This song was played constantly in the car during my trip to the proclaimed Pole of Cold - Oymyakon. But I would refashion How Much Is The Fish? of the German singer Scooter into How Much Is The Cold? because the trip turned out to be very interesting and sometimes breathtaking as you see snowy mountains all around, fairytale forests, and… the cold! Overwhelmed is an understatement. Its Majesty the Cold! It pervades everything! You cannot neglect it, otherwise you are in trouble.
At the beginning of January I was invited by one of the tourist companies to accompany the group of tourists from Germany as an interpreter. I agreed because I’ve never been to Oymyakon in the winter.
My group consisted of tourists from different parts of Germany, people of different ages, professions, but very positive and with a good sense of humor. It's right; people without a sense of humor have nothing to do at the Pole of Cold! It was an amazing trip. Even for me, a local who traveled a lot around the world. However, this is what the participants of this trip say themselves answering my questions:
- Why have you chosen Oymyakon as a destination?
Johannes Schmidt and Henriette Gallas: We have fulfilled a great desire to see this part of the world with its special people. We wanted to feel the temperature and understand the life.
Jan Domann and Cindy Jantke: We chose Oymyakon because we like to make trips which not everybody likes. We like adventure and nature. We don't want to be surrounded by many people during our holidays. We cannot imagine hanging out at the same beach for two weeks - that would be too boring for us.
Another reason is that we wanted to see how people can live at such a temperature - when it's "cold" in our hometown sometimes it means minus 15 degrees Celsius - but that does not happen very often! We wanted to get a feeling of such a cold temperature, how it feels like to be at the coldest place on Earth. These are the main reasons for our trip.
Helga Bamberger: When I was reading books by Shalamov, Ginsburg and other authors, survivors of the GULAG, the idea occurred to see and to feel a little bit of this area, like to get an impression of the cold. So one day I decided to travel to the Pole of Cold, as well as to Kolyma.
- Please share your impressions of your trip to Oymyakon. What is the highlight of the entire trip? What was most memorable?
Johannes and Henriette: The impressions of our trip to Oymyakon - the vastness of the country and the incredible nature.
The absolute highlight for us was crossing the rivers in winter and feelings and sensations at below - 55 °C. Most memorable: reindeer sleigh ride.
Very pleasant was our group and the two local travel guides. We have experienced the authentic life in Yakutia. Thank You very much!
Jan and Cindy: We got a lot of impressions of our trip. On the one hand there are good living conditions in central/ eastern Russia! The people on our route live in very difficult conditions (maybe like 40 or 50 years ago in Germany). We could not imagine this before. There is not a special highlight of our trip because the whole trip was a highlight. But very memorable for us was the moment when we saw minus 60 degrees on the thermometer at Tamara’s (our local hostess - Editor's note) home in Oymyakon. This was a moment we will never have again I think.
Another very interesting moment - when we met the reindeer breeders. It was very interesting to see how people can live without modern technique in the wintertime in the forest only with their reindeer!
We really liked this because there were no cell phones, TV or other modern gadgets - only animals and nature!
Helga Bamberger: These books have remained in my memory; the content of those books was very impressive that’s how I had this idea to feel -50°. But now it is just impressive to see this picture of the road on bones with the old bridges. It was important and interesting for me to visit the museum in Tomtor and to know that there are even other museums devoted to GULAG, that people remember the barbarism.
Furthermore, Yakutia and the way to Oymyakon is very beautiful because of the landscape. When I came to Yakutsk I felt like at Christmas. The snow all over represents our imagination of Christmas and the way to Oymyakon as well. The ride with the reindeers corresponds to our children phantasy of Father Christmas. It was nice to see the frozen raw fish on the market in Yakutsk and to taste it in Oymyakon. It’s a little bit of what we call carpaccio and it is very tasty. And observing this very cold and snowy landscape, I found it amazing that the temperatures in summer reach +40° and there is almost no transition between summer and winter. These extremes belong to this part of the world and for me it was very impressive to get a small idea of this reality.
- Your tips to those wishing to visit Yakutia, and particularly, Oymyakon.
Johannes and Henriette: Think well before, it is an expedition and not a vacation. You can trust local guides. Take seriously the advice of the tour operator with respect to the clothing and advice from insiders. It's worth it.
Jan and Cindy: We can recommend this trip to everybody who is interested in Adventure! But a very important tip is not to underestimate the cold! When you do not have the right clothes you can get very big problems! Even when you just go outside for a few seconds - may be a minute - without gloves you will be in danger. We did not want to believe this before - but it is true!
All in all it is absolutely worth to make a trip like this because it is very well organized! We thank our travel company, Sasha, our translator, and Alexei, our driver, dj and organizer!
Helga Bamberger: Everyone who likes snow and the cold should go to Yakutia. If people like to feel the extreme cold, they should go to Oymyakon. Maybe they should also think about the opportunity to be one of the few tourists now. If the locals build the hotel they plan, I’m sure there will be many people. Local people are very friendly and open. They answered us so many questions, that they wouldn’t be able to answer if there were many tourists.
- Thank you! Have a safe trip home!
By Alexander Pakhomov, Yakutia Today