The 19th of January was Baptism day in Russia. All around the country, people threw themselves into frozen rivers, to clean themselves of sin. I, sadly, remained chock-full with sin. I had taken a towel with me, flip-flops, a swimsuit and a shot of cognac, and the conditions were ideal: -12 Celsius, 20 degrees warmer than usual at this time of year. We watched as hundreds of people dived in, simultaneously doing the sign of the cross. Three dives, three crosses seemed to be the rule, and Orthodox Church music played out over loudspeaker. But as we stood in the queue from 1am to almost 3am, I got cold feet, well, cold everything really, and chickened out. I went home a dry, broken man. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of my adventures with cold water.
I had imagined that Krasnoyarsk would be really cold but my mind had conveniently blocked any thoughts about the severe reality – that we would easily hit -40°C or below at some point. And if even your colleagues and people in the shops warn you of going outside on Day X, you know that the snow is going to hit the fan. So here’s what actual Siberians recommended to a naïve foreigner like me: Continue reading