Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? A guide helps at the airport with flight check-in and security passing. For warm underwear, consider Termo (Sweden). Read our full mailing list consent terms here. Finally, I find myself with severe pain all across my body and have to return indoors. It was an extreme trip -- that's why I remember it so well, I guess," Vasilyev says. It is the smallest of the continents with a land area of 3,310,000 square miles and is … One (possibly apocryphal) tale tells of reindeer dying because they were unable to breathe, so thick were the clouds of insects. According to local legend, the god of creation had been flying around the world to distribute riches and natural resources, but when he got to Yakutia he got so cold that his hands went numb and he dropped everything. ", I get a last blast of Yakutsk air at the airport, where we have to walk to the plane and are then forced to wait for 10 minutes on the tarmac before we are allowed to board. The latter is exquisitely tasty and makes for a good zakuska – a snack to nibble on after downing a shot of vodka. Now, it takes just six hours in a ropey Tupolev plane, but tickets start at £500 return, a huge sum in a country where the average wage is £250 per month. Even more incredible, it has been colder than … Some Western academics have said that the very existence of places like Yakutsk, built in terrain that simply isn't meant for human habitation, is absurd. "Of course it's difficult to live here," says Fyodorov of Gazeta Yakutia. Shaun Walker enjoys amini-break in deepest Siberia, Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. Even today, telling my Moscow friends that I was heading to Yakutsk brought stares of incredulity, as though I'd told them I was going to the Moon. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. ", These days there aren't any bare arms around, but the locals know how to cope. In the 19th century it was used, like many Siberian towns, as an open prison for political dissidents. The small oblong of my face that is naked to the elements definitely registers the cold air, but on the whole, it feels fine; pleasant, even. Locals are a little more adept at dealing with their meteorological short straw. Now, it takes just six hours in a ropey Tupolev plane, but tickets start at £500 return, a huge sum in a country where the average wage is £250 per month. Remarkably, a study carried out by British and Russian doctors in the late 1990s found that, while in Britain the number of people reporting illnesses goes up during the winter months, in Yakutsk it doesn't. I soon discover that, in local parlance, temperatures in the minus 40Cs are described as "cold but not very cold" (I'd been told about the "exceptionally warm" November last year, when the temperature didn't drop below a cosy minus 25C). The marketplace is still full of hardy souls hawking frozen fish, pork and horse hearts. The temperatures then were minus 50C. Australia is comprised of mainland Australia, Tasmania, Seram, New Guinea, sometimes Timor, and surrounding islands. "At the time, people thought it was amazingly cruel to keep people in exile like that," says Vladimir Fyodorov, the editor of Gazeta Yakutia, the main regional newspaper. Still, local people habitually leave the engines running if they have to stop off for half an hour, and some leave them on all day while at work to stop them conking out and to make driving bearably warm. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. For a small cottage, Shats says, the stilts should be six to eight metres deep, while for buildings such as power stations, they can reach down as far as 25 metres into the earth. "Yakuts have always had a tremendous respect for the world around them and for nature, because they know how powerful it can be," he says. While in Yakutsk, travellers will have time to do shopping, i.e. Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Workers continue working on building sites up to minus 50C (below this the metal becomes too brittle to work with), and children go to school unless it's below minus 55C (although the kindergarten gets the day off if it hits minus 50C). For the ethnic Yakuts, it has been their home for centuries, and those who came seeking cash and adventure in Soviet times have put down roots. Yakutsk is the largest city in the world built on permafrost – soil that remains permanently frozen year round. The 13 minutes I have spent outside left me out of breath, swearing and aching all over, my face so red it looks like I've just returned from a week on the Costa del Sol. The paper was first set up just before the February Revolution of 1917 by political dissidents. A thoughtful, bearded ethnic Russian, Fyodorov runs the newspaper from offices in central Yakutsk that, like every building in the city, are very well heated. Nothing else keeps you warm.". Such a layer of frozen ground is designated exclusively on the basis of temperature. I collapse on the bed in the hotel room to thaw myself, and