Week 4 on the Indie Travel Challenge is about winter travel, so I have decided to write about Winter in Russia. (click on logo above for more info)
When I announced I was moving to Russia for 6 months the first response was almost always “bring a coat”, “man you’re going to freeze, dress warm!” or “better pack lots of warm clothes!”
I did just that, nearly every shirt I brought was long sleeved; I had long skirts, boots, sweaters, jackets, coats, gloves, hats, scarves and an abundance of socks!
I was ready for my winter in Russia, being from Utah “the best snow on earth” I think I’m knowledgeable about what winter is. Not the case!
Utah is a dry cold, and I quickly learned the less humid a place is, the less ‘cold’ a place is. The more humid it is the more ‘bone chilling’ the cold is. In Utah gloves, hats, scarves are really more of an accessory the cold doesn’t chill you to your very core. In Russia these are all considered necessary at all times.
Tips for Surviving a Russian Winter
- Where the necessities, always.
If you go out without all the necessities you will get yelled at, mostly but the elderly women (babushkas), I got yelled at frequently. It’s the culture to respect your elders and unlike in America the elderly are an active part in society, sweeping fallen leaves, mending broken fences, lecture about bad behavior and enforcing winter dress code. Take it for the good hearted worry that it is, don’t get upset or resentful and indulge their concern.
I brought the boots I currently owned, figuring if they were good enough for the ‘best snow’ then they would be good enough for Russia’s snow. I was lucky and fell a handful of times while there, it wasn’t unusual to see people biff it, you get used to it and in fear of sounding rude, we developed skills in hiding our laughter until we were at a safe distance. However some shoes are better than others, a fellow teacher brought uggs; they’re warm, why not? Because they have NO traction, you will fall, a lot. The vast majority of Russians where shoes with heels that will act as a pick to provide a sturdier step. Women often where boots with a stiletto heel for this very reason, seemed counter intuitive before I saw how effective it was.
On an average day I would wear, short socks, tall socks, high ankle boots, leggings, jeans, a long undershirt, shirt, sweater or jacket, coat with a hood, gloves, hat, and scarf. I usually kept an extra pair of gloves, socks, and an umbrella. I was toasty warm and often would walk 20 minutes to school to avoid the bus. I was fortunate to have a beautiful path to my school; I loved my walks listening to the traffic, my music or my thoughts. Not to mention the street vendors with yummy pastries and breakfast foods.
- The Bus.
The worse the weather the harder it is to get on the bus. If you haven’t ridden a bus out of the US you may not know what I mean but I’ll try to paint a picture. Russian busses are smaller, the barely fit two to a seat and when you’re all bundled up its even trickier. They will push you literally into and onto the bus. No seats? No problem! If the line for your bus is long they shove into every last space possible, you may be sitting on laps, shoved up right next to a grumpy commuter, nearly falling onto a babushka and since you’ve got dozens of Russians in winter wear in a confined space it can get hot… and smelly. Watch out that when you get shoved, you avoid the smelly riders.