Europe is living a summer like no other. The vineyards of France are withering in the heat, the river barges are moored along the Rhine, unable to navigate along the river which has ceased to flow. In Italy, the Po delta has been inundated with salt water as the level of the river drops. Images have emerged showing Mediterranean beaches under skies darkened by smoke from wildfires. In the UK, the mercury has soared above 40C for the first time and the grassy lawns of London’s Hyde Park look dry and spiky like a coconut. They could be an Aussie backyard at the end of a hot, harsh summer.
It’s far from over. On August 18, the maximum temperature peaked at over 30°C across southern Europe with 35 degrees in Rome, 37 in Athens and 44 in Palermo. During Europe’s peak holiday season, some have chosen to move their holidays from the Mediterranean to northern and central Europe, but even in these cities there is no refuge from the heat. For that same day in August, Stockholm and London reached 27 degrees and Vienna and Berlin 34. According to Climate Data Org [climate-data.org]these figures are 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the average high temperatures for these cities in August.
European cities were not designed for heat waves. Sightseeing becomes exhausting as soon as the temperature exceeds 30°C. Tourists cooled off in the Trocadero fountain in front of the Eiffel Tower instead of sweating on the Champs Elysees, swam wildly in London’s Hampstead Heath rather than panting along Piccadilly. With few exceptions, air conditioning, like shower design, is not a concept that Europeans have embraced. Where it exists, air conditioning to European standards guarantees restless nights in hotels that absorb heat during the day and release it at night.
It is unlikely to be cooler in 2023. The year 2020 was the hottest on record in Europe. Summer 2021 broke that record, and summer 2022 will likely hit a new high. Given that the trend is towards hotter and drier summers, you can expect something similar in 2023. So what does this mean for a vacation in Europe?
Assuming that mid-June to early September could be another scorching summer in Europe, it makes sense to go on vacation earlier or later. April to early June and mid September to late October might be the best times. If it’s a vacation that involves trekking in Corsica or tackling the cycle path around Lake Constance, the extreme ends of these times might be your best bet.
Less time in cities, more in the countryside could be the answer, and anything with water in the picture will have added appeal. Beaches, of course, but European beaches are mostly small, very crowded and they hurt your feet. European beaches will make you truly grateful to live in Australia. A houseboat trip along some of the well-shaded canals of France or Britain, a water holiday in the forest-surrounded lakes of Finland or a paddling adventure in the lake district of Sweden could be the answer. Cruising on major rivers is another option, but low water levels along the Rhine and Danube could force cruise passengers to change their itineraries, as they did when levels plummeted in 2018.
Avoid intra-European flights
Extreme heat could impact flight schedules. Flights from Gatwick were delayed when some passengers fainted after queuing for hours in an unair-conditioned terminal. Airport crew
face additional challenges when working outside the terminal in hot weather. Unless it’s a cross-Europe flight, taking a train or driving might be the way to go.
When in Rome…
There is much to admire in the way Italians regulate summer holidays. They can start with a coffee and a cornetto at a local bar before spending a few hours sightseeing, shopping, the beach, or just hanging out. The middle of the day is devoted to a long, leisurely lunch followed by a bedtime, which can last until mid-afternoon. In the cool of the evening they will return to the streets and squares, stroll for a while before having an aperitif then around 9 p.m. they will think about eating. It’s practical, sensible and perfectly suited for the summer heat. If you are going on holiday from Lisbon to Crete, you will not go wrong if you follow their example.
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