“I don’t desire to change anything in England except the weather,” said the great Oscar Wilde, if this May is any indication of the things to come then we might need some help changing the weather here as well. It might seem strange, an Englishman complaining about rain, you’d have thought we were used to it right, but this is the first time in twenty-one years on being here that I’ve seen a start to the summer like this. Grey, overcast skies every day, rain every day and temperatures that feel like November. We have had the heating on in May in Dubrovnik, now that is unheard of.
Yes, it is officially the wettest and coldest start to May in Dubrovnik for centuries. And not just in Dubrovnik, parts of Croatia have even seen snow. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike this unsettled weather, on the contrary I am quite enjoying it, just don’t tell anyone. I’m probably used to it; I mean growing up in England I was used to summer lasting for a couple of weeks. So a few drops of rain don’t bother me at all.
I do however feel a little sorry for the tourists. These mainly northern European guests have been looking forward to spending time on the beach and topping up their tan and instead they have been hiding under umbrellas. And when it rains in Dubrovnik what do you do? We are just not prepared for wet weather in the summer. Our complete tourist offer revolves around warm sunshine and a bath-like Adriatic. As soon as it rains the whole thing falls apart, we have no Plan B. Which probably helps to explain why we don’t have all-year-round tourism.
I was with a group of Americans this week, in the Dubrovnik “monsoon season” and they asked a local “What do you do when it rains?” He thought for a few seconds and replied with a very dry voice “get wet.” I would add to that “sleep.” If I could have had a Kuna for every time I have heard “oh, this is great weather for sleeping” over the past few weeks I could have paid Croatia’s national debt! The English just love talking about the weather, it’s like some national hobby, but it appears that the English aren’t the only ones. Over the past couple of weeks all I have heard, wherever I have been, is “I am sick of this rain” or “When will summer come.”
According to a recent BBC survey 94 percent of Brits admit to having talked about the weather in the past six hours. According to my first hand information 100 percent of people from Dubrovnik have talked about the weather in the past six minutes. I can understand why the weather is a hot topic in the UK, it changes so regularly that you often get four seasons in one day. Several features of Britain’s geography make the weather the way it is: mild, changeable, and famously unpredictable. On the other hand Dubrovnik’s climate is generally the exact opposite, completely predictable. Of course we get the odd summer hail storm or even snow, but generally my experience is that the weather is as predictable as a calendar.
There are some quirks, for example Dubrovnik receives more rain annually than London, sounds strange but it’s true. The annual rainfall in Dubrovnik is just over 1,200 mm whilst the average rainfall in London is a little under 600 mm. All those years of suffering the mocking and joking from friends and relatives in Dubrovnik that it rains every day in London and in reality the opposite is the case. Not only is the opposite true but there is twice as much rain here every year than in London. Probably the main reason for this is that when it rains in London it feels like a gentle water spray, whilst in Dubrovnik it rains on a biblical level. On the flip side there is twice as much sunshine every year in Dubrovnik compared to London, but you can’t win them all.
I just have this sneaky feeling that when the grey skies break the summer will be one of the hottest ever and will probably last well into October. At least that’s what I hope will happen. “If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm,” a wise man once said. Well we have seen the storm, that’s for sure.