What I’ve Learnt From Winter in Europe.

A cold wave swept across Spain in the last two weeks and temperatures dipped dramatically. I was travelling in Almeria and Jaen in southern Spain, which are supposed to be among Europe’s warmest regions in winter. It rained incessantly. The skies frowned with dark clouds. My summer wear went deep into my backpack. Many cafes remained shut. Many people remained indoors. It was still beautiful, but in a dull, gloomy way. So two days ago when I arrived in Cordoba and saw uninterrupted sunshine for the first time in what felt like eons, I knew I had to share what that brief stretch of freak winter had taught me!

Never take the sun for granted.

I could never understand why Europeans like baking themselves on the beach every chance they get. I met a Russian girl in Spiti who refused  to use sunscreen in a region where the sun can literally burn you, because she liked sunshine. I couldn’t comprehend the fascination with the onset of summer in most western countries. Life in India and sunny Singapore has definitely spoilt me. Then came my brief tryst with winter in Europe, and as I walked the cobbled streets with the chill in my face, I understood why summer was so revered in this part of the world. And this wasn’t even half the cold that engulfs most other European countries.

Southern Spain weather, Europe winter travel, Weather in Spain
Making the best of a gloomy day, in Sierra de la Segura.
Weather in Spain, Southern Spain weather
The mist parts to reveal the olive countryside of Jaen.

Wine is your best friend.

While traversing the wine countryside of Catalonia, I had heard about the hardships of monks centuries ago and how they were each allowed two litres of wine a day to keep warm in winter. I could hardly fathom their hardship as my hands and feet went numb with cold despite being well-layered and indoors. One-Euro wines, better labeled wines, wines blended into Sangria; their warmth was the reason I could still hike through the desert of Tabernas, experience the cliff-side beaches at Cabo de Gata, and fall in love with the gypsy quarters of Granada.

Spain winter weather, weather Spain september, Ibiza wine tasting
Wine tasting in Ibiza.

The weather forecast is your second best friend.

I religiously checked the weather forecast each morning, hoping to see a hint of yellow in the icons of dark rainy skies. There were days when the predicted thunderstorm engulfed the night to reveal a beautiful autumn day. There were days when the sun battled with the dark clouds for fleeting moments of sunshine and warmth. But largely, the predictions of the weather department were spot on; it rained when they said it did, and I awaited sunny day predictions like a kid awaits holidays.

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On a rainy day, the mist parts to reveal such a beautiful autumn in Granada.
Granada photos, Granada spain weather, Granada weather
The MET department doesn’t however, predict moments like these.

You can’t survive on winter clothes bought in India.

Or those bought at Wintertime in Singapore. I learnt that the hard way of course. I layered clothes over clothes and put on my boots, and yet the wind tore through and nearly froze me! I envied people comfortably equipped to brave the cold in their very warm-looking overcoats and boots, and shelled out part of my daily budget to buy me some.

Packing list Europe winter, Packing for Europe in winter, Europe winter travel
Braving the cold on a misty day in Jaen (with my new boots!).

Life goes on.

The most important lesson of all; that no matter the cold and the chill and the rain, life goes on, people still step out to go to work, get their breads, and run their errands. Of course, there are a lot less recreational outings, and it was delightful to see the town out and about in Cordoba, soaking in the sun, window shopping in the old town, and having a beer at the local Tabernas (tavern) hangout.

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First glimpse of sunshine in Cordoba, through the bus window!


Have you had your own tryst with winter in Europe? Or would you like to experience it first hand?


Also read:

Flying Over The Bosphorus in Style
My First Impressions of Spain
A Love Affair With Spain’s Wine Countryside


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  1. I especially second the parts where you talk about wine, the weather forecast and the winter clothes. When I first came into Portugal, I had the usual winter clothes we are used to in India and learned of their inadequacy, the hard way. I got myself armed up and then went to Copenhagen and realized that the winter clothes brought in Portugal were no match for an average Copenhagen May morning (8 degrees with gusty winds at 11 is a different feeling altogether)

    As for wine, again, that’s one of the only things that can keep the juices flowing in an otherwise dull day with gusty winds on your face. The weather forecasts are right so long as you are looking only 2-3 days in advance. Else, expect some drama with the weather though I would still say that its not as unpredictable as British weather.

