My penguin shuffle through Moscow’s snow covered streets

My penguin shuffle through Moscow’s snow covered streets


My first winter here in Moscow was a huge shock to my system. As I grew up in sunny South-Africa I have never experienced cold like this before and was definitely not prepared.

When the cold of October arrived my co-workers asked me if I have enough warm clothes for the coming winter, I told them I was ready for winter and pointed out that I have 2 lovely warm coats that I bought in England. My co-teachers just laughed at this and said that they meant for winter not for autumn.

By the time November arrived I understood what they meant, the colder it got the more afraid I got of what lay ahead. I thought to myself, if I’m already freezing to death in -15 how the hell am I going to survive -35 degrees?

My penguin shuffle through Moscow’s snow covered streets
The trees in the park were all bent under the heavy layer of ice and snow

My first experience of -27 degree weather was quite comical. The wind was blowing outside and you could see that it was a cold day but I felt confident that I could wrap up warm enough.

I got dressed in 2 warm vests, a long sleeved top, 2 sweaters, a jacket and then over all this put on a warm coat. I had on stockings and jeans over them, thermal socks and even some fur lined boots that I bought the previous weekend.

I put on a warm hat, folded my coat’s collar up and wrapped a scarf around so that in the end only my eyes and nose stuck out. I felt that now I was ready to brave the Russian cold.

I looked and moved like the Oros man (the South-African version of the Michelin man) and got into the lift with one of my neighbours, they just stared at me, said something in Russian and laughed all the way down. Secretly I was hoping that he commented on how cold it was today but I suspect he might have said something about me looking like an idiot dressed up like that and that it’s not even that cold outside.

The sidewalk was covered in ice so I did my penguin shuffle, where I hardly lift my feet and move forward with small shuffles and my arms straight out to the side so that I can balance. An old lady of about 70 sped past me with her shopping but did turn and laughed at me before speeding along again.

By the time I reached the metro my eyes were watering from the cold wind, my nose felt frozen and ice had formed where I was breathing against my scarf.

Inside the metro another old lady of like 70 gave me a very funny look before actually sitting down next to me. Before we got of at our stop the little lady took a bottle of vodka out of her bag and took a couple of big swigs. Couldn’t believe that someone would drink clean vodka at 9am!! But I totally understood why as I headed back out into the cold, she was probably still warm and not feeling like an ice cube after 2 minutes outside.

Back outside the penguin shuffle continued. I was so wrapped up that I couldn’t even turn my head, so before I could cross the road I had to turn my whole frozen body left and right before continuing. As I was shuffling my way down the street a car stopped in front of me, with great difficulty I shuffled around the car, the car then drove on and stopped in front of me again. I looked up and inside the car sat one of my students looking as if he is having a laughing fit.

He said that he saw someone dressed up like an Eskimo and walking like a penguin and just assumed that it would be me.

I never knew that in -27 degrees ice actually forms on your eyelashes and by the time we got to the class I looked like a raccoon with my mascara running down my face.

Never thought I would actually reach that point where I wish it was -10 again!!


    • I lived in the UAE for over a year and admit that I would choose the cold of Russia before I go back to the heat. Atleast you can warm up and dress warm in the winter, but in the heat there is nothing you can do, its hot and sweaty and I dont particularly like that.


      • Dear J, you really get to places at the extreme ends of the temperature gauge 🙂 I admire your tough adventurous spirit. I lived in the tropics for a while and was also happy to get to cooler climes… i agree much easier to handle the cold than the heat.


  1. Your journeys and your dedication to see and meet all manner of people in the world is really inspiring and amazing. I really envy you, your energy and the fun you are having. Good luck for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very interesting post. I can fully relate with the penguin walk – I hate walking on icy pavements, and I think it gets worse as you get older. Tensing because you fear a fall doesn’t help at all. Good boots with a good grip is the only way to walk on such stuff and staying relaxed! Didn’t they ever grit the pavements? I know they often don’t in the UK which is annoying for pedestrians.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good morning Jude! They did grit the pavements and there were poor guys out in the early morning hours scraping the snow from the pavements but it snowed continually and I think it was impossible to keep all the walkways ice free.


  3. I can’t even start to imagine how cold you must have felt. And today, I also understood why Russians drink pure vodka. I would do the same if was a way to keep me warmer. Going out was a brave thing to do! Great post! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Whahahahaha Janaline! Sorry, I am not laughing at you but at the way you’ve described yourself. I can totally see you walking around looking like an Eskimo and I think all those people who laughed must have known what you were going to say in this post. LOL! Luckily your ‘eskimo suit’ must have broken the fall and I am sure you did not get hurt much hon. These are stunning shots and it was truly brave of you to go out in that cold. Thanks for sharing. 😀 *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sonel! It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me. Yes, although I fell a couple of times my winter “padding” kept me quite safe! Looking back I realize how funny it must have looked but at that moment I would have walked around with my duvet if it would have helped!


      • That’s what counts – the experience and the funnier, the better. It makes you remember it the longest. 😀
        I am glad your winter ‘padding’ kept you safe and I agree as I would have done the same. LOL!


  5. Oh Russia how I miss you. A few winters ago I spent 28 days in Russia. We visited the village where my father was born Nerchinsk, Siberia. One day it was -32 and at night it was -47.
    I have never experienced cold like that. I have a photo with my dread locks frozen.

    Your beautiful post and amazing photos take me back to when I was there, living a life long dream. Thank you for sharing your coldness.


    Liked by 1 person

      • I do the Colorado winter which kind of sucks actually. I am sure your Russian winter is much more brutal. Is there anything there that scares you?


        • I must say that Moscow is quite safe, the only thing I avoid is taking a taxi alone at night, they can be very scary. I have only done this once and the taxi driver was actually drinking while driving and trying to chat me up so was really relieved when I got home safe!


        • Thank you for that reply. My family, both sides, were from Russia and as such I feel a kinship, and some real curiosity. Be well, have fun, live free.


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