COUNTRY OF PROVENANCE
Sasha opened the door of his house at 7 in the morning in a summer day of August.
Vladya and his house in Saint Petersburg
Vladimir is a rather strange Russian who lives half the time in Venezuela. He is a friend of Sasha and has a mini apartment in the centre of St. Petersburg which is accessed via narrow stairs. Sasha had an appointment with him for dinner.
Vladya is a big man who speaks good English and Spanish (with a Venezuelan accent) and when we enter, he is cooking together with his girlfriend Tanya, thin, black hair, not a word of English if not a kind of interlayer “Nice!” with which she answers to anything repeating it at least three times in a row with a fake smile, marking the rhythm “Ni-ce!” with a movement of the head and resting her hands on the hips.
The house is very small: a mini kitchen, a bedroom and a small bathroom, but there are all the comforts! Washing machine and dishwasher included. It is furnished with a certain attention, with a wallpaper reminiscent of the pages of newspapers and paintings depicting a Vespa, coffee and other things of this type.
You can see that Vladya is a rich Russian and his girlfriend follows the stereotype of the cute and silly girl, I feel sorry for her and above all I don’t approve of how he treats her, she almost seems like his servant! But I have just arrived, and I am a guest, it does not seem appropriate to me to quarrel.
Vladya is vulgar, Sasha had warned me, but it’s funny to watch him, I don’t think I will ever come across a character like this again on the journey and, moreover, he is preparing dinner! Also, with us is Alex, another friend of Sasha.
– Shall we go to the roof? Alex asks me.
– Why not? I answer.
The passion for roofs
This is my first day in the city, but I immediately get in touch with people’s unbridled passion for roofs. When Alex asked me if I wanted to go to the roof, I imagined that there was a small terrace on the roof or that in any case we had to leave the apartment and go up to the top floor of the building … instead Vladya places a ladder with 5 rungs underneath to the roof-window of the bedroom.
Alex goes up with his glass of wine: he climbs the rungs of the ladder, places the glass somewhere, leverages his arms, puts a knee on the edge of the window and pulls himself up. Once on the roof, he holds out his hand. I pass him the glass. I see that Alex is not standing but remains sitting by the window.
I go up the rungs, repeat the operation as I saw him doing and I find myself literally on the roof! On a slope … Sasha climbs after me and now we are 3 on a sheet-covered roof. Alex says not to worry, he knows the roofs well because when he was in university, he was a chimney sweep. He is now a construction engineer and works for a company that builds restaurants.
We go up to the point of maximum height where there are fireplaces and we begin to sip our Chilean wine glasses talking lightly on the roofs of Saint Petersburg. The sun starts to set and this moment of joy, youth, perfection, could never end.
The unexpected guest
Suddenly we notice that a man is approaching from another roof with a cautious attitude. He starts shouting something in Russian, I obviously don’t understand. Alex approaches him, then Sasha, then me. I’m not sure what is going on, maybe it’s a very athletic guard or concierge who tells us to go away!
But here comes Vladimir (Vladya) half-length from the roof and screams threateningly:
– If you want to stay bring a drink, otherwise go away!
The man smiles softly, backs away and leaves. Okay, that’s normal for everyone, so I don’t have much trouble. We go down from the roof because dinner is ready: beef morsels (at the time I was not a vegetarian yet).
After dinner we go out and Vladya brings his GoPro with him. I don’t know how, we find ourselves running through the streets of St. Petersburg with Vladya and Tanya playing idiots and us behind, in a surreal scene of drunkenness and fake lightness that is about to depress me.
Sasha nods to me and we leave the group without saying anything, he wants to take me to see the opening of the bridges (tips).