What It's Like to Live in Yakutsk, Siberia, the Coldest City on Earth

Svetlana Ivanova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
Svetlana Ivanova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The residents of Yakutsk, Siberia are experts at surviving harsh winters. They own thick furs, live in houses built for icy environments, and know not to wear glasses outdoors unless they want them to freeze to their face. This is life in the coldest city on Earth, where temperatures occupy -40°F territory throughout winter, according to National Geographic.

Yakutsk has all the features of any other mid-sized city. The 270,000 people who live there have access to movie theaters, restaurants, and a public transportation system that functions year-round. But look closer and you’ll notice some telling details. Many houses are built on stilts, and if they’re not, the heat from the building thaws the permafrost beneath it, causing the structure to sink. People continue going outside during the coldest months, but only for a few minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.

Then there's the weather. The extreme low temperatures are cold enough to freeze car batteries and the fish sold in open-air markets. Meanwhile, a thick fog is a constant presence in the city, giving it an otherworldly aura.

Why do people choose to live in such a harsh environment? Beneath Yakutsk lies a literal treasure mine: Mines in the area produce a fifth of the world’s diamonds. Valuable natural gas can also be recovered there.

While Yakutsk may be the coldest city on Earth, it’s not the coldest inhabited place there is. That distinction belongs to the rural village of Oymyakon, 575 miles to the east, where temperatures recently dropped to an eyelash-freezing -88°F.

Snow-covered road.
Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna- CAFF, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Road covered in snow.
Magnús H Björnsson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Church surrounded by snow.
Magnús H Björnsson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[h/t National Geographic]

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This Livestream of Brasov, Transylvania, Is Great for Virtual Vampire-Watching

The vampires of What We Do in the Shadows are more likely to be found in Pennsylvania than Transylvania—but you never know.
The vampires of What We Do in the Shadows are more likely to be found in Pennsylvania than Transylvania—but you never know.
© 2020, FX Networks

If vampires were real, they would best be viewed from a distance. That makes a livestream of Brasov, Transylvania—a.k.a. Dracula's hometown—the ideal set up for vampire-watching.

According to Thrillist, this stream from Webcam Taxi provides a 24/7 look at Brasov's Old Town neighborhood. It's worth checking out just for the scenic view: You can see famous buildings like the 17th-century Black Church, with the Carpathian Mountains hedging the scene. For viewers more interested in the region's spooky reputation, the town is also home Bran Castle—one of the inspirations for Dracula's dwelling.

While researching his Gothic vampire novel at The British Museum, author Bram Stoker was struck by the Romanian landmark. His book describes Dracula's dwelling as sitting "on the very edge of a terrible precipice"—a characteristic it shares with the real-life castle just outside Brasov. The site is a tourist destination today, hosting tours and the occasional costume party. The attraction is currently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, which makes a virtual visit to Brasov especially appealing.

The Brasov cam streams around the clock, but serious vampire-spotters should wait until after sundown to make the most of the experience. This is one of several webcams for people with high patience levels and an interest in the supernatural. After vampire-hunting from home, see if you can spot Nessie in this Loch Ness livestream.