Illustrated Description Of Russia

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Winter Travelling — Sledges

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Winter Travelling - Sledges.

Winter Travelling — Sledges.
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The ivoshtshiks of St. Petersburg appear to be a race of Hamaxobites (dwellers in wagons), leading a sort of nomadic life among the palaces of the capital. They encamp by day in the streets, and so do many of them during the night, their sledge serving them at once as house and bed. Like the Bedouin Arabs, they carry the oat-bag constantly with them, and fasten it, during their interval of leisure, to the noses of their steeds. In every street arrangements have been made for the convenience of the ivoshtshiks. Every here and there mangers are erected for their use ; to water their horses, there are in all parts of the town convenient descents to the canals or to the river; and hay is sold at a number of shops in small bundles, just sufficient for one or two horses. To still the thirst and hunger of the charioteers themselves, there are" peripatetic dealers in quass, tea, and bread, who are constantly wandering about the streets for the charitable purpose of feeding the hungry. The animal s are as hardy as their masters. Neither care for cold or rain; both eat as opportunity serves, and are content to take their sleep when it comes. Yet they are always cheerful, the horses ever ready to start off at a smart trot, the drivers at all times disposed for a song, a joke, or a gossip. When they are neither eating, nor engaged in any other serious occupation, they lounge about their sledges, singing some simple melody that they have probably brought with them from their native forests. When several of them happen to be together at the corner of a street, they are sure to be engaged in some game or other, pelting with snowballs, wrestling, or bantering each other, till the "Davai ivoshtshik!" of some chance passenger makes them all grasp their whips in a moment, and converts them into eager competitors for the expected gain.

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Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855