A Bridge Too Far?
Posted by philwhiteland on Wed, 17 Jul 2019
Having singularly failed to get into Red Square and see the Kremlin, and having been frightened out of my skin by a young couple who just wanted me to take their picture, I decided it was time to head back to the relative safety of my hotel. To add a little variety to the journey (and hopefully find more reliable footpaths) I decided to head down the other side of the Moskva river and then cross the bridge before my hotel (see map below).
My journey back was relatively uneventful until I came to the bridge I had intended to cross to get back to the side on which my hotel stood. I climbed up the steps and was more than a little surprised to find that the bridge was under repair and had no roadway at all, just the girders of the bridge itself. If there were any signs warning about this, I didn’t see them. It was apparent that this wasn’t a big concern to the Muscovites as one or two of them were picking their way across the bridge along the girders. For a mad few moments I considered this option. I was getting tired and this bridge was my last opportunity to cross before I reached my hotel, the next bridge would require me to walk past my hotel to get to it. Then, I looked down into the blackness of the river far below and considered just how likely it would be that anyone would notice, or for that matter, care, if I fell to my doom? I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed back down the steps.
By and large I decided I had more than had my fill of hiking along the river and would be glad to get back to my room. My route took me past a small park with a lake (see map) and I thought it might be nice to sit for a while in the sunshine and contemplate the water. I found a nice spot and rested my weary feet. Despite the -5C temperature, there were quite a few people in the park, particularly mothers with children feeding the ducks (which goes to show that things are the same the whole world over). I particularly noticed a scruffy bloke standing a few yards away from me in the trees. He was standing with his dog (equally scruffy) which he had on a length of rope. He was staring intently at the water and kept rubbing his unshaven chin, as if deep in thought. I was a bit worried about what he might be contemplating and whether it would involve something deeply unsavoury happening to the dog (look, I’m British, we have our priorities, ok?)
Quite a few minutes elapsed with the scruffy man staring at the water, rubbing his chin, looking down at the dog and so on. I tried not to stare but it was difficult to avoid doing so. I don’t know why, but I became convinced that he was thinking about going in for a swim. This seemed an unlikely prospect as the lake was half-covered in pretty thick ice. I had just about decided I was seeing things that simply weren’t there, when he suddenly came to a conclusion. He tied his dog to the nearest tree and then methodically began to undress. First his flat cap and jacket were neatly hung on a tree branch, then his trousers and shirt and, finally, his vest and socks. Now clad in some rather grey-but-once-were-white underpants, he pottered down to the lake and waded in.
You have to say, he must have been made of rather stern stuff. No power on this Earth would have convinced me to part with as much as my overcoat, let alone strip down to my underpants and I dread to think what the water would have felt like at that temperature. What really amused me was that the ducks, most of whom were wandering about on the ice, pottered over to watch him breast-stroking his way across the lake from their frozen vantage point. I tried to capture the moment on camera but I don’t think I really got the best of it
Watch out for more from The Moscow Chronicles coming soon! You can find a lot more from Philip here