The start of winter in Johannesburg is never a secret.
Every year it amazes me how the first cold front is announced on Facebook and other social network sites with comments like ‘Brrrr…’, ‘It is freezing outside’, ‘Who left the fridge door open’, etc.
The funny thing is that we have exceptionally mild winters in Johannesburg… Our daily average high temperature in winter is about 16°C. That is higher than the spring high temperature in many countries!
At the risk of boring my readers from Jozi, I venture a little geography lesson to understand the temps… Joburg is situated on the Highveld plateau, at an altitude of 1 753m (5 750ft) above sea level, which means that we have one of the best climates in the world. Summer temperatures are mild because of the elevation and the average daily high during summer is about 26°C. Of course we have days where the temperatures go above the 30°C mark, but then even we complain about the heat! We have a summer rainfall, but mostly this consists of short, sometimes spectacular, afternoon thunderstorms, often accompanied by lightening. Rarely does a day go by that we do not see the sun.
Winter, on the other hand, is our dry season and we very rarely have any rain in winter. Of course, this means that everything is dry, but we have the most gorgeous sunny days in winter. The sun goes under around 17:30 in winter and rises around 6:30 in the morning, so even at the height of winter, we have about 11 hours of sunshine a day. Not too shabby.
But the mornings and evenings do get very cold. The average minimum temperature is 4°C, but we often have sub zero temperatures in winter. This may not seem like much when you live in Canada or the UK or Europe, but the main difference is that our houses are not equipped to deal with these cold temperatures. Very few houses have central heating, or air conditioners and people use heaters or in the rural communities open fires, to keep warm. And this, in combination with the dry conditions, inevitably causes another common Jozi winter site, i.e. veldfires.
Due to a lack of rainfall in winter, we nearly never see snow in Jozi. Last year, in August, we had snow and pictures of people building mini snowmen out of small balls of snow that they had to send out a search party for to collect, went viral on the social networks. Mostly, we have frost in winter, and we know we are in the midst of winter when you see blankets of white frost on the lawns and can breathe smoke when you go outside in the mornings.
I have travelled to many places, and have experienced very cold and sometimes wet winters, and I have to admit, that winter in Joburg is really fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I am not much of a winter person, and prefer the milder temperatures in spring and autumn, but we really have very little to complain about.
So, in order to remind myself, and everyone else out there, about the joys of winter (in Joburg), I have made a small list of some of the things I love most about winter!
1. Soup, soup and more soup
I love soup! Whenever the temperature starts dropping, I start making soup. I grew up with some hearty vegetable soups, kidney bean soup and pea and bacon soup, but I love anything soup. I prefer my soup to be a bit chunky and will often toss in something meaty like lamb knuckles, oxtail or just plain stewing beef into the soup. Not a lot, just to give it that yummy, meaty flavour.
Last year I tried out one of the Jamie Oliver soup recipes that I drooled over saw on Jamie at Home for a delicious onion soup, and although it takes a bit of time to make, it was moreish and sweet (the onions are caramelised first) and even though my breath probably smelled of onions for days, I couldn’t stop eating it!
And, the bonus is that it is such an easy way to get the kids to eat vegetables!
I have particularly small feet (just under a size 3, which is sort of a UK size 35 ½. And I love buying shoes whenever I am overseas (except for Belgium, they don’t stock small shoes). And, maybe because I am often travelling in winter, or maybe because I just have a shoe fetish, I often buy boots! (Actually, I buy boots here as well, so ignore that whole shpiel about the overseas travelling…it is more likely just an excuse!)
I have so many pairs of boots in my cupboard…long boots, and short boots; boots with heels and flat boots; brown boots and black boots. And the other day I was thinking I need a new pair of long black boots.
3. Another pretty scarf
When other people travel, they buy ornaments, and T-shirts and other touristy things. I buy scarves. I love a beautiful scarf and I have two drawers full of scarves. The one is filled with thin scarves, some of which I can even wear in summer, and the other drawer is filled with winter warmer ones, many of them with matching hats. My collection includes scarves that I bought in Cairo, Perth (merino woollen ones, with a matching hat!), Dublin, Edinburgh, NYC and in Geneva.
And I use each and every opportunity that I get to wear my scarves! It is not uncommon for me to wear a scarf the whole day, as it was purposefully picked to be part of the outfit, baby! It is not like you take your necklace off in the middle of the day, is it?
4. A house with a fireplace!
Last year, I moved into a new house, and even though it does not have a proper fireplace, it has a winter lounge with a gas fireplace. And I love it. My favourite thing in winter is to curl up in front of the television (we have a projector in the room, so it feels like a private movie theatre…), and watch a movie or cooking programme television show, with a glass of red wine and a soft blanket over my knees, whilst the fireplace is heating up the room.
5. Red, red wine
I think I may have mentioned previously that I love a glass of wine… But, mostly because it is too hot in summer and I need something to cool me down, I don’t drink a lot of red wine in summer. I prefer to drink white wine (with a block of ice in it…even if I can see your eyebrows raised in question). Red wine is kept for special dinners or when the white wine is running low…:-)
But winter is red wine time. For me, red wine is my preferable drink in winter. There is nothing quite like a glass of red wine to warm you up from the inside on a cold winters day!
Of course, the one main attraction (for me) of winter in Joburg is that it is so short. By the end of August, we should start seeing the temperatures rising again to the mid twenties, so we literally have 3 months of cold weather and warm weather most of the rest of the year!
So, here’s to the beginning of our three cold months! Open a bottle of red wine, and chill, because very soon it will be a distant memory!