четверг, 16 января 2014 г.

Vignettes of winter in Siberia

It's actually been quite warm this year. But for two brief cold snaps (when the temperature dropped to minus 30 Celsius) most days we have been enjoying a balmy minus 7 to about minus 12 . We haven't had a lot of snow (not nearly as much as last year (photo).

All the same, there are some aspects of everyday life which are part and parcel of living in Siberia, but which might be unusual and interesting to those who dwell in milder or warmer climes.

Here are a few:

  • The first thing Russian schoolchildren do when they get to school is take off their winter coat, winter hat, scarf, stockings and boots and leave them in the school cloakroom. 
  • Cars can cope with the cold, but add 10-15 minutes to your journey time to allow the engine to warm up, to scrape off the ice and snow and to shovel any snowfall. If it's really cold you will have to disconnect the car battery and take it inside overnight, so the car starts the following morning. 
  • In case you car gets stuck in snow or ice, make sure you have a spade, a towing rope (I actually had to look that up; I only know the Russian word!) and, if necessary, wooden boards (the studs on the winter tyres need to grip something to get out of wherever you are stuck).  
  • Never go outside without a good winter hat, scarf and warm boots. 
  • Forget skiing and sledging: real Russian fun is the 'zimnyaya gorka' or ice slide (no, it does not comply with EU Health and safety). Climb to the top and slide down 10 metres on your bottom or a piece of cardboard.  
  • If you don't have a fridge (eg in a student hostel), just put your milk, butter and whatever else in a plastic bag and suspend out of the window). But don't leave potatoes out on the balcony, as they will freeze and be spoiled. 
  • Russian homes are always warm from October to May and throughout the whole 24 hour cycle (of course there are exceptions); we find it very cold at night when in the UK, as the heating only comes on in the morning. 
  • A full-on Russian experience (enjoyed by all genuine mujiki) is the banya - a steam bath. In the winter you should run out into the snow mid-banya to cool down. 

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