There was no improvement in the weather and certainly no sign of snow and if anything it seemed to be getting even warmer. After leaving the bus we walked back through the city gates and at the market met up again with Mike and Helene who had just had a nasty little expensive incident in the same café that we had visited yesterday morning. Well, that was their own fault, they should have come with us to Stalag Pirita Spa Hotel where prices were much more reasonable.
For lunch we weren’t especially imaginative and we returned to the same place as yesterday passing by and rejecting numerous suitable alternatives along the way. But the food was good and Sue and Christine were becoming adventurous as they both ordered a bowl of spicy solyanka soup prepared to a traditional Russian recipe. It was a pleasant place, warm and friendly and we took our time over lunch and drinks before returning to the streets where once again even by only mid afternoon it was beginning to get dark.
Outside in St Catherine’s Passage a couple of local men who had had a bit too much gluvine came past us in high spirits and one of them took a liking to Margaret and went in for a full snog attack. He was determined to get his Christmas kiss and Margaret had to stoutly fend him off. I think it was a full tongue assault and it was a good job for him that he didn’t achieve it because that would have left him in desperate need of urgent medical attention.
St Catherine’s Passage took us back to the ‘wall of woolens’ so Kim and I stopped here to purchase some souvenirs. We selected a red cardigan with kittens on it for my granddaughter but long before we finished the others became bored with children’s clothes shopping and wandered off ahead and we became separated so we walked back to the market and then into the crooked side streets that run behind the main square with their cobbled streets, decorated shop windows and buildings with attractive pastel façades that were doing their best to cheer up an overcast steely grey day.
We were becoming more familiar with the layout of the town by now and we groped our way through the tangle of narrow streets past the city walls with conical topped towers, through medieval stone arches and narrow streets squeezed in between the adjacent houses until we stepped through one of the old city gates and found ourselves back at the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral whose floodlit walls were thrusting upwards into the late afternoon dark sky. We visited the interior, which was full of colourful paintings and golden icons and smelt heavily of burning incense and candles.
After a drink in the bar we prepared to go out again and we were excited about this because some of us were going ice skating. Christine can’t go on the ice of course because she is too accident prone even under perfect walking conditions and neither Sue of Mike S felt confident about taking to the ice but the rest of us were all keen to give it a try so we paid our entrance fee and strapped on the excruciatingly painful bright orange boots and carefully took to the ice.
The strange thing about ice skating is that it is a lot more difficult than it looks and instead of gliding elegantly around the outdoor arena we were stumbling gracelessly across the frozen surface just being thankful to remain vertical. Kim quickly abandoned any attempt at proper skating and went around clutching on to a sort of ice rink zimmer frame, Mike W quickly got cold feet and abandoned the ice almost as soon as he had started but after a shaky start Helene was lapping faster and faster and Margaret was a complete natural with lashings of grace and poise.
I managed to stay upright through a dozen or so circuits but although I was beginning to feel like Christopher Dean and was humming Bolero to myself as inspiration I am fairly sure it wasn’t pretty to look at for those spectating. For a start I found it impossible to skate with both feet so quickly established an awkward style of keeping my left foot in constant contact with the ice and pushing myself along with nervous little stabs of the right foot and then sliding for as long as possible before starting over again. I found that stopping was especially difficult and the only really confident way of coming to a standstill was to plot a course for the side of the rink and then crash into the wooden fences surrounding the ice and it is difficult to make that look in any way stylish!
The entrance fee and boot hire was for a full hour but after twenty minutes without anyone injuring themselves we decided that this was probably quite long enough and to stay longer might increase the risk of broken bones and lacerations so we returned the boots and left in search of a restaurant.
There was plenty of choice but most of the menus were similar in content and price so, just as at lunchtime, we repeated what we had done the previous evening and went to the Peppersack again and had a very similar meal to the previous evening.
We were all quite tired tonight so after we had finished we left and walked back to the hotel via the starkly paved 1930s Freedom Square and its totally unimpressive Freedom Clock and then past the city’s western parks and the massive artillery tower, the Kiek in de Kök, built in 1475 and nearly forty metres high with walls four metres thick. There was no late drinking this evening so we all went to our rooms for an early night.
What the snog attacker nearly got…