Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Crystal Palace 1/24/09

The Crystal Palace 

Weather: Overcast (really?)
Temp: -16c
Wind: 5-7 mph

Today we went to see the ice sculptures down by the river with Sister Olga as our guide. A little geography lesson may be helpful. Our house is located about half way between the main train (Trans-Siberian RR) trestle to the north and the car and Metro Bridge to the south, in back of our "Dom" (apartment building). We are on the east (right bank) about 3 blocks from the Ob River that flows north to the Kara Sea near the Arctic Circle.

Each year they build an ice facility just south of the Metro Bridge on the east (right) bank of the river where artists carve ice sculptures and make ice-block structures, some of which are the entry to slides. Sister Olga invited us to go and see them and today was the day.

At 1:00 pm we walked past our office, got on the Metro going south and west toward the river and the left (west) bank, and met Olga outside the Metro terminal. She had walked to meet us from her apartment which is up river (south) about a mile. We crossed the street by going down into a tunnel that looked like another entry to the Metro, but it just brought us under the street to the other side. We walked south about 200 yards to the Ice Park, I paid 80 Rubles each for the three of us entry and went into a wonderland of ice blocks built or sculpted into remarkable things.

Looking out over the levee we could see the shoreline with many amusement rides, ice creations and other structures as well as across to the left (west) bank of the river. You cannot see it well in this picture, but this is where they have built a ski run from the top of the levee to the shore for beginning skiers and snowboarders. We see a lot of young people with their snow boards on the metro heading for the "slope" on the left bank which is also the location of the university.

Just to Cindy's left in the first picture is this block-castle that is a launch pad for a slide that spins around it once and then goes down the levee to river level, which of course is frozen several feet thick. I'm told it is 3-4 feet thick next to the shore line, but I would not know. This is where they cut the big blocks used for this park. The sliders sit on what looks like a whoopee-cushion with a handle that they hold between the knees.

There are lots of families with children here and it looks like any American winter playground with dads holding smaller children on their laps as they slide down the hill. I was struck again with how much alike we all are, taking our kids out for a fun Saturday at the amusement park, except here it is 15-18 below zero centigrade and the kids look like the Pillsbury Dough-boy in their insulated pants, coats, hats, scarfs, hoods, and mittens with the string up the sleeve. On one of our outings, Sister Gushchina remarked how Siberian parents take much care to be sure that their children are warm. I sure see this as we travel around. Even the babies in the prams are in snow suits.

Here is a young couple demonstrating the slide and their skill in the art of clutching one another, a world-wide pastime activity for twenty-somethings. The man is holding the whoopee handle in one hand and the lady with the other. She in turn is sitting on his leg and has a grip on his left pant leg, holding him like another whoopee cushion handle. They've obviously done this before.

The ice-sculptures were beautiful but hard to photograph because most of them are transparent, but I got a little contrast on this one. There seems to be a tradition of placing 10 kopeck coins (One 10th of a ruble) on these carvings much like you would throw coins in a fountain. Some of them were almost covered with coins as high as a person could reach.

Turning around from this ram, we saw a log house, much like those on the Dachas (one to two acre garden plots in the countryside) made entirely of ice blocks. It is quite detailed with cross-hatch windows, log-shaped blocks crisscrossing at the corners, and a door standing open to invite the weary traveler for a cool visit. Inside it we saw a fireplace, bench, large chair and bed, all made of ice and very detailed. Here we pose by the fireplace while sister Cindy tries to sit on the large chair where other visitors have worn the seat into a slippery cup.

Notice Sister Cindy's hat. We bought it in Tomsk on a visit to the Bowdens several months ago, but she has not worn it since. It is made of Arctic Fox, is very warm, and looks a lot like her hair. Being outside for a long time today, she decided to wear it and that was the only part of her that was not cold on our outing. I think we will see this on her again.

This is the corner of the log cabin showing the detail of the log-shaped blocks and the unique appearance of the almost transparent ice that still makes the eye accept the reality of the log laid on eachother making the cabin. It is almost a sureal experience knowing that you are seeing the ice, but seeing a log cabin.

This is a 3/4 ice model of the white-plastered chapel sitting on the geographic center of Russia in downtown Novosibirsk. It marks the east-west center although it is far south of the north-south axis. The Novosibirskians are very proud of this distinction and this chapel has been rebuilt several times to keep this designation clear to visitors. We visited it in the fall one day on an outing with Lidia, a returned Temple Square missionary.

Although fathers, or at least men, took the major role in sliding with the little children, we saw many children going down the hill alone, launched by, or even in the laps of women, presumably their mothers. The women here don't seem at all reluctant to take the adventure with the kids. Here a young girl gets set to challenge the slide. Here she is (right); there she goes (left).

This slide entry is a 3 meter high Greco-Roman columned building that looks much like turn-of-the-20th-century courthouse in the U.S. They have this style of building here in Siberia as well, but in other cities to the west, nearer the German boarder, they were mostly destroyed in the war.

Here Cindy is walking between the pillars feeling Greco-Roman, or at least wishing she was because it would be a lot warmer in Greece or Rome and her toes are getting numb (but her head is warm).

There is no limit to the creativity of those trying to wring a few more roubles out of parents to satisfy their children's craving for adventure and fun. Here you see a full-size merry-go-round and little train operating down there where grease freezes and motors size. We also saw an ice-skating rink and an oval to run 4-wheelers. Anything to tickle the fancy of the young and grab a few more roubles from parents.

Here I am, sitting on my frozen glass, with my queen by my side. While trying to boost myself up on this ice throne, I almost landed on my derriere in an unkingly pile at the foot of my throne. That would put me bowed before my own throne, wouldn't it? How slippery is the seat of power, how easily are the mighty fallen and how ignominious is their demise. What seems to be a relaxed regality here is actually a desperate clutching for something solid to prevent my slipping into oblivion.

Below are some video clips of children, and adults, enjoying the effects of gravity as the plummet down an ice slide at the Ice Park of Novosibirsk Russia in the heart of Siberia.

What a (frozen) country.


Shannon Simmons said...

That looks like fun! What a neat thing to see all those ice sculptors -- mom looks so beautiful in her shopka!

Jeanne Morse said...

Shannon is right! I love the photo of both of you in your fur hats. But Cindy looks really CUTE in hers.
Stay warm. We love you. Jeanne