The man who works in the shop down the street from my apartment sums up St. Petersburg winters quite well, here is a loose translation of what he says:
The (expletive) weather here is (expletive), (expletive).
Which in phonetic Russian it sounds like "Pah-
He isn't wrong.
Folks in America often say to me, "bet it's cold up there."
It is true.
But, the true malignancy of winter "up here" has nothing to do with the cold; being so far north means that, this time of year, the sun rarely shows its face, if at all. We are at the end of November, and the sun hasn't shone for twenty-seven days.
I know this from the scratch marks on my bookcase.
Winter in St. Petersburg is like tumbling down a Loony Toons-style rabbit hole of perpetual darkness; there is no up or down, you cannot see the end or even remember the beginning and the famous White Nights feel like something you read about in a book once, so very long ago.
In the face of darkness, Russians fight with style. I remember – so very long ago, at the beginning of November, my girlfriend said to me, "I can't wait for winter."
And I asked, "why?"
"I get to wear my stylish jackets and sweaters," she said.
And I shuddered and told her, "no one will be able to see anything through the darkness and depression!"
"Bah! Americans are babies," she said. And that was that.
And, winter progresses, I look back waywardly on that conversation as I traverse, dumb and blind, through the cold dark streets. She is right that winter brings an opportunity for Russians to exhibit fashion trends I never saw in America. Often in
In Russia it seems that the further you head on either side of 30, you eventually turn into a multi-layered marshmallow. My friend Ivan and I play a game each winter; Old lady or child? It is harder than you'd think.
Parents tuck their children into full-body puff suits and send them out into the world to be unblemished by any weather-related dangers while the fat jackets of old women seem to get longer, and longer, and longer to the point where they
As well, there is a massive retro-trend that has made its way around the 20-somethings of St. Petersburg that could fill Brooklynn with the rabid foam of jealous hipsters. Once I stayed in an Airbnb where the legs on a broken chair were replaced with two almost-even pieces of plywood leading me to the realization that Russians aren't going to throw something away unless they
It is also worth noting that in winter Russian women reveal themselves as secret arctic wizards capable of defying the laws of physics. Ice is everywhere. I buy boots, I buy chains for my boots, I walk at a
And lastly, it wouldn't be Russia if you didn't occasionally find a brawny young man strolling through the
Benjamin Davis is an American journalist and author of The King of Fu living in St. Petersburg, Russia where he spent a year working with Russian artist Nikita Klimov on their project: Flash-365. Now, he primarily writes magical-realism flash fiction stories about Russian culture, self-deprecating mishaps, and babushkas while sharing his exploits on his Telegram channel.
Read more: 3 situations in which an American felt like a dog in Russia
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