it takes half an hour for my body to feel normal again. Yakutsk in Russia’s eastern Siberia is said to be the coldest large city on earth. Known as the Pole of Cold, Oymyakon has an average January temperature of minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 50 degrees Celsius). Yakutsk is a remote city in Eastern Siberia (population 200,000) famous for two things: appearing in the classic board game Risk, and the fact that it can, convincingly, claim to be the coldest city on earth. The study concluded that this was because people didn't go outdoors in winter unless it was absolutely necessary, and if they did, they dressed properly. you need to customize a tour itinerary according to your dream plan; you wish to order a transport, accommodation and guide service only; you wish to customize entertainment activities; you wish to self-drive vehicles with our instructors. "We're flying into tropical heat!". And after a few shots of vodka, the slices of baby horse don't taste too bad either. Being a Yakutian horse doesn't seem like much fun – you are reared in miserably cold temperatures until you're old enough to be slaughtered and turned into "thin slices of baby horse steak" or "slices of raw horse liver with spices". Also popular are local versions of valenki, the fur boots that are common across Russia. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. Other delicacies include marinated reindeer meat and semi-frozen slices of raw river fish – a sort of Yakutian sushi. Create a commenting name to join the debate, There are no Independent Premium comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts, There are no comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts. Now he lives in Tuva’s capital, Kyzyl, plays ethnic Tuvan music, raises five kids with his Tuvan wife and speaks Russian… with a Tuvan accent. "For us, the winter is like the working week and the summer is like the weekend," says Bolot Bochkarev, a local blogger and former journalist. The coldest recorded temperature there is minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? In Moscow, which has been my home town for four years, it's only hit minus 30C once, in early 2006, and the mercury rarely gets lower than anything a good, solid winter coat won't protect you from. Toledo, OH » ... On Tuesday evening in Yakutsk, Siberia and the temperature dropped to -62° BELOW ZERO. The first place to suffer is the exposed skin on my face, which begins to sting, and then experience shooting pains, before going numb, which is apparently dangerous, because it means blood flow to the skin has stopped. At minus 5C, the cold is quite refreshing and a light hat and scarf are all that's required to keep warm. But most Yakutsk residents don't plan on going anywhere soon – and don't much want to, either. Anton Chekhov, on his journey through Siberia in 1890, painted a grim picture of the life of the prisoners held there. The conditions are also a nightmare for building. At minus 35C, the air will cold enough to numb exposed skin quickly, making frostbite a constant hazard. She looks confused: "Why would it cause any health problems? A few hundred miles down the "Road of Bones" is Oimyakon, known as "The Pole of Cold". In Yakutsk itself, most of the cars are second-hand Japanese imports; apparently, they handle the cold better than Ladas and other traditional Russian vehicles. They are fond of boasting that the region contains every element in the periodic table. As I'm about to learn, the inhuman temperatures and the winter fog cover are just part of daily life for its hardy residents. "But other countries try to avoid building cities on permafrost," the scientist says. A decent fur coat can cost anything from several hundred to several thousand pounds, but it's seen as a good investment, and something to be used year after year. The native Yakuts, a Turkic tribe with Asiatic features who speak a language full of throaty, mooing vowels, were largely engaged in reindeer herding. "I saw on the television that in Europe you have these lunatics who say it's not nice to wear fur because they love animals," says Natasha, a Yakutsk resident, who's sporting a coat made of rabbit and a fetching hat of arctic fox, with a fox tail hanging from each side and tied in a knot at the end to look like plaits. "Human beings can get used to anything," she says. Tours and travels from Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia's Siberia & Far East. The mercury has now plunged to -50℃ (-58°F) and below and school children have been released from classes until it warms up again. "But the people here were born here. "They should come and live in Siberia for a couple of months and then see if they are still so worried about the animals. "The system is staggering in its inefficiency. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. In Russia, Verkhoyansk was initially considered the coldest city in the world, and has the largest range of temperature on earth, at around 105° Celsius (189° Fahrenheit) between extremes. Bring your own travel and medical insurance from the company that has the Russian partner. There's cold, then there's Siberia cold. If the Soviet Union had worked according to the market (rather than grand ideologies, they say) cities such as Yakutsk would never have appeared. In Yakutsk, the city's lowest temperature of this cold stretch was 59 below zero F (50.6 below zero C) on Jan. 19. With all the oil wealth that Russia has, they can theoretically make any place liveable," he adds. Despite the fact that the locals are stoically going about their business, and children are playing in the snow on the central square and laughing merrily, I realise that I'll need a warm taxi to continue my exploration. The other options are a 1,000-mile boat ride up the Lena river during the few months of the year when it isn't frozen, or the "Road of Bones". Men bathe in the icy waters of the Lena River during a traditional Epiphany celebration as the temperature dropped to about -56 degrees Celsius (-68 Fahrenheit) outside Yakutsk… For this reason, every single building in Yakutsk is built on underground stilts, varying in depth depending on the size of the building. This was the coldest temperature recorded in the community in 15 years. The temperature was about minus 30 degrees Celsius. Here they are made with reindeer hide, and the women's version features colourful sequined patterning. It is mostly used by truckers bringing supplies to remote villages. The Lena river, more than 10 miles wide at Yakutsk, is not bridged anywhere for hundreds of miles, so villages on the other side have to be stocked up for the months when the river isn't navigable but the ice hasn't thickened enough for a road to be built across it. "During the Cold War, we used to joke that if the West wanted to destroy Yakutsk, there'd be no need to hit us with a nuclear bomb," says Fyodorov, the newspaper editor. For Britons, who are wont to label any temperature the wrong side of zero "Siberian", the difference between cold and even colder might seem intangible. They acquiesced to Russian rule without much of a fight. Heating pipes are examined and repaired – if they fail, as they did in Artyk and Markha just before New Year, those stuck without warmth risk death. Yakutsk – Oymyakon – Verkhoyansk, 12 days, Lena Pillars Nature Park winter tour (1 day). Permafrost covers 15 per cent of the earth's land mass, and 65 per cent of Russia's, says Mark Shats, a researcher at Yakutsk's Permafrost Institute. Are you sure you want to delete this comment? The whole region suffers harsh winters. So I decided to come to Yakutsk for myself to find out how people manage to survive, and go about something resembling daily life, in the world's coldest place. Right Now. As we taxi down the icy runway in preparation for take-off, the pilot announces that the current temperature in Moscow is minus 4C. more Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. "The question is what you could do if that money was used more wisely.". According to forecasts, the cold temperatures are expected to last until the end of January and may even drop as low as -60℃. Along with its mysterious allure and vast natural resources, the prison connotations have always lent Siberia a reputation as a grim and miserable place, not just among foreigners but also among Russians. "Yakutsk has the credit of being the coldest place upon the face of the earth," noted Henry Lansdell, a British traveller who stopped off here on his way across Siberia in the late 19th century. It is only fully traversable in winter, when the rivers freeze over (Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman tried, unsuccessfully, to cross it during more temperate months in the motorbike documentary Long Way Round). Gaddy accuses today's Russia, which has launched a series of programmes to maintain and rejuvenate Siberian cities, of suffering from a "crazy 19th-century ideology that you don't really possess land unless you have people there". But the 40C difference in temperature between the two snow-clad cities is as great as that between the coldest winter day in Britain and a sunny July scorcher in the south of Spain. "If you compare Siberia with Alaska and parts of Northern Canada, where there are also natural resources, you can see it's vastly overpopulated," says Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution. The most unpleasant part comes after 15 minutes, when my legs, returning to normal body temperature, have an unpleasantly warm cramp radiating from within and a dull, itchy feeling all over. Warm Arctic-type outfits from brands such as the North Face, Canada Goose and similiar 88. Siberia, find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my.! That are common across Russia money was used more wisely. `` horrors... Temperature in Moscow is minus 4C as we taxi down the `` road Bones. As low as -60℃ the most insightful Comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated.. 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