Oh, summer, how I’ve missed thee! The joy the sun brings to my life, skin, & days is incomparable! Scientifically & biologically speaking, it’s explainable, but there’s also something about the sun that just brings so much happiness to my spirit! Being from the tropics, I can’t get enough heat, and this week’s supposed to bring us temperatures in the 80s°F (30s°C), hurrah! Beat the heat, blazing hot deals, turn up the heat, hot summer nights, sunsets, cooling trends, sizzling specials, so many summer clichés and I am fan of all of them at this sunny & sensational summer point!
After 4 season cycles in Germany, I have to say that the intense heat after so many months of bitter cold takes a bite into human comfort. It’s one thing to live a whole year under the sun with temperatures ranging from a cool 68°F (20°C) to a suffocating 100°F (38°C). You get used to it, you have to get used to it, you have to work, run errands, eat, sleep, and do all those other existential tasks. I’ve noticed that it’s different when you have marked season changes. Not only are people prepared for each season – everything from clothing to activities drastically change – but they also seem to take their seasons seriously. Summer, for instance…it’s all play all day, everyday sort of thing around here.
We arrived in Germany on the summer of 2013. We landed in a sunny East German town with our permanent tans, our summer wardrobe, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary in our little tropical state of mind. One of my first observations about German people was that they seemed to be a little obsessed with summer fun & summer activities. I remember thinking to myself, so much time in gardens, so much time grilling outdoors, so many people laying out in their lawns, so much fuss about lakes & beach travel. Of course, these things were reserved for ‘vacationing’ back home, so it only seemed to me to be a little odd how something had to be done EVERY SINGLE DAY of summer. Little did I know back then…these cherished days come to an end, and come Fall, any sort of hope of sun quickly diminishes to zilch, and summer life as we know it comes to bitter end.
Now I understand! It’s a magical thing to enjoy the city and all the region has to offer in these glorious summer days. I never want to come indoors, and it even takes a toll on productivity, making it feel like a long, long vacation. With the heat & the outdoor fun comes a whole new culture shock aspect for me. Granted, European fashion is amazing and I am a big fan, I have a hard time understanding why the stores have such great styles of clothing at such great prices – sales are everlasting! – but I look around and fail to recognize any sort of great fashion statements on behalf of the majority of Germans – mind you, not all are fashionally-challenged; thank you, Heidi Klum! They definitely have their own style, and kudos to them for their practical & functional designs, not to mention their high-quality materials & standards…but I just can’t seem to shake off my innate latina roots; you won’t catch me walking around barefoot across the street or letting loose without a bra for an afternoon stroll downtown. And you definitely won’t find me going to a party or an appointment in shorts & an A-shirt or tank top. Nope, not happening. No matter how hot, you can always find a fresh & lovely statement piece!
At the summer solstice, the days are longest and the nights shortest…this also mess up with our schedule. Bedtime at 8 o’clock? Good luck, sister! Not only is it impossible for the body to acknowledge it’s late evening, but try getting into bed while the sun is still out (and stays out until around 10:30pm!) is pretty rough…and then you’ve got the birds chirping at 4 o’clock in the morning in broad daylight since the sun decided to come up a while ago.
Another important aspect of summer…thunderstorms – intense ones, might I add. Granted we get lots of rain & a big bad hurricane season in Honduras, I can’t say I have ever seen more ferocious thunderstorms as I have in the northern hemisphere. Many of our days have been warm & wet here in Leipzig, and we had what seemed like a week-long thunderstorm at the end of June that really rained on our parade! We had beach plans for my husband’s birthday and we had to postpone our trip one whole week because of the ‘lovely’ weather. This brings me to the subject of summer activities!
People take advantage of the warmer temperatures, of course, and spend more time outdoors during the summer. Activities such as travelling to the beach (or lakesides, in our case) and picnics occur during these beautiful summer months. Sports of all kinds are played – we were over at the Markkleeberg Kanupark for the Canoeing World Cup & coming up this month is the Fencing World Cup, also here in Leipzig. Water-sports are pretty big too and found all along our vast & famous lake region, the Leipziger Neuseenland.
