There is a wonderful phrase in Scotland that we use when it’s cold. When the wind blows a howling gale through the streets, when the rain lashes down and when the temperature dips below zero, as it so often does in winter.
“It’s absolutely Baltic today”
It was a phrase that I would often use, standing shivering with my hands in my pockets, my shoulders shrugged up so as to help my collar and scarf keep my ears warm. It’s a phrase that I have now had to stop using.
I’ve lived in Latvia around a year now, so I’ve been lucky enough to experience all four seasons here, and although I’m told that last summer was especially excellent, I’m also informed that the coming summer will also be warm and plentiful, so why should I assume that it is any other way going forward?
The questions I get asked rather regularly about Latvia (especially from those in the UK, who can’t help but natter about the conditions outside) are “What’s the weather like there?” “Isn’t it always freezing?”
Well, when I arrived in the country last June it was anything but freezing. It was so warm in fact, that I had to rummage through piles of seldom-used clothes to find my shorts, and it was also at that point that I realised I would need to purchase some more appropriate footwear. Socks and trainers were not going to cut it in these temperatures.
Those from warmer climates will, of course, think I’m over-reacting, but I come from Scotland: the land of a thousand clouds. Home to rain, wind, sleet, snow, fleeting sunshine and hail, often all within the same day.
As an overview, the seasons seem to last as long as they do in the UK, although they are quite clearly easier to distinguish than they are in Britain, because in summer it’s warm for more than a few days at a time, and winter is an actual season, not just the 11 months when it’s not summer.
“Hey Davie, do you remember the summer we had this year?”
“Oh aye Jim, that was a good week. I nearly had a barbecue!”
“Yeah, same! We took a trip to the beach, but by the time we got there, the rain had started.”
The temperatures are a little more extreme here. Summer can bring temperatures that will have you in shorts and a t-shirt peaking sometimes as high as 35, but often sitting somewhere between 17 and 22. Conversely, winter seems to chug along below zero for much of the time, and cold snaps can take things down to as low as -25 or -30. There is something to be said for being prepared, but I find that it’s a little more predictable than in the UK, which is half the hassle when I was used to leaving the house with an umbrella, snow-boots, sunglasses, a rain-coat and a sun-hat.
With the abundance of forest (which I seem to somehow cram into almost every blog I write) comes a rather beautiful autumn, and I would liken the scenery to “New England in the fall” had we a few more hills. Anyone in the vicinity of Sigulda or Cēsis would likely inform me that we have a fair number of hills to which that likeness would stand, but for our mostly flat country, it may require a short journey or day trip to find your nearest tree-covered slope upon which to gaze.
Springtime, as we are experiencing now can be changeable. In fact, likely the most changeable season here in Latvia, but a beautiful one nonetheless. Winter recedes, taking with it sub-zero temperatures, and the green returns to the plants and landscape. It may not be as green all year round as Scotland, but that’s no real shame, since there is certainly nowhere near the same amount of rainfall (in my experience thus far). Not only have I managed to source an umbrella over here, but I’ve been able to use it without the wind turning it inside out and rendering it only useful for filling bins. Coming from Scotland – where umbrellas go to die – that’s somewhat refreshing.
All year round I have noticed that the median temperature is probably very similar to the UK, but given that it fluctuates more dramatically from season to season, we get both a harsher winter and a more delightful summer than those unfortunate enough to be heavily dictated by the Gulf Stream.
So to describe the weather as Baltic now means more to me than it used to. The cold impression people get of the Baltic region is certainly not unjust, considering our winters, but I do enjoy being able to tell people that it’s not all snow and ice every day.