November 01, 2008

Higher than the Angels

In St. Petersburg, intrepid explorers hop between rooftops, enjoying a stunning perspective on the Northern Capital 

“Roofing,” or roof exploration, is a peculiarly Petersburgian pastime. Of course, people venture out onto roofs everywhere all the time, but only in Piter does one have such freedom of movement between heaven and Earth. Which is why the Northern Capital has roughly 10,000 “roofers,” for whom roofing is not simply a hobby, but a personal zone of freedom and self-determination, a lifestyle alternative on par with downshifting. One need not fly away to Goa to escape from the office slaughterhouse. A bit of skill and daring is all you need to turn into an elf for five minutes a day.

“Don’t get distracted, watch your feet, use your whole sole to maximize traction, step on the seam between the sheets,” Andrei Dubrovsky instructs in a soft monotone. He is leading my crash course in roofing. “You let your foot slip, and then we’ll be scraping you off the sidewalk. That’s better. We’re lucky the roof isn’t wet today.”

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