Planning the Transsiberian, Part 1: How cold is too cold?

In only a few weeks I'll be away to Russia, Mongolia, China and Tibet for yet another Monsoon Diaries adventure. I'll also be stopping in Romania and Moldova on my way to Russia for some extra travel!

Back in 2009 when I went on the Madrid tour before my semester of studying in Spain, it was cold. It wasn't super cold, but it was cold...all the time.

The hotel room was cold because you had to insert your key into the light switch to turn on the heat in the room (thus, you can't warm it up while you're not present). The bus that we hopped in at 7am each morning was cold from being parked outside all night. The castles and churches weren't heated, and of course walking around outdoors in Segovia and Toledo we were completely exposed to the elements. Thus, it was impossible to get warm. The only time you weren't slowly dying from invisible frostbite was when you were buried deep in your bedsheets in the middle of the night.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: SIBERIA!

Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon of France, and the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany all were victims of the Russian Winter. In short: it's COLD.

Here's my thrilling profile at the moment.

Hong Kong at the end of this trip will be a much-needed relief. 
I'm used to cold. I'