Travelling is also pretty big during the summer months, with a peak-season prices all around and a whole lot of movement in touristy spots, especially beaches & popular travel destinations. Germans are no exception to the rule. Children usually have 6 weeks off for the summer break, and this 6-week period varies from state to state, which means from late June to early September, there will be lots of German travelling going on. Since daycares have a whole 2-week break, most parents usually take 2-3 weeks off during their children’s summer break to enjoy their summer trip, booking all-inclusive vacations anywhere from their beloved northern coast (Baltic & North Seas) to the Tirol region in the south. Germans are big on local travel…impressively big, need I say. Not many families travel internationally, and when they do, they have their hot spots that are as much German as they need it to be to feel comfortable. For instance, jokingly called the new “German colony”, the island of Mallorca is sure to make you feel more in Germany thanks to the language & the food than in Spain. Popular international destinations also include the Greek islands, Turkey and its 5-star beach resorts, Italy & its Lake Garda & Venetian Lido, and most recently more affordable countries like Croatia, Montenegro, & Bulgaria have become big on German travel guides.
Finally, we come to one of the biggest & most important aspects of the hot summer days…summer food! Champions of the season’s best ingredients to celebrate the warm weather & beat the heat come together on picnic tables & beach bungalows all over. Outdoor cooking & grilling brings to life foods in no other way, with everything from meats to vegetables & fruit getting the charcoal treatment for spectacular results. Somehow it seems to make sense that with summer comes more exercise outdoors & healthier food choices for everyone….but actually, studies show that kids gain weight three times faster over summer than they do the rest of the school year, and while there’s no comparable stat on grown-ups: barbecues, state fairs, and waterside food vendors offer plenty of temptation!
Think about those delicious summer treats, especially junk food all over, all the time! What’s better than two chocolate chip cookies sandwich-ing some rich vanilla ice-cream, or the summer fair & carnival staple, fried dough! Corn dogs, lobster rolls & mayo, hamburgers, fried clams (or fried any-other-type-of-seafood!), ribs & all their yummy goodness, sauces of all kinds & flavors, and who can forget all those daiquiris & cocktails! As with most grilling parties, they aren’t complete without those delicious macaroni or potato salads, onion rings…plus the fact that you can do it all day long, always in the company of an ice-cold beer or Cola!
But not all is lost with fatty foods…there are some really amazing summer options we personally love to indulge in around here. Feeling fresh can be achieved with a great, light snack, and watermelon is a great way to rehydrate after a long day in the sun. Corn on the cob is a high-fiber, low-calorie food that can be used for salads, salsas, or just grilled! Fresh iced tea is also great…of course, I’m not talking about the bottled variety. Freshly made, black or green tea has zero calories, loads of antioxidants, and may even help you lose weight. Another surprisingly delicious summer food is gazpacho. As I enjoy a lovely day with high temperatures, the last thing I want to do is stir a pot over a hot stove. Chilled soups are a perfect solution! Gazpacho is filled with healthy ingredients, which make it a light yet flavorful soup. Grilled skewers are also great! Easy to throw on the barbecue, they are packed with flavor & quite satisfactory! When you add veggies, you’ll only add delicious, summery flavors and loads of antioxidants. Great for a mid-afternoon snack, as an appetizer at a party, or for a light dinner, shrimp cocktails are a high-protein and low-calorie way to get energized. They’re great for topping on salads, eating them plain, or grilling them, and they’re next to ceviche in the top choices for beachside foods. Last, but not least, summer is peak season for colorful berries & stone fruit, a source of antioxidants and vitamins, not to mention they pack a lot of fiber…think fresh snack, yummy jellies, or refreshing juices!
But, like all good things, summer can’t last forever. The back-to-school mark only indicates the beginning of the end of this beautiful season for us. As we learn to recognize the horrible sound of the alarm on our weekday mornings, we also prepare ourselves to close off the season with as much gratitude & appreciation as we started it. I won’t say I will ever be prepared to wait a whole year for the burning sun to come again, but I have learned to be excited about the turn of the seasons. Fall is coming, and it brings with it oh-so-many wonderful things with it!