Hay Que Calor

To me, summer is the best time of year. It is the time for barbecues, beaches, bathing suits, and most importantly, vacation. For some people like myself, summer is also when you get to leave the daily duties of work life and venture off to life at a vacation house. As far back as I can remember, my family has owned a fantastic little cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Not as glamorous or as frequented as the Hamptons or Lake Tahoe, Arnold, a small yuppie town off of Highway 4 is where I passed the lazy days of thirteen fabulous summers. However, now after passing the previous three summers here in Andalusia, I feel that I can officially say I summer in Spain.

If you have never been to Spain in summer, I highly recommend it. Actually, if you have never been to Spain in any season, I say you must go. As summer is my favorite time of year, I enjoy Spain, or any country for that matter, the most in summer. My first experience with the Spanish summer was Beach Tour 2002 where I spent six spectacular weeks touring the beaches along the Mediterranean Sea. My second Spanish summer was spent traveling between Madrid, Cordoba, and San Sebastian looking for a job and a place to live. My third summer, the best to date, was spent on the cool and luxurious beaches of Cadiz. This, my fourth summer, I am in Cordoba. Cordoba is a beautiful and historic city with lots to do and see at any time of the year, but in the summer, Cordoba is hot. Until you have spent an August here, I cannot put enough emphasis on the word HOT. In fact, the heat is the most defining aspect of Summer life in Cordoba.

Cordoba is located between Madrid and Sevilla and is about a two hour drive from the Costas de Luz and Sol. The warm weather arrives as early as March and April with the real heat beginning in May, peaking in August, and lasting through October. Unfortunately, the public pools don’t open until the end of June, a fact that has always been an unsolvable mystery to me. Likewise, Cordobesans don’t break out their summer wardrobes until the end of May, another custom I have found odd. If the weather reaches the mid-80s in Northern California on an early day in March, the Californians take advantage of it, shedding their clothes and participating in outdoor activities. If the weather reaches mid-80s in Cordoba on an early day in March, the Cordobesans simply ignore the heat, knowing that it is nothing in comparison to the heat that is to come.

During the Cordobesan summer, the temperature ranges from 80 to 118 degrees, but there is so much concrete that when it’s 87 degrees it feels like a 100. In August, it’s so hot, the city basically shuts down. Most people retreat to the countryside or beaches and the people who do stay in Cordoba to pass the heat of August will not be seen in the street during the hottest part of the day. That’s the real reason for the Spanish siesta, which is from 2-6 pm, it’s literally too hot to do anything!  Americans may see the Spanish siesta as a waste of time or a sign of cultural laziness, but it’s out of pure necessity that the tradition is still widely practiced today.

I’m not much of a sweater, even when exercising, but with as little exertion as walking down the street during the siesta, I am sweating. The heat is so intense that walking becomes a physical exercise. One must practice a little thing I like to call shade walking. To walk down the street with the minimal amount of perspiration, you’ve got to walk in the shade always. Even if you have to cross the street in odd areas or turn down the incorrect road to get to your destination. Shade walking is essential to baring the unbearable heat.

After carefully examining a large world map, it can be deducted that Cordoba sits on the same longitudinal line as Sacramento, a city that like Cordoba, is land locked and prone to extremely hot summers. I’ve been to Sacramento in the summer and the abundant supply of air conditioning and swimming pools makes it ten million times easier to stand the heat. Air conditioners in Cordoba are a luxury, far and few to come buy. When heat waves hit California, one must wear a sweater to the grocery store or the movie theater because the air conditioner is turned up to freezer settings. Here, most air conditioning systems are portable, similar to a swamp cooler, and provide a little cool air for one room. Outside of the air conditioned room is a large noisy machine that emits so much heat it is unimaginable. Cooking is absolutely unheard of and blow-drying your hair is plain stupid.

Besides the lack of air conditioners, the lack of swimming pools has always been a major problem between Cordoba and I. There are few good public swimming pools, but they are at least a 15-20 minute drive outside of the city. The majority of the people live in blocks of apartments that do not have pools. Adding to the problem of the lack of pools is a personal mental issue that I’ve had since my first day in Cordoba. For some crazy reason, I always feel as if there should be a beautiful gleaming bay or ocean where the dried up Guadalquivir River trickles slowly through the city.

There are no pools, no ocean, no nearby lakes and this summer the entirety of Andalusia is going through a terrible drought! So how do the Cordobesans stay cool in all this heat? They make minor adjustments, like putting beers in the freezer, ten minutes before you plan to drink them, and they go out late at night, when it’s the coolest part of the day. It’s funny though, the way they handle the heat: Cordobesans are constantly surprised by the hot weather. “It’s so hot,” my Spanish boyfriend says multiple times a day. When I ask him why, after spending 27 years of his life in Cordoba, isn’t he used to the heat, he says, “that’s the thing about the calor in Cordoba, it is so HOT, that you never really get used to it.” Who knows, maybe after a couple more summers here, I’ll be able to handle it better? Until then, I’ll just have to make sure to stock my freezer with beer.

Source: Flickr User IvanWalsh.com

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