We’re just finishing our 4th heat wave of the season. My recollection is that 2 is the usual number. The Greek meteorological service says July was the hottest in 110 years, and June was one of the hottest. I’m not sure how the meteorological service classifies a heat wave but it seems temps of 40 (104 F) or more on consecutive days does the trick. Our normal highs in July and August are 37-38 (99-101) so heat waves are not a huge departure but they seem to be just enough to make the heat unreasonable.
The combination of a sun that feels like a giant directed-energy weapon and the high air temperatures transfers a lot of heat to virtually everything in the environment, turning the buildings, the roads, the trees, the dirt, even the seas into passive solar radiators. Walking around at night one experiences the unusual (for me) sensation of heat radiating from below. And I can tell when I’m approaching the front wall of our building with my eyes closed. This radiation from the environment keeps the nighttime temps relatively high, even in the absence of high humidity. The normal low is about 25 (75), and we haven’t seen a morning low below 22 (69-70) in 2 months.
The heat is one reason why we advise against visiting in July and August. This photo was shot about 3pm on August 27. The probe is 3 inches below the surface of the beach. I did the same measurement at the end of July and the temp was 105. I recorded a water temp of 80-82 that day and, having left the probe on my beach towel while I swam, I observed a reading of 130 when I returned. I shudder to think about the interior of the car in mid-afternoon.
Now, with the solstice 2 months past and August rolling to a close, we are looking forward to the return of the west wind, the occasional cloud overhead, and maybe a little cool, cool rain.
When Sue and I came to Europe on the Grand Tour in ‘72, these little 3-wheeled Piaggio Apes were ubiquitous in Italy and Greece. We had seen them nowhere else in Europe but they were clearly the go-to vehicle for plumbers, builders, craftsmen, and deliveries of all types in Italy. We assumed it was an Italian vehicle for Italians. But when we got to Greece we found exactly the same situation; a significant percentage of road traffic was comprised of these tiny, buzzy, flimsy contraptions. They have miniscule, single-cylinder 2-stroke engines that smoke like chimneys and propel the vehicle to a top speed of maybe 25 mph. And one look is all it takes to convince you Ralph Nader missed his target when he wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. My brother and his Navy pals on Crete referred to them as Souvlaki Wagons.
Fresh from university, after 4 years of Latin and 4 years of French, I looked at the swarms of these little rattletraps and wondered (to myself, mercifully), “Why do they call these things Apes? They want us to think they’re big and strong? That’s hilarious!” Obviously the laugh was on me for it was almost 4 decades later I suddenly realized that, of course, they hadn’t given the vehicle an English name, they gave it an Italian name, and that Ape is Italian (and Latin) for “bee.” And it’s a perfect name it: light, small, buzzy, and prone to travel in swarms.
These days, Apes are becoming as rare as apes in Greece but, because they apparently live forever, you do occasionally run into a hardy if superannuated soul piloting one these jobs around town. A toothless fishmonger in the next village sells fish from the back of a pungent example, and I spotted this one, apparently collecting recyclable trash, in central Athens. They may be too slow for today’s roads and too uncomfortable for today’s Europeans but they were obviously well designed for their intended purpose and era, which is rapidly drawing to a close. My appreciation of the Ape ends there but whenever I see one it gives me fresh pause to consider just how much Greece has changed since 1972… and just how useful is a university education.