    Nicely written Shivya!

    1. Clothes bought in Portugal not good enough for Denmark? That’s crazy. Did Portugal get a gust of freak winter the last couple of weeks too? Everyone in Barcelona and Jaen said it was most unusual.

  2. Yes. Thing being that it never usually goes below freezing point in Portugal. As for the freak weather, yes ofcourse. Its unusual to be this cold even in the month of November. Gusty winds and temperatures of 9 in the morning (Sat) and all the incessant rain making the weather colder is a rare thing I am told as well. I hope you are not finding things much of a trouble anymore.

    1. Cordoba is blissful! It’s warm and sunny here (hope I’m not going to jinx it), and it reminds me of all the reasons why I love Europe 🙂

  3. Don’t miss the mosque in Cordoba. It is the most amazing building I have ever seen.
    I actually like winter in Europe. I come from sub tropical Brisbane and loathe our hot, humid summers and can’t wait to get back to winter in Bagni di Lucca. I avoid Singapore completely because it is always hot there and will only do stopovers in Hong Kong in winter.

    1. Oh, I love the Mesquita too! Will be sharing pictures on Facebook soon 🙂

      Wow, I never thought anyone could like winter in Europe. I guess I’d pick it over summer in Delhi anyday too, but nothing like summer in Europe!

  4. Nice…so relate to this! And I also ended up buying similar looking boots last winter in Zurich 🙂

    1. I guess that’s the best part about finding yourself in unexpected winter weather 😉

  5. I love this travel blog because you don’t stick to the mundane travel posts about places and monuments – you make it so interesting and talk of things no one else usually does !
    I have never been to Europe in winter but I was in UK last summer and I somehow expected the summer there to be like summer everywhere else – warm if not hot !! I was not prepared for unpredictable London rains and weather … I had to buy myself a mac and a warm sweater !

    1. Thanks Ruchira, I have so much more ‘unusual’ stuff to write about brewing in my head 🙂

      Ah, the infamous UK weather; I’m yet to experience it, but I’ve heard stories of rain and unexpected cold from almost everyone. It’s a good excuse to get some nice winter stuff atleast 😉

  6. Being from the UK I know all about inclement weather though we think of Spain as somewhere it doesn’t affect so much. I do remember though one october watching telegraph poles and trees destroyed by winds of a hundred miles an hour on the Galician coast in North West Spain! I like the atmospheric photos too.

    1. I’ve heard so much about the infamous UK weather that I can imagine Spain is something of a haven. In fact, I met a fair number of British travellers in southern Spain. Truth is, I wasn’t at all expecting a gust of freak winter that lasted a little over a week in my month long trip!

  7. Great tips and photos! We live on the west coast of Norway where it rains so much. I’ve learned to just get out in it (with the proper gear) otherwise I wouldn’t ever leave the house. But it’s an adjustment.

    1. Thanks John & Andrea 🙂 Wow, I can imagine what winter must be like there. Can you see the northern lights from where you are though?

  8. Spain is considered quite warm comparing to other part in Europe in wintertime, especially Andalucia where it seems to be spring even in january. congrats for the blog!

    1. Oh yes it is; it’s been warm all this week, but the weeks I spent in Almeria and Jaen were freak winter weeks. No one expected sunny Spain to be cold and rainy, but I’m glad I got to see a different side of it 🙂

  9. I used to find westerners preoccupation with the sun funny till I visited scotland. there was nothing I wouldn’t do for 15 minutes of tropical sunshine after spending a couple of days there. And this was in June, probably the warmest they would ever be! now when I walk past tourist soaking in the summer sun for hours in our cafe’s courtyard. I just look at them with a lot of sympathy 🙂

    1. And here I was thinking I should visit the English countryside sooner than later 😉 When do I get to visit your cafe? *dreams of the courtyard*

  10. the shooting star ! traveling far ! almost near ! but always afar !
    Wish you such many more trips ahead.
    Bless you.

  11. I am planning my first Europe trip to Spain in December 2016. Do you think its a good idea?

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