March 01, 2004

The Coldest Village on Earth

Is there no Russian winter in Russia anymore? After weeks of the mercury hovering around zero in a slushy, filthy Moscow, it was looking that way.

So, in preparation for the day when youngsters in the family line would sit on my knee and ask about my time in Russia (“What did you do in the cold, grandpa?”), I set course for the worst Siberia has to offer: Oymyakon, Yakutia. Oymyakon holds the title of the world’s coldest permanently inhabited settlement. In 1926, a ferocious –71.2o Celsius was registered there.

It is said that, in this log cabin village of some 1,000 souls, spit freezes into a pellet in mid-flight, breath crystallizes and audibly tinkles to the ground, plastic carrier bags stiffen and snap in two.

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