Sunday, 20 November 2011

Gearing up for Winter

It’s definitely winter now in Moscow.

When I arrived back from holiday on Monday, it was still dark, with drifting snow in the air. As I left the station, watching dark figures in shapeless dark coats bent into the snow, I thought that this was what I had expected Russia to look like. Dark, grim, snowy, cold, and filled with faceless citizens.

Of course, it then got light and work and sleep helped me to shake off my post red-eye imaginings, but all around me I continue to see signs that winter is here. Every morning there’s snow in the air, and often in the evenings as well, and on Thursday morning there was snow on the ground. The metro is full of shops selling good hats (stylish ones, but made of wool or felt or fur), and whereas they’ve been deserted for most of the time I’ve been here, this week ever time I’ve gone to and from work I see people surrounding them trying on hats. Same goes for gloves – leather ones with lined inners are everywhere.

Most of all, there are the coats. A few people are still in wool, many more are in thick down coats like people wear in Boston, but now the furs are starting to come out. Every morning when I go to work I notice more people in furs than the day before – incredible, silky coats in all shapes and sizes, looking as sleek and strokable as if they were still on the animal. I often have to restrain myself from going up behind them and stroking them – but I think that might be frowned on!

The knowledge that it’s already as cold here as it is in an average January in the UK makes me nervous, but at the same time I’m excited – everyone around me knows what’s coming, but for me it’s new, and each day is like a discovery. There are dangers, like my often-mocked fear of death by falling icicle, but whole new possibilities, like skating and cross-country skiing. And either way, it’ll be an experience.

So today, I joined the Russians in gearing myself up for winter. I already have Mum’s sheepskin coat, and a warm woolly scarf. But I wanted some gloves and a better hat to help me fit in with the crowd, so off to Ismailovsky market I went. An hour or so of wandering around, didn’t find a hat I liked. Then I could only find one stall selling leather gloves, and the guy wouldn’t let me try any of them on, which seemed inauspicious.

But then I found a stall selling reasonably nice black leather boots, and decided to try some just to cheer myself up. Turns out, they’re totally fleece lined! Genius! Like the warmth of Ugg boots, but more waterproof and without having to be the person wearing Ugg boots. So I bought some, thus rendering obsolete my previous plan of ‘wear hiking boots and look like a tool’. Regular readers will be saddened to know that I went with ‘flat’ rather than ‘patent leather over-knee stilettos’, but they did have those so if I have left-over money at any point, those might make their way into the wardrobe as well!

And after that, it got better yet – I found another stall selling wool inner soles to keep the cold from getting through the soles of your shoes. They also sell felt ones, but they didn’t have any in my size and I was worried they might be too thick to fit in my shoes, so I stuck with the woolly ones.

Update: have now hatted myself up - got a fairly poor quality but definitely real fur fur hat to keep my head warm and toasty :-)

End result: I might still not know what’s going to hit me, but I’m starting to feel prepared.

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