Saturday, 22 January 2011

Losing contact with my toes...

Although I am a bit of a planner, and like to have a vague idea of what I want to do and see wherever we go, I often leave the actually issue of getting to these places to chance, relying on local maps or friendly faces to give me a push in the right direction.

After our experiences jumping on a random bus in Chile, hoping it would take us in roughly the right direction and ending up somewhere different, but just as interesting, to what we had planned, we took a similar decision when trying to reach Memento park the following morning.

We had a rough idea of the area we wanted to end up in, and finding a bus heading in the right direction, we hopped on. After half an hour, winding our way out of the city and well into the suburbs, we began to get a little concerned that we had made the wrong choice ("Surely it's not this far out?!"), but staring out the window at the surroundings and seeing glimpses of life outside the city was still a treat. Eventually, after a further half hour and as the passengers on the bus began to dwindle and our feet became colder, we must have looked increasingly confused, as a lovely old lady guessed our destination and confirmed that we were indeed on the correct bus (through a combination of nods and hand gestures).

Minutes later the bus stopped, and as we stepped off to Lenin towering over us we guessed we'd hit the right place. That, however, was where the fun ended. Exposed and outside of the collective warmth of the city, the snow was heavier, the wind icy and the temperatures much, much lower. Within minutes, and despite being well-dressed, my feet had frozen. We paid our entrance for the park, and, I am ashamed to say, did the quickest sight-seeing circuit I think I've ever made.

The statues were incredible, huge imposing figures representing in every way the history of former Soviet states - statues of men muscular and brave, flags held with pride and everywhere the father figures of Lenin and Stalin watching over. The white snow contrasting against the stark black of the statues made them even more dominant in the landscape, more affecting. There were a few other visitors braving the cold, but not many, and it added to the isolation. That was, until huge squeals of laughter sounded out behind us and we turned to see someone climbing up a statue for a better picture. Everywhere we go, the same thing. Such a shame.

After 50 minutes, our feet were throbbing and I had lost feeling in about 75% of my body. We made it back to the bus stop in time for the next bus back, and I spent the next hour of the ride trying desperately to encourage some circulation back to the extremities and worrying that I was never going to feel my little toe again.

The park was definitely worth a visit, and the snow really did add something to the aesthetics, although I would certainly think twice before recommending a trip outside the city in below-zero degrees...

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