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
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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!

Summer treat

What’s the best summer treat? Ever? Watermelons, frozen margaritas, and ice cream sundaes got nothin’ on it? Twelve full days with A!!!

I was so happy to pick A up from the airport – I had tears in my eyes. Same for her. We spent that afternoon at my favorite coffee house, talking and enjoying the simple fact that we were breathing the same air. Conversation flowed like always, with each of us finishing the other’s thoughts. For the next 11 days, we never ran out of things to talk about, even in the more heated moments (it’d be boring if we didn’t challenge each other a bit).

Time flies when you’re having fun. And boy, did we have fun! I showed her our new hood and my new work. We rode our bikes with Toby along the Rhine on a sunny day and in the rain on a not so sunny day (the true Düsseldorf experience). I of course showed her all the favorites – the coffee house, the bakery, my chocolate croissant dealer, our little Italian place, the Mexican restaurant, the Devil’s of Düsseldorf. We discovered gummy bear heaven. I tried to take her to boot heaven, but we were about a month early still. We spent a Wednesday night on Ratinger with Altbier and Wienerschnitzel. Toby cooked for us, and we played Yahtzee and Boggle. For a bit of adventure, A and I took the train to Berlin, and A, Toby, and I took the convertible on a road trip to the Netherlands.

Before I was ready, it was time for A to go. I was so sad to leave her at the airport – I had tears in my eyes. Same for her.

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…

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!

For a rainy day

Here I go again, talking about the weather. I can’t help it. It permeates every minute of my day, every cell in my body, every fiber in my down jacket. It always has. I just didn’t realize it until I moved to Düsseldorf – while Phoenix has its own weather, it always played more of a supporting role.

In Düsseldorf, on average, no month has less than 14 days of rain. 14 days! Compare that to Phoenix, where, on average, no month has more than 5 days of rain. What was it that Dorothy said about not being in Kansas anymore…?

So, in the spirit of open-mindedness and adaptation, I polled some friends and compiled a list of what there is to like about gray, rainy weather:

  • always having something to talk about
  • drinking coffee or hot chocolate, which tastes even better on a cold, rainy day
  • the wrinkle-fighting benefits of moist air
  • taking advantage of a free bike wash
  • jumping in the puddles with rubber boots (and the kids)
  • the promise of a beautiful, green spring
  • the beauty of big, fat raindrops seemingly made especially for us
  • clean, fresh city air
  • staying home where it’s warm and cozy
  • having a good excuse to stay on the couch on a Sunday
  • going for a refreshing walk in the rain
  • really appreciating a beautiful day when you get one

Touché.