Many people I have met during the past few days insist that I have not come to Cyprus at the right time of year. Day temperatures may feel pleasant to Northern European visitors, but Cypriots have a hard time fighting the cold. Most houses are not isolated, which means temperatures at night reach close to zero. Both outdoors and indoors. Improvised heating units struggle to heat a few square meters of space, mostly in people`s living or sleeping rooms. Cypriots are better equipped for temperatures well over 30 degrees. I am happy to listen to their view on coping with tropical summer heat.
Cyprus owes much to its Mediterranean climate. The tourist industry flourishes as a result of the nice weather and the entire economy would collapse without it. On the other hand, Cypriots are well aware of the dangers of hot weather. Water and electricity cuts occur quite frequently and ill-prepared tourists cause First Aid units to work overtime.
`The summer heat is not the worst - I suffer more from the winter cold`
Elena (25) tells me that tourists do not always understand that 12 o`clock in the afternoon is not a right time to be at the beach, and that you shouldn`t spend more than one hour on the beach without cooling down. `Last summer, my relatives from England came over. They used sun screen factor 12 and spent entire days on the beach. No wonder they burn as if they are barbecued. They don`t have the right skin type to endure the sun, and even Cypriots use factor 30 or higher. Still, they prefer to return home with at least some kind of colour rather than taking home the pale faces they had upon arrival on the island. Cypriots also get burnt occasionally: I fell asleep in the shade one time and only woke up when the sun had turned around the house.`
Cypriots know that they should avoid the sun during day time and they do not go to the beach without the minimal protection of an umbrella. Elena doesn`t stay out in the sun for more than one hour, and that hour is never between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon: `When temperatures climb over 45 degrees, it`s better to stay indoors until sunset.`
`Hardly anybody cycles in Cyprus, except maybe some immigrants. But during summer, cycling is simply impossible. People also avoid having to walk for longer than a few minutes. Shops and offices have longer lunch breaks and may open until later at night. For two-and-a-half months, all schools are closed. As a compensation for that, pupils and students do not have mid-term breaks. They enjoy two weeks off at Christmas, two weeks at Easter and pretty much all of summer.`
Mariana (29, photo) tells me that humidity, more so than temperature, dictates how hot the air feels: `It sometimes reaches 99% and those days can be terribly sweaty. I take two showers a day during summer: one at lunch time and one in the evening before I go to bed, just to cool down. Nights are hardly any colder than days, especially in coastal areas. People keep windows and doors open day and night for ventilation, even on the ground floor.`
`Those who want to escape the heat can also opt to go to the mountains. They are not sufficiently high to make it cold, but the inland is not as hot as the beaches. Capital city Nicosia is not colder during the day, but does cool a lot more at night. Rainfall is very rare in summer, but when it once happened, it was quite pleasant.`
Mariana continues: `Most people drink a lot throughout the day. Water, coffee, frappe, juice. I don`t like water, so in my case it will be juice. And salads for meals. People obviously wear fewer clothes than during winter. Only the English show themselves in shorts and T-shirts at this time of year.
For me, anything below 17 degrees is cold. At this time of year, I wear multiple layers to stay warm. And nights are even worse. You can`t heat the room you sleep in because it will pollute the air or cause a fire risk. So I heat my sleeping in the evening, then remove the heater when I go to bed. I jump under several layers of bad linen and make sure that my clothes for the next day are within reach. Summer has its disadvantages, but anything`s better than winter. I`m glad it will soon be May again!`
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