I already wrote a few post about the hero city of Smolensk and its surroundings and even one dedicated specifically to its fortified walls. This time, however, I want to focus a bit more about an aspect of Russian culture, which I had only subconsciously noticed before a sunny day in the city of Smolensk.
Russian don’t much care for, nor expect, a “nanny state”, a state that both takes care of each and every individual need and at the same time protects them from harming themselves, as if they were all children.
The first part of this sentiment probably has its roots in the 70 years of the Soviet Union, when the State did, supposedly, take care of every need (housing, employments and so on), much to the dissatisfaction of most of the people (at least in the later years) and which, amongst other factors, in the end led to the dissolution of the USSR.
The second part has more to do with a general idea that you are responsible for yourself and, in a way, as long as you don’t hurt other people, you are *free* to hurt yourself.
Mind you, this is a purely, 100% personal interpretation. I have not found (not, honestly looked for) any confirmation of this anywhere else.
I do, however, see it in many aspects of Russian culture. Another example that comes to mind is the fact that 99.9% of cars stop for pedestrians in Russia, while I’d say that no more than 5% of people (and this is being generous) wear seat belts. My take? Running over other people = bad. Flying through your own windscreen = your problem, not something the State should actively get involved into preventing.
Of course, this is most likely an over-simplification. But still, to me it remains an interesting aspect of my host culture.
Let’s get “back to the wall”.
Considering all the sieges and the bombing they received throughout the centuries, the Smolensk walls are remarkably well conserved (and/or restored). The Top part of the wall still presents all the merlons and embrasures with a large passageway behind them. Resting atop the bulk of the wall itself, the passage is certainly solid and not about to give way for a few more centuries. Its pavement, however is either broken up or made of rather slippery large stone slabs. And there is no protection whatsoever to prevent people from falling down after a misstep.
The walls are a tranquil place and afford a lovely view on a large part of the town, so the locals don’t seem to mind at all the inherent danger and can be seen gingerly walking about on top of the wall or resting right on the edge, often with their feet dangling down, especially on sunny spring and summer days. To get up to the passageway you also have to climb an improbably narrow and slippery stone staircase inside one of the watch towers (which, by the look of it, dates back a good number of centuries and was actually used by soldiers on patrol or fighting the enemy), so the faint-hearted should stop before even attempting “the climb”.
The walkway becomes at times somewhat narrow (about a meter or three feet wide) around the corners when the wall turns, but for the most part it is nice and wide, so in order to avoid vertigo you can walk on the side of the parapet and feel rather safe.
Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking photographer (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions, while helping you to improve your technique and take home some spectacular images of the largest country on Earth? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!