Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What Should I Bring?

Let’s see, what to pack? Have you been wondering if the weather will be hot, cold, sunny or rainy in northern Europe at the end of July? The answer is “Yes.” It could be all of the above. You’d better prepare for layers to add and remove. When I was in Riga at the end of May, it was practically tropical. It was sunny in the morning, rained in the mid-afternoon, and then got up into the 80s and humid by evening.

My sources in Riga tell me that most of July has not been nearly as warm as May was. Last week the average high was 68 and it rained on three days and was cloudy the rest of the time. Today (Tuesday, July 17), however, the high was 84, but it felt like 88 because of the humidity. Some sunny days are in the forecast for most of the week with average highs around 70. There is hope.

Norway hasn’t been faring any better. Both Oslo and Bergen have been rainy and a bit cooler than Riga. I’ve heard from Arnhild, who has been up in Tromsø (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle). She’s been having 24 hours of sunshine every day and says it’s been the best weather in Norway. This evening (Tuesday) she returns to Oslo, and I guess we’ll have to watch and see if she brought some rays with her. In case you’d like to check on Riga, Bergen, Oslo—any other international cities in Fahrenheit as well as Celsius, I’ve linked this posting to the Weather Network.

The Seven Sleepers: Latvia’s Ground Hog Day

To predict the weather for our stay in Riga, we may have to rely on the special rain prognostication date of Friday, July 27 (the day before our tour begins). It is called Septiņu Gulētāju Diena (Feast Day of the Seven Sleepers). According to legend, if it rains then, it will rain for the next 7 days and/or the next 7 weeks. (Although, like all good legends, there are variations in the forecast. That rare Latvian, the optimist A. Zālīte, claims if the sun shines on July 27, then it will shine for 7 days.)

After a Latvian told me about this folk belief, I had to go online in search of an explanation (since my husband the historian was clueless): Who were these 7 Sleepers? The web did not disappoint. It took me to Wikipedia, Wilson’s Almanac, and even The Catholic Encyclopedia where I learned about the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Yes, the legend concerns seven young Christian men (once saints but downgraded to martyrs in recent times), Ephesians from Asia Minor (modern Turkey), who were walled up in a cave by the Roman Emperor Decius (249-251) because of their faith. A mason found them in 479, still asleep. In fact, Rip van Winkle-ishly they thought they had been asleep for only one night, instead of 229 years. Various adventures ensue—amazement that Christians are no longer persecuted; that when they try to buy bread with their pocket change, the coins are so ancient that the baker suspects them of having found a buried treasure, etc. Eventually a church was built over the cave and every year the feast of the 7 Sleepers is observed on July 27.

A similar story is included in the Koran—where the men sleep for 309 years and are accompanied by their dog, Kratim (who became a great philosopher once he woke up).

The legend circulated in Greek, Latin, Anglo-Norman poetry--and has even been found in an Old Norse fragment. Maybe Arnhild, whose Ph.D. thesis was on medieval Norse ballads, can enlighten us when we see her.

How this relates to the weather in Latvia is beyond me. The Germans also have a proverb about Seven Sleepers Day (Siebenschlafer) related to rain. Since I plan to arrive in Latvia on Thursday and will be implanted in Riga on July 27, I’ll be able to give you an eye-witness report when we finally meet on Saturday.

Note: There should be two more postings before I leave. Please keep watching.


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