Summers in Germany can be rough. I mean, really rough. I used to think it was laughable when my husband would complain about the 85 degree weather in Germany when I was dealing with 110 degree weather in Texas. But don’t let those numbers fool you. I’ve come to learn that 85 degrees in Germany does not feel like 85 degrees in Texas.
And when you’re used to having every house, store, and restaurant cooled to a constant 68 degrees, not having anywhere to escape from that heat to can be a nightmare. So, before you start calling for me to turn in my Texas card, here are ten ways you can stay cool like a German during the summer.
Learn how to use your windows
So, the problem with German summers isn’t the temperature outside, it’s the lack of air conditioned buildings. For that reason, it’s really important that you get your house as cool as you can. Now, German houses are built out of stones that are a natural coolant of sorts, but sometimes that’s not enough. After the sun goes down in the evenings, open your windows. We actually open our bedroom and living room windows all the way so that the air can move through the whole house, and we leave them open the entire night.
It’s cooler at night, so this will cool off your house while you sleep. In the mornings, close your windows completely by about 8:30. You don’t want any of that heat coming in, and especially for those windows facing the sun, you don’t want that sunrise stealing all of the cold air you let in the night before. Close your window, close your curtains, and put your rolladens all the way down. Do not open them again until the sun sets! Your house might heat up a bit throughout the day, but trapping that cool air in the mornings will make a massive difference.
If you don’t have rolladens, or if you either live in a Dachwohnung (an apartment directly under the roof) or have an upstairs floor that’s directly under the roof, you’re going to have an especially hard time keeping anything cool. There are specialty shades made just for those skylight type windows. We use several made by Velux, and they work really well. (They’re not a sponsor of the blog. We just really do use them.)
Buy a summer bedspread cover
If you don’t have different bedspread covers for the winter and summer, you’re doing it wrong. Most Germans have one bedspread that they use year-round, but they switch out the cover in the different seasons. For example, we have a cover for winter that is made out of a thick, almost flannel-type, material that heats like you wouldn’t believe. But for the summer, we have an extremely light and airy cover that feels cold to the touch throughout the night. This makes a huge difference – especially when you combine the cool bedspread with open windows.
My first summer in Germany, there were days when the temperature in our bedroom topped 90 degrees at night (it’s one of those rooms directly under the roof). But as hot as the air was, the bedspread was still cool to the touch. And that helped a lot because it cooled our skin off, which helped us to feel the heat a little less.
Ice your feet
This is something I used to tease my husband about all the time. When we were still dating long distance, he would send me pictures of himself melting in the summer heat. And without fail, there was always a series of pictures of his feet in a bucket of water. It looked so silly, especially when he had the bucket next to the couch, but it is surprisingly effective.
That first summer, I was complaining about how awful it was in the house. We were roasting, and the heat was unbearable because unlike in Texas, here you just bake in it. You can’t get out of the heat anywhere. My husband started to get the bucket for me, and at first, I protested. But he filled it with cold water and then added a handful of ice cubes to it. He set it next to the couch, I put my feet in it, and immediately, I felt relief. Then we were sending pictures back home to my family in Texas of both of us with our feet in buckets!
Take a walk in the forest
Okay, but what if that’s still not enough? If the house is still too hot for you, or if you just want to get out for a while, a really effective (and free) way to cool off is to take a walk in the forest. It doesn’t sound like it would cool you off, but, trust me, it will. In Texas, the last thing I wanted to do in the dead of summer was go hiking, but here, it works.
The temperature in the forest is drastically different from the temperature out in the sun. Sometimes it almost feels like you go from 90 degrees to 60 degrees. My husband always calls it the “natural air conditioning.” Taking a leisurely walk on one of the forest trails for a couple of hours can make for a very welcome escape from the summer heat.
You’ll see a lot of people in the forest for that very reason. And if you really want to cool off the German way, stop at one of the Kneippbeckens. These are pools of outrageously cold water that you are supposed to walk through after a long walk or hike. But be warned, the water is painfully cold.
This particular Kneippbecken is at the Bitburger Stausee. Seriously, don’t judge me until you’ve tried it!
Go for a dip in the Moselle River
Before you say, “Nobody swims in the Moselle River!” –
This is one of about a dozen spots where we saw people swimming off the river banks in Trier just yesterday.
Obviously, this is moving water, so you have to be careful of the currents. But lots of Germans jump into the Moselle River on especially hot days. A good tip for anyone looking for a river spot to jump in at – take a boat ride first. A lot of the piers and beaches people use to access the water aren’t really visible from the street. When you’re on the boat, you can make a mental note of all the places where people are swimming and then head over there afterwards.
Spend the day at a lake
There are a ton of lakes in the Eifel, and the best part about swimming in them is that many of them are free. You don’t have to contend with currents, and a lot of them even have sandy beaches. We like to go to one of the nearby lakes along the Germany/Luxembourg border because they also have picnic areas and grills, so you can really make a day out of it. And whenever you feel the need, just hop in the lake!
Visit a Freibad
If the thought of jumping into a lake or moving river is a little too frightening for you, then you could spend the day at a Freibad. These are basically just outdoor swimming pools, and you can find them all over the region. Unlike the lake or river option, though, these aren’t free. But, for a couple of euros, you do get the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t be swept out by a current or bitten by a fish.
I’m probably alone in the fish fear, but you never know.
Eat ice cream
I’m not sure that there is anything more German – or maybe even European – than sitting under the shade in a small street cafe, eating ice cream on a blazing summer day. It’s so funny to me because we have ice cream parlors in the States, too, but we don’t flock to them in summer like the Germans do. If you’ve ever walked past an ice cream place on a sunny day with a temperature of – oh, let’s say – 80 degrees or higher, you know what I’m talking about.
To be fair, Germans seem to love eating ice cream year-round, but it’s especially refreshing in the summer.
Seek refuge in a castle
So, we all know the secret to German houses staying as cool as they do is in the stones. But when a German house might just be cool, the castles are like meat lockers. That’s because the castles were also built with stones, but the massively thick walls (sometimes over 15 feet wide) make today’s construction pale in comparison. Visiting a castle – even in the dead of summer – might leave you feeling like you need a jacket.
And most castles have restaurants or cafes as well. So, once you’re done with the tour, you can stay on-site and enjoy a nice cold drink while still benefitting from the coolness of those thick walls.
Install an air-conditioner
And finally, if all else fails, you can install an air conditioner in your house. We ended up having to do that in our bedroom because the summers just kept getting hotter, and with our kitty cats, I worried too much about them being home alone in 90 degree temperatures. These air conditioners are not like the central systems we have in the States. The one we have is more like what you would find in a hotel room.
You can run them non-stop or use the auto feature so that it turns itself on/off at the desired temperature. With this little a/c, we can get our bedroom down from 90 degrees to 65 degrees even at the peak of the day. And even though it’s just meant to cool one room, this little guy cools some of the neighboring rooms in our house by 5 or so degrees.
It does have an outside compartment – like what we have in the States, only smaller – but it’s very quiet. When we first got it, we cranked it up and then walked outside to see how loud it was. We could barely hear it from the sidewalk, and I dare say, if we hadn’t known it was there, we probably wouldn’t have heard it at all.
It does run our electricity bill up, but we only use it when it’s really necessary. So, that might be reassuring to know, at least, that if you really want or need an a/c in your house, you can get one in Germany.
Is there anything I missed? What other ways have you found to stay cool on those sweltering summer days in Germany?