A man sits deep in thought fishing for whatever he can find in the River Neva. Two kids run by laughing, their harassed mother in tow laden with shopping. A few feet away by the water's edge lays the body of a man, about 40, face bloodied, hands bound, murdered. Welcome to St Petersburg. Russia is in the middle of a heat wave and while villages in the south are being burnt to the ground in forest fires no one knows how to stop, the people in the north are living it up Mediterranean style in more manageable temperatures. An hour earlier two teenagers were cooling-off, having fun in the river when they made their gruesome discovery: the body of a man floating under a pontoon.
Police were called and soon after the body was dragged out of the water onto the quayside. It's what happened next that made me wonder if this bizarre incident was just a normal part of daily life in here. As the one remaining official sat in his unmarked car nearby, the body stayed exposed for all to see in the afternoon sun. Twenty feet away a man continued fishing and barely batted an eye. Parents walked by with their kids and everything seemed to carry on just as normal, as though a dead man on the pavement was an everyday occurrence. Maybe it is. Eventually the official left the scene leaving the body unattended for over an hour before someone else came and took him away, leaving his creepy wet imprint on the ground. Minutes later I watched a girl sit right at the same spot eating an ice cream.
For me it was another reminder at how different things can be in other countries and as much as we might complain about the state of things in Britain, there is much to be grateful for.