гулять: Very long leisure walks
I was already frustrated. I thought I could pull it off but in the end I was just actually walking around in circles. I faced a diverging street and took the one on the right leading to a well-lighted road. I was walking for at least half an hour and was already exhausted. I was not paying attention that the pavement under my feet is thick with slippery ice.
Suddenly I felt my body sway to the right, my right boots started slipping to the left and in a second it was dragging me to the ground. I tried to resist my fall but ended up hurting my arms and knees. I slumped on the ice for a whole two minutes, unable to find my bearings and wallowing in embarrassment in front of about 30 elementary students crossing the bridge on the left side of the street.
A few minutes, when I finally found my street, I almost fell again, this time on a small patch of ice on the sidewalk of Nevsky Prospect. I was very thankful that I did not because I could have hit my head and break my hips on the hard pavement.
When I got home I had a huge bruise on my knees but thankfully, no broken bones.
Winter in Saint Petersburg is tricky and dangerous for people who are not used to snow and ice. There are large icicles on the roofs which can fall any minute. Most of these areas are cordoned-off to prevent people from walking under it but you can never be sure. The pavements are very slippery and you really have to watch your steps. You can’t hurry here otherwise you will end up hurting yourself. It is essential to have a pair of boots that has a good profile or better yet, have spikes on the soles. I thought my boots were good enough but it failed on that one instance of inattentiveness.
Wandelen at the banks of the Neva
The verb on the title means leisure walk or wandelen in Dutch. If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I am not particularly fond of leisure walks especially when it is raining. Even though it had grown a bit on me in the past couple of years, I still do not like walking long distances just for the sake of it. But that does not mean I don’t like to walk. I do when I have to.
But yesterday after visiting the Hermitage Museum, I decided to walk along the banks of the Neva River and get lost in its icy coldness (pun intended). I started from Palace Bridge and worked my way towards the direction of Trinity Bridge, following Дворцовая набережная (Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya). This area is called Palace Embankment The guide books say that this is very popular with tourists but yesterday afternoon, there were only four people walking there, myself, a man who stopped in the middle to light his cigarette, an elderly woman and a thin guy running with what looked like four boxes of pizza on his hand.
I’ve enjoyed that 15-minute walk very much. The Neva was frozen white and the sun was just setting, casting a faint, orange glow in the horizon. Smoke was rising from nearby factories and the gilded spire and the dome of the Peter’s Cathedral was glowing across from the river. At that moment I realized that I am capable of enjoying extreme winter weather and long leisurely walk, both at the same time.
Saint Petersburg has grown so much on me in the last seven days. I am already feeling the sadness of having to leave in another week. I do not want to leave the city, it has shown me beauty like I have never seen it before. Perhaps I am being materialistic, the ones that I have actually seen were extravagance of the Czarist Empire. But I feel that I belong here. There is so much to learn, so much to see and a whole culture unknown to me. A beautiful and unique culture that I didn’t know existed until I started reading Dostoevsky.
Just before Trinity Bridge I turned right to go back to Nevsky Prospect, passing a beautiful park covered with immaculate white snow. Lamps are burning around the park and I can see a dome in the distance. The scenery is post-card perfect. I sighed and whispered, “God, this city is beautiful.” But by this time my feet was already aching and my legs were starting to get heavy. It was time to head back to my apartment.