Continuing where we left off yesterday, here’s the second installment of our series on ‘Unseen Russia’.
The more ghoulish amongst Argophilia fans won’t be able to get enough of the Tsoi-Pede Necropolis in war-torn Chechnya – Russia’s very own take on the City of the Dead. Yet again we have to rely on legends to tell us the purpose of this cryptic structure – the theory goes that locals built the necropolis during a terrible epidemic in which unmanageable numbers of people died.
With so many dead, burial became a huge problem for those still around – the necropolis, consisting of a watchtower and around 40 crypts, was the answer to that problem. So successful was it that even those who were dying would come to the necropolis to wait to die!
In this case however, historians argue that the legend is not correct, that instead the necropolis was built due to the warlike nature of the peoples who lived here, who were in constant conflict with their neighbors.
But regardless of its history, the necropolis is a remarkable architectural treasure, its pagan altar pillars adorned with crosses and symbols. Visiting is a little problematic however – despite the fact that the Caucasus region is much safer now than it was, special permits are still required to visit this area.
After all that freakishness at the necropolis, you might want to take time to cool off a little – and there’s no better place to do that than the Pole of Cold, located in the village of Oymyakon, Yakutia, Northern Siberia.
This is a place that will appeal to extreme tourists, with average temperatures dropping to a bone-chilling -60°C during the daytime. The Pole of Cold also recorded the coldest temperature ever in the northern hemisphere; -68°C, which makes it a perfect location for someone like Santa Claus, who apparently loved the place so much that he decided to move here back in 2004.
Come during the annual Pole of Cold Festival, held each year in March, and you’ll even get to meet the great man in person as he comes to take part in events ranging from reindeer races to sleigh jumping and even a spot of underwater fishing.
Such cold weather makes you truly appreciate the finer aspects of being snug and cozy at home, and an essential ingredient to that is a nice, warm pair of slippers – something the Russians appreciate more than most it would seem. Why else, after all, would they have a Monument to House Slippers?
The humble residents of Tomsk pay tribute to the cozy house slipper in considerable style: with two huge bronze slippers displayed on a pedestal outside the city’s hospital, bearing the inscription “Feel at Home”. Feel free to try on the big bronze slippers, which measure 13 inches long!
Our last attraction in today’s installment on Unseen Russia is by far the most explosive. After all, the Tunguska Explosion Site did see an enormous meteorite impact back in 1908, one of the largest such strikes ever recorded in modern history.
The force of the meteorite crashing into Earth was equivalent to several atomic bombs going off at once, with trees being ripped from the ground over a staggering 2,000 square kilometer area, while people 800 km away could hear the blast created by the impact.
The Tunguska event is not without its own ‘legends’ either, in the form of conspiracy theorists who believe that it could have been an alien spacecraft that crashed here. Scientists however, insist that it was just an extraordinarily large impact of a meteor made almost entirely from ice, which caused the formation of silvery-colored clouds in the atmosphere in the days after the impact.
But that theory doesn’t stop the conspiracy theorists, who say that even today there is evidence of something unusual at Tunguska – many have claimed to be cured of illnesses after visiting here, thanks to the mysterious positive energy that radiates from the site.