Monday, December 27, 2004

 

Black Ice

One of the joys of winter in Moscow is the phenomena of black ice. I discovered this the hard way during a visit in December, 2003. Being back in Moscow during the holidays had me in a good mood and I was going out for the evening, of course, starting after 9 pm. In a fit of joy I decide to hop over a snow bank to the sidewalk. When my right foot hit the pavement/ice it went out from under me and I came down hard on my left knee. Swelling and bleeding, I decided to call it a night. I spent the next few days inside icing my knee and cursing my luck. I watched New Years Eve on TV. It was a particularly cold year so I was not tempted to try and endure the crowds in Red Square.

Black ice results from the huge amount of pollution in Moscow and the month or so when temperatures hover around freezing which keeps the sidewalks slushy during the days and freezing at night. A layer of ice forms over the pavement that is black as night and it is very easy to mistake this ice for the street under it. Moscow is a city of apartment buildings and the owners of these buildings do not consider it their responsibility to clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings. Surprisingly, few businesses bother, either. Snow fall is prodigious and maintaining clear sidewalks would be a fulltime job. Considering how cheap labor is in this country, you would think they could get this done.

Walking in Moscow is great exercise. You have to shuffle your feet while leaning forward to avoid slipping. It isn't easy to master. I was told Russians can spot non-Russians by the way we walk. They know if the foreigner is American if the person is smiling, also.

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