Last words from Riana Scheepers
Riana Scheepers not only has good prospects for 2017, but for the next seven years too! She explains why...
aA long-held dream of mine recently came true: a trip to Russia. My initial dream about this mighty country was a teenage fantasy, romantic and completely unrealistic. In my mind’s eye, I was on a train journey across Russia’s endless steppes. I was svelte and stunning with high, Slavic cheekbones. To match my exotic appearance, I had long red nails, an elegant cigarette holder (though I don’t smoke), and a hat with black Chantilly lace casting a shadow of mystery over my eyes. I was tragic and beautiful, just like Tolstoy’s unforgettable heroine, Anna Karenina. During this journey through the snow I was reading Anna Achmatowa’s poetry, staring melancholically out at the winter landscape. There wasn’t a handsome Russian in this flight of fancy, because as a teenager I had the stereotypical idea that all Russian men were brutes and villains.
My real journey was anything but tragic. I travelled by boat from Moscow to St. Petersburg, stopping off at all the small villages along the banks of the Volga. It certainly wasn’t a melancholic experience, but rather an exciting journey that enchanted and enriched me culturally. The hauntingly beautiful voices of monks in dimly lit cathedrals, the stunning masterpieces in the Hermitage, the silent icons in small churches in the countryside... my head was fairly reeling. No one can possibly grasp the extent of this complex country in one visit. I’d love to go back, but would that ever happen?
The culture of a country doesn’t just consist of great works of art and a rich history. It also consists of everyday things, the superstitions and myths of ordinary people. Something that soon struck me about Russians was that weddings are not reserved for weekends. On any given day of the week, I would see couples in bridal attire. A tour guide casually mentioned: if you see seven brides in one day, you’ll have seven years of good fortune. And if you’re a visitor, you will return to this relentless, awe-inspiring country.
This was an opportunity not to be missed. If I could spot seven brides, I would be able to visit this country once again. And I would have seven years of good luck! I started keeping my eyes open for the gossamer white of wedding dresses. And I did indeed see them. The brides would suddenly appear; in a park, on the street, in a shopping centre. I’d spot the filmy white dress, beautiful shoulders, elegant shoes, the flash of a small diamond on a ring finger. Every day I’d see three or four... but never seven.
In Moscow, I saw five brides one Thursday, each as beautiful as the next, because Russian women are gorgeous. But I searched in vain for bride number seven.
In St. Petersburg I started my search again, adding them up. Every day they’d make their fleeting appearances, the brides in white, and vanish again, without me reaching the magic number which would ensure my return and seven years of good fortune.
On our last Sunday in St. Petersburg there was a bride with us in the hotel’s breakfast room early that morning. Bride number one! As we left the hotel, there in the street was bride number two, clutching her husband’s hand. We crossed a square and I spotted bride number three, with a photographer taking her picture. While on the bus en route to Pushkin I noticed the fourth bride in a park. It was a fleeting glimpse, but I saw her.
We visited the breathtaking Peterhof Palace and its extensive gardens. In front of one of the sparkling fountains there she was, a beautiful vision in wispy white, bride number five. And shortly thereafter, in the avenue, in deep shade, was bride number six, strolling with her entourage down the long avenue, a summery spectre. I held my breath. Looking in all directions, I searched for bride number seven. But just like that, all the brides on earth had disappeared.
The time came to leave. On the way to the palace gate we came across a small chapel nestled under huge trees, slightly hidden. I broke away from my companions; for one last time I wanted to savour the quiet of a chapel. And there I found her, my seventh bride. In her lovely dress, on bended knee at the altar, praying.
I left the chapel without her knowing I was there. I also said a quick prayer for her happiness, without having to go on bended knee.
I know: I’ll be back. And, I am blessed.