I haven’t added to my list of Things I Like About Russia in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any more.

On Saturday Kostia and I bought two cans of beer and some suhariki (croutons intended to be eaten as a beer snack) and went to the 300 Years To St. Petersburg park on the north side of the gulf of Finland. We sat atop a concrete wall, looked at the sea, and drank our beers. It was about 8 p.m., the sun was shining brightly, and the temperature was just right. All around us people were strolling, flying kites, walking dogs, and riding bikes. We could hear the England-Portugal World Cup match being watched in a nearby beer tent.

In most places in the U.S. you can’t drink a beer in a public park, and in many places you can’t buy just one beer (and for the equivalent of 70 cents at that). Though I understand why, and think that public drunkenness and alcoholism in Russia are BIG problems, sometimes it’s really nice to have a stroll, sip a beer and look at the sea on a summer evening.

St. Petersburgers really like going for walks, especially during this precious short time of the year when the weather is nice. Not a power walk for exercise, just a calm stroll, talking to your companions, enjoying the sun. It’s a form of personal entertainment as legitimate as any other. Of course, Americans go for walks too, but here it’s really an institution.

(Check out the film Progulka (The Stroll) for more insight into walking in St. Petersburg.)