After three weeks of wintry Russian horror stories, it’s time to redress the balance. Here in the West we commonly associate Russia, and particularly Siberia, with appalling degrees of cold. Just ask anyone: “what’s Siberia like?” and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s true that Siberia is quite capable of freezing you solid, and in its Northern reaches it struggles to produce even a month of relatively “warm” weather. However, in a country that stretches from the Arctic down to Mongolia; it’s quite misleading to talk about ‘Russian Weather’ as a whole. It really depends upon which part of Russia we are talking about, in which season and how long the season is in that particular location. Here in England we look at Scottish winter temperatures and think: “rather you than me”, mentally dividing the mainland into two. That’s nothing compared to the range offered across European and Siberian Russia, from north to south.
It’s hard to process information that is completely beyond our frame of reference, but a temperature differential of 80° C is possible across the year in parts of Siberia. That’s 40° C to +40° C; brutal figures by our standards. We have to stick a pin in the map at some point though in order to have a meaningful dialogue, so let’s take Moscow as a suitable, familiar reference.
Muscovites experience winter from November to March, followed by a two month spring thaw and a short June to August summer. Autumn is another two month spell and then the freeze starts again. Once summer is ‘established’, then average daytime temperature highs settle into the 23° C to 25° C range, perfectly manageable to us westerners. However, we can be caught out by the nighttime (or occasionally: daytime) chill. Conversely; summer heat waves are also possible, made worse by the season’s burgeoning humidity. So much for the dry Russian climate; Moscow’s proximity to Europe ensures that some ‘continental’ conditions prevail. This will no doubt make fellow Brits feel right at home, since we are used to heading out with sun cream in one hand and an umbrella in the other.
That’s no joke about the suncream either or the umbrella: you will get sunburn in Russia, believe it or not, followed by a good soaking – just like in Britain.
There are not too many horror stories associated with Russia’s brighter, warmer months (thank goodness), although ticks are a hazard, routinely described as “endemic” are definitely one to bear in mind, magnified still further by excursions into forested areas. Essentially, these little devils wait until they can drop onto you and/or latch upon your clothing. Then they seek to bury their mouth-parts into your skin to feed, possibly transferring encephalitis/other into your system in the process.
What does tick-borne encephalitis do to you? Well, think: (possible) paralysis and death in that order, to sum it up. There is a whole protocol (and potential article) on this subject alone, involving: immunisation, frequent visual checking, safe tick removal and viable retention for analysis, signs and symptoms et al but I’ll defer to qualified medical practitioners and experienced tour guides on such matters. Seek them out and take heed of what they tell you.
It pays to check up on recent/current travel advice as well as relying upon the ‘standards’. Sometimes nature throws a curve ball; especially due to changing climatic conditions. For instance, bordercrossing mosquitoes caused a recent outbreak of West Nile virus in Southern Russia; their viable range extended by increasing summer temperatures. It’s also transmissible by birds, incidentally, and causes severe neurological illness and possibly death (again). It’s particularly disturbing (outside of the fact that it kills you) as the care appears to be palliative only, and there is no human vaccine currently available. Reasons to get “smart”, even if you can’t get immunised, period.
[Photo by cesstrelle]