The transition of February to March in Tula is not the most exciting period. It can be boring and gloomy, with grey thaw, overwhelming news about flu epidemics, and news reports on what food has bigger amount of vitamins needed in order to overcome the pre-Spring depression. On these days, it is rather difficult to find any poetics in patches of black ice on sidewalks, dirty snow with sooty-looking spots and polka dots of dog poop, buses enveloped in clouds of wet freezing snow and exhaust or thawed patches revealing disheveled brown grass and last Fall’s leaves.
But the first days of the Spring can also be sunny and frosty. Then the icy sidewalks begin to sparkle, and walking becomes almost pleasant.
It usually snows here a lot, not necessarily every day, but repeatedly. When it snows, it can continue for several days so eventually snow accumulates and turns into ice. Street cleaners, both municipal as well as private businesses try to clear snow and then later split the thick coat of ice on the sidewalks. Also, sand is used to make the sidewalks less slippery. Every morning a big truck with sand comes and a worker puts several buckets of sand on corners of avenues to be used later in the day by the street cleaners.
Eventually, the ice comes off, but nevertheless, walking may still be rather difficult and tricky, the key is to lean forward slightly and making careful steps try not to fall. (However, you see a lot of women of all ages walking freely on icy sidewalks in high hills.) The ice on the streets is a perennial trait of a town in Central Russia in the winter. I remember this problem from my childhood; in fact for us, children, it was one of the exciting things in the winter – we would slide on the most glassy patches and even go skating on some of the icy streets. I’ve recently read in the book of history of Tula (written by a local historian S. Gusev) that skating on the city’s central street was popular among citizens in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Amazingly, streets themselves – the road parts – are absolutely free of ice. I see it as a very big improvement, as I remember how sometimes it used to be difficult to drive. Now it looks like two seasons magically placed together – wintery sidewalks and summer-like roads; walking on the icy sidewalk makes you wish you were a car!
Another interesting winter trait is icicles.
On warmer days the sun melts the snow on the roofs and icicles appear.
They are removed (broken off) by crews of municipal workers on cherry-pickers. Newer co-op buildings usually hire professional climbers to do the job.
But on sunny days you look past signs on buildings that say “Danger: Icicles Falling”, stop and look up and see glittering spikes (usually you just swear under your breath and dock as icicles do fall on people, despite the city’s continuous efforts to take them off of the roofs.)
It’s the beginning of March and it’s been snowing today yet again. But the spring is in the air. The workers have been trimming trees’ branches on city’s streets during past two weeks.
I guess this is done in order to maintain the trees healthy. This work has to be done before April, when the tree sap begins to flow. Neatly collected piles of cut branches wait to be picked up.
Trees look ugly now, their long braches turned to bare stomps. But we all know that soon, even before we get tired of this seemingly never-ending winter, new green leaves will appear.