BEAM ME DOWN, SCOTTY

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The Independent Travel
This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are:

61 24' N 35 52' E

FIRST REACTION

Someone open the fridge door - it's dark and I can't feel my fingers.

COUNTRY AND REGION

The Republic of Karelia, in northern Russia - about 350 km north-east of St Petersburg.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

You have landed in (or "on", depending on how cold it is) the southern end of Lake Onega - one of Russia's 200,000 lakes. The other-worldly groaning noises can be attributed to the movement of the ice which forms at this time of year. It doesn't freeze over entirely until January, so watch out for big pockets of slush, or gaping holes.

ALTITUDE

If you are lucky enough to find a sound sheet of ice, 0-200 feet.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Severe hypothermia, slipping and breaking your neck, dying of exposure and drowning.

USEFUL LANGUAGES

The official language is Russian, but over 70 languages and numerous dialects are spoken. Modern literary Russian is the best bet.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

Still hanging in there - Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

Miserable. Absolutely dull and sunless, with a temperature peaking at around minus 20c during winter months.

REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND

If you can swim/skate about 60 km north-west, you will find the 'world- famous' Kizhi Island Wooden Architecture Museum. This impressive collection of wooden buildings is typical of those in Karelia from the 13th to 20th centuries, including a giant 22-cupola wooden cathedral.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF THERE

Hydrofoils only make trips across the lake from May to October, but you may be able to flag down a stray fishing boat picking its way through the ice. Otherwise it is a 30km treacherous trek west to Petrozavodsk. This prosperous industrial town is the capital of the Republic of Karelia, and a major shipping, rail and road centre.

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