Cold Healthy Habit – a true Russian experience

27 November, 2014

Cold Healthy Habit – a true Russian experience

Some would say it is madness, others that it is a healthy habit. What do you think?

“No matter how many degrees it is outside, for a true морж it will never be too cold” – this is probably what you get as an answer if you ask a морж how he is feeling, after having had a refreshing swim in the iced river Neva in St. Petersburg. The second question you will probably ask him would probably: What is a морж? So let’s try together to learn more about this strange habit and tradition…

First of all, let me explain the whole situation: we are in the middle of Winter, it is a sunny day, but outside it is minus 15 degrees and the temperature of the water of Neva river is really freezing cold. To make conditions even worse, a gelid wind is blowing.  Despite all of it, a man will make a hole in the ice, take his clothes off, have a pleasant swim within the cold Neva river and will look at your astonished face while he would even put his head under the water, as if all of it was perfectly normal.  So here we are: that man (it could also be a woman, or even a child) is a морж (litterally meaning a walrus), a member of the club клуб моржей.

With over 5o years of tradition,  now in Petersburg there are 4 of these clubs, all of them united by the same idea: having a bath in the iced Neva does not represent any crazy behaviour, but, on the contrary, it is a part of a very healthy lifestyle, which, they suggest, everybody should take up as a habit. As a matter of fact, anybody who shares their idea and is willing to enter these clubs can apply for them, since there is no restriction of sex or age and no specific physical preparation is required. Acccording to them, ice swimming will bring you several benefits. Not only will it improve your sleeping and dream quality, relieve muscle aches or prevent you from illness, but some моржи are even convinced that it will even help you to increase your libido.

So, would you like to join the club? Or would you simply like to meet a real морж? If you are in Petersburg between the end of Autumn and the beginning of the Spring, just stop at the South-Eastern part of the Island of Заячий остров (Zajacij ostrov), in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress, where people have been ice-swimming since the 1960’s – on the wall a blue walrus has even been painted – the моржи would be very glad to “warmly” welcome you!

This post was brought to you by Manuela, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz

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