudden change in weather can occur on any given day, I learned from the locals and started wearing ballerinas (close-toed flats). A German girl’s answer to flip-flops. Lighter and cooler than a boot while providing almost as much wetness protection (sounds like an antiperspirant ad…).

Since boot cut jeans drag too close to the ground and run the risk of getting wet, ballerinas are still best paired with skinny jeans. The end result – my summer outfits are the same as my winter outfits, with a few less layers on top.

And I always said I’d never wear those carrot-shaped skinny jeans. Never say never…

What to love about summer

It. Has. Finally. Arrived. Summer is here! It’s amazing what a difference it makes to be greeted by the shining sun first thing in the morning. Here are some of my favorite things about the beginning of summer in Düsseldorf:

  • Blue skies and sunshine
  • People everywhere (where were they all winter?)
  • Drinking coffee at an outdoor street cafe
  • The crowds on Ratinger Straße (Düsseldorf’s ‘party’ street)
  • Shorts, sandals, and sunglasses
  • Daring to leave the apartment without a scarf or a real jacket
  • Grown men eating gelato with ridiculously dainty, brightly colored plastic spoons
  • The pasty bodies of sun worshippers speckled all over the bright green grass of the Hofgarten
  • The air filled with swirling white seed heads from all the blooming trees
  • Riding my bike along the Rhine

I love it, love it, love it!

Hitchhiking to Spring

A call home usually consists of my mother telling me how warm and sunny it is in Phoenix, and me answering with, “I don’t want to hear it.” I’m not being mean, I really just don’t want to know what I’m missing while I’m sitting here desperately waiting for the sun to shine for longer than 10% of my waking hours. Every morning I wake up, full of hope that Spring has finally arrived, only to open the drapes to another day of gray and rain. Do you know how many times I’ve gotten wet while riding my bike to work (yes, my new work!) in the last week? It’s certainly more than this Arizona girl is used to.

In the hopes of enticing Spring to come out and show a little thigh, we spent the last few weekends giving our apartment balcony a makeover. Not only did the mother-in-law and I buy brightly colored flowers last time she visited that make me smile every time I see them, but Toby and I also added some shrubbery to the window box – one that looks nice and was not too expensive (good for you if you got the movie reference!).

Funny – in Arizona I used to do rain dances in the street when I was a kid. Now I’m turning to my green thumb to get Spring’s attention and chase away the rain. I hope I’m better with balcony plants than I am with basil….

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful Spring!