Always full of drama

Friday, 10 February 2012

Famous Last Words, Frozen for Prosperity

In my last article just a couple of weeks back I wrote about the benign and forgiving winter we were having, also noting that they may be famous last words. Well they were! That very evening the mercury in the thermometer dropped quicker than the draws of a Tijuana hooker at the sight of a $100 bill. From a balmy -1C in the afternoon, to a face numbing -18C the following morning. Snow covered the grass and walkways of our block yet the roads and pavements remained clear. The antique Soviet transport system worked flawlessly, cars travelled relatively easily to and from the city, people got to work.

Black Sea Babushka

In contrast, this week the UK has suffered one of its very rare, annual, snowfalls. Roads are shut, trains are not running and Heathrow cut half its schedule before a flake had hit a runway. The usual litany of excuses were trotted out, exceptional weather, wrong type of snow etc., but what always gets me, is when someone asks an official why the Eastern Europeans can keep going, the answer is nearly always Well they are used to it.

So what they are saying, is countries like Ukraine and Russia who have heavy snow for weeks per year and manage to keep everything running with no money and a decrepit transport system, are doing better than the UK, which has light snow, for literally hours per year and has the worlds 7th richest economy and an advanced transport system? Doesn’t make sense to me.

Anyway, the freezing weather, it hasnt risen above -5 since the last article, has brought with it a spectacular kind of beauty to this wonderful city. Non more so, than the relatively rare event of the Black Sea freezing over. So on Sunday with the mercury at a positively balmy -5C Tania and I donned our shorts and t-shirts, then our leggings, trousers, more t-shirts jumpers, most of our socks, hats, coats and gloves and set of to Arkadia, our nearby beach resort. It was indeed spectacular; the sea had frozen out beyond the horizon. The only tell tale sign that water was present were large container ships leaving the Port of Odessa, miles out in the distance.

See! There is sea!

Odessans walked the ice covered beaches and piers, took pictures and generally just admired this wonder of nature. Tania and I took our own pictures, strolling along listening to the occasional cracks of ice and watching the ice pack gently rise and fall as hidden waves tried to make themselves known. It was enchanting, exhilarating and beautiful and yet another reminder of why I love this city both in summer and the depths of winter.

The White, Black Sea
Eventually the cold started to penetrate our onionskin of clothing and so we turned for home and a nice cup of tea. Feet up and watching the BBC news, where, in the UK it was so cold, the sea had frozen over in Poole. They showed pictures, and it had. For nearly two feet out! Of course nobody went to see it, because the entire transport system was in a state of collapse and the Met Office had advised against all but essential travel.
Antarctica Sur Odessa
To see more of these images and many more, visit my photography site at The Odessa Files, or take a look at my book of the week about Odessa here
Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams