A Siberian Epiphany: Taking the Plunge

It is minus 30°C. Siberia. Mid-January. After weeks of ice cold showers and the odd naked leap into piles of fresh snow, I find myself standing in a long line of Russian men, wearing nothing but a pair of rather tight Speedos.

Despite my preparation, the cold is almost unbearable, especially in my toes, which are red and numb after barely a minute’s exposure to the snow and ice underfoot. My body implores me to return to my clothes and run inside, yet for some reason, my head tells me to stay.

Lake Baikal: Summer Break or Winter Wonderland?

For a sample of Siberia’s stunning scenery, culinary diversity and haunting beauty, look no further than Lake Baikal. As breathtaking as it is deep and as enchanting as it is old, the world’s deepest and oldest lake, at 1,600m and 25 million years respectively, is a breathtakingly enchanting body of water. Sweltering in summer and freezing in winter, the time of year will drastically change your impression of the place.

Demistifying Siberia

There is no denying that Russia is a country riddled with controversy. Political corruption, powerful displays of military muscle and some questionable human rights laws are just a handful of the polemic issues that surround the country. I cannot condone many of Russia’s recent actions, be it the nation’s haphazard military intervention in Syria or the stance on LGBT equality. However, I would argue that the international response to these issues has been shambolic, demonstrating a total unawareness of Russian culture and customs. In short, the issues have been exacerbated by serious diplomatic misjudgements.

Life at -35

Sadly, Tomsk’s winter temperatures have not quite lived up to their billing or my expectations. I have not reached the magic -40 mark yet and I haven’t endured bitter cold for much longer than a few days. I haven’t succeeded in turning boiling water instantly to snow, but I did get to walk across a frozen river.

Despite the temperature not quite reaching ridiculous levels, it still has posed a few problems, which I would like to share with you now: