If you’re walking on thin ice, you might as well dance

You may not be able to “take California out of the girl” but you certainly cannot take California with you everywhere you go.

It is winter here in Munich, Germany, and here that actually means something. Contrary to where I came from, it snows here more than once in a hundred years, and ice often covers the streets for weeks on end.

When I moved here three years ago I thought I was prepared: I had my tennis shoes for the city and my snow shoes for the Alps… I had no idea what I was getting into.

My friend Elizabeth moved to Poland last week. Now I’ve not yet been to Poland but I knew I could safely guess that it was chillier than Munich and closer to the temperatures that Russia had been experiencing.

I had a lot of experience to pass on, but not much experience at giving the right advice (other than ‘hey move to Poland, the food rocks Korea!”). Mine was pretty much limited to “dress warm!”, and I forgot to add, “tread lightly”. Elizabeth is in the process of figuring this out on her own, but this advice is meant for her (and for my mother when she next packs for snow so she’ll remember to leave the ballet flats at home). Winter snow and ice isn’t limited to its romantic side and dealing with icey conditions is also not limited to keeping warm. A good down jacket may keep you snug (and quite a few sips of vodka too), but without the proper footwear you are toast.

News to you clueless Californians: ice is not only cold, it is slippery.

In Germany of course we have rules and maintain order and there a dozen laws covering ice; they define who has to sweep the snow away, where to put up warning signs, how and when to spread salt and gravel in order to keep Oma safely upright and happily teetering on her way sans emergency hip surgery.

Still rules cannot fix everything and ice still makes its appearance – allbeit less so than in Poland – and must be dealt with.

Here’s where shoes come in. What do you wear?

Now it’s all well and good to say hiking shoes or snow shoes and be done with it, but it ain’t that easy. What about work? What about going out? What do you do then? Sacrifice your look (or picking up men/women) until the Spring thaw?

No no, of course not.

Common sense plays a role here and you avoid the spikey heels or treadless numbers, wear the occaisional sneaker when fitting. Go for rubber soles and lined boots to keep those toesies from freezing, especially if you’re a bus rider.

And you skate by. Literally. Learn to glide, tread lightly, shuffle a bit to go with the slip should you start to surf instead of walk. It takes practice and until then wear a few layers to soften the blow and minimize bruising. Leave your pride at the door kids, it’s better to look a little dumb slipping around than trying to pull off a sexy limp after taking a header in the middle of downtown (trust me, I know).

Sometimes though it’s beyond all these measures. Sometimes there’s just so much ice and so little traction that you no longer care what it takes. Then, in my personal experience, there are three options.

1. Stay home (no? well then…)
2. Put rubber bands around the toes of your shoes for traction (a gaggle of old ladies cannot be wrong), or…
3. If you can manage to plan and shop ahead of time there are snow chains for shoes.

Ain’t the world an interesting place? I’ll keep looking for more tips, until then Miss E, tell your momma to get shopping!

Ya’ll be careful out there y’hear?

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3 responses to “If you’re walking on thin ice, you might as well dance

  1. Those little chains are genius.

    Parking lots are soooo icy around here, and I am sooooo uncoordinated.

  2. you are so right.

    It took me two winters to figure out the “slide and surf” as opposed to the “just bite it” method.

    My first real life day out in the snow and ice was just a collection of “I fell here, I fell there. Oh, over by the garbage cans, I really bit it, do I stink?” And cobblestones do not become softer with ice.

  3. It’s nice knowing I’m not alone in this!

    I’m amazed at just how clueless I was. A few good hard knocks can really make an impression. Thank goodness for poofy coats, or I’m sure I’d have broken a hip, not just my dignity.