I write this standing in the center of the Neva. Technically this version I typed up in my flat but I scribbled the original completely illegible script in a notebook on top the frozen Neva. Though I have borrowed the structure of my opening sentence from Dodie Smith, I can firmly assure you that it is the absolute truth and I am happy that I appear to have taken my own advice of writing in some more unusual places. I did not wander onto the Neva for the sole purpose of giving myself an exciting opening line. In fact, the idea of actually writing whilst I stood on the surface didn’t even occur to me until I was standing in the middle of the river. Being an English rose, I am not even accustomed to ponds freezing, let alone whole canals, rivers, and even the sea. So when I saw people the other day walking up Fontanka river, which I live next to, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a walk along it myself. It also just so happened that the route I was taking from my own home to my friend’s flat was a straight journey that I usually take along the bank of Fontanka. So instead of using the bank, I decided to do the whole half hour walk on the river itself. In this instance, unsurprisingly, writing was quite far from my mind as I was actually trying to get from point A to point B rather than just strolling along the river with no purpose.
A few days later, however, I was walking home from University for which I again walk for a long time along the bank of the rather more substantial Neva. This particular day happened to boast a particularly spectacular sunset and I was in no real hurry to return home. Considering how I could elongate my walk, I decided to go via The Winter Palace. As I made this decision I noticed a few well-wrapped figures wandering around on the surface of the Neva. Thus a new plan formed and I trudged, or should I say slid, down the rather icy steps to the surface of the river. I took my first few rather shaky steps and once I was assured of the solidity of the ice beneath my feet, strode rather briskly into the center of the river. Once there I stopped and looked down the river towards the sea. As previously stated, the sun was doing some rather remarkable things on this particular chilly afternoon. A symptom of this sunset was a dusky haze that started to rise from the river creating a somewhat surreal picture. Standing on the frozen river with such a stunning view I just wanted to stand and admire it for hours. However, most people walking on the river were using it as a means of getting from one side to the other without having to bother with the pesky bridges that in the hotter months we are all reliant upon. As more and more people swept by me, intent on reaching their destinations I realized that I probably looked like a bit of a hapless tourist, standing directly in their path gaping at the sunset. It was at this point I decided to move off the slightly more well-trodden path onto a rather more snowed under section of the river and do something useful. Hence getting out my pen and writing all of this.
Having written all of this I realised that my hands had turned a rather alarming shade of purple and frostbite seemed to be fast approaching so I packed up my things, put on my gloves and headed up the river to the Winter Palace, a walk that from St Isaac’s (where I slid onto the river) amounted to about a mile. While many may question my sanity as I stood on a river and tried to give myself frostbite or those who live/spend a lot of time in colder climes might be confused about my awe of a fairly mundane situation. While I might not repeat the experience now that we are heading towards spring and the rivers are getting less and less solid, I would nevertheless recommend writing on a frozen body of water every now and then for a fairly unparalleled experience.
Besides wandering on the rivers of St Petersburg, the rest of my return has been fairly mundane. I have spent most of my time trying to not slip over on the extraordinarily icy pavements and reregistering for my university. I watched a very confusing, but mildly entertaining Woody Allen play in Russian and have visited yet another extraordinary palace within which part of the Russian Museum Collection is housed. The days are drawing out incredibly quickly and in the week or so since I touched down the weather has got considerably warmer, though that is not saying much as positive numbers are still something to merely dream of. Besides that I have little to report; my new flat is rather lovely and dangerously close to lots of bars and restaurants, my brain is readjusting to working in Russian, and my tea consumption remains unparalleled (luckily I have over 500 tea bags with me for my 6-month stint!).