On Wednesday morning, temperatures plummeted here in Russia and our phones couldn't give us a definitive answer as to whether it was -1 or -2 degrees. Either way, our walk to uni was less than toasty. We'd had some rain earlier in the week and the often lake sized puddles had turned in to mini skating rinks...
By the time we got to class, we had numb faces and legs and our ears threatened to fall off. Its quite possible that, before long, ear muffs will become a fashion staple, as temperatures like this become the norm rather than the exception.
In an unexpected turn of events, this more than chilly morning turned in to a gloriously sunny afternoon (even if temperatures only managed to scrape a comparably balmy 4 degrees). Deciding to make the most of it, I wanted to take a walk down by the river bank to Admiralty Square, where we saw the fireworks on День Города.
It was a beautiful day for a stroll as the sunshine reflected off the water. The island you can see in the picture about is where Tsar Peter the First took up residence when he built the first fleet in the Russian Navy here in Voronezh.
I couldn't resist having a look inside this beautiful onion domed Orthodox church. I think its safe to say that some of the most beautiful churches in the world are here in Russia. Even this, a 'small' parish church, looks so majestic.
Sporting the traditional Orthodox headscarf look (sans make-up, not attractive, apologies!)
Unfortunately, photography was prohibited inside but there were hundreds of icons all swathed in gilt! I come for a nose at a great time as the priest was giving a blessing to a small group who had gathered to chant in front of a particular icon - it was quite a haunting melody, but it made the experience truly beautiful.
However, my favourite discovery of the day was this...
Along the railings on the river bank, I was surprised to see dozens love locks, each with individual messages from those who had left them there. Love locks (if you don't know) are a symbol of the love of whoever left them there, once the padlock is locked, the key is thrown away (in the case of Voronezh, in to the river) to symbolise ever lasting and unbreakable love.
Many of the inscriptions on the padlocks show that most of the love locks are from this year. A lot of local councils all over the world have problems with love locks seeing them as litter or vandalism. The problem was so bad in Paris (its not called the city of love for nothing you know!) that the council removed many of them, as they were making bridges structurally unsound. I wonder if the Voronezh authorities remove them at the end of every year too, like a sad spring clean. Along the railings, there were also a lot of graffiti love notes - cute in a scruffy, hopeless romantic sort of way.
Not quite comparable to its Parisian equivalent, but no less heart warming!
What do you think of love locks? Common vandalism or a public expression of love and hope for the future?