Muscovite Winter: A Primer

That great line of defense, Russian winter, is well underway, thus the cold is my inspiration for this post. Last year I wrote a post on how to deal with the cold, but it hit me that I didn’t really describe the experience of getting through the winter. Therefore I want to rectify that mistake via this post.

In my experience, the temperature can fluctuate, meaning some days it’ll be closer to freezing then other days it’ll be in the high teens/low twenties. While overall it’s not bad, it can throw you off; you don’t quite know how to dress for it. (The solution: layer up under a nice, thick coat. Plenty of stores here have great choices.) One of my colleagues mentioned that he is originally from the Siberian city of Barnaul, and he thinks it feels colder in Moscow than there. You may be thinking “whoa” at this point, but there’s a pretty simple explanation: humidity. In Moscow (I’m not sure about St. Petersburg), the humidity pushes down the temperature, on top of the wind. Whereas in other cities, I’m told that this isn’t the case-it’s just purely cold. After what I’ve just said, I’m sure there are some people who may be a bit scared. Don’t be. The way Russian weather works, at least in my experience, is that it gradually gets colder, so by the time winter really rolls around, you’re adjusted to it. Granted, it still can be unpleasant, but not to an extreme extent.

With the fluctuation in temperature and weather (rain then snow then sunlight then rain then snow, ad nausea), the downside to sightly warmer weather is there’s the ubiquitous slush that lines the streets. A lot of people I’ve talked to, whether colleagues or students, universally agree that we loathe this. Not only does it adorn your pants, but it turns roads and entrances into impromptu slip-and-slides. Coupled with the ice, you get a nice city-wide obstacle course to avoid these two things. Naturally, to deal with this, the city’s workers put salt on the sidewalks, so be prepared for messy shoes with some white marks on them. If you’re afraid of the lasting legacy of this, you can buy cleaning solution for pretty cheap.

Lastly, the snow is worth mentioning. As this post is being written, the snow so far hasn’t been too bad. I’ve heard that this year it snowed earlier than for a very long time, but otherwise it’s just nothing super special. Yeah, there are decent piles, but that’s over many days of snow, spread out over the weeks; the cleaning crews, bless them, do fantastic jobs. This is my third winter in Moscow, and I don’t really recall a ton of annoying snow. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but aside from a larger quantity compared to back home, not much else is different. Of course, the wind blowing snow into your eyes is obnoxious, but the ability to tolerate it directly correlates with the distance to your destination. However, when all’s said and done, it’s worth dealing with the snow and cold to admire a gorgeous snow-covered Moscow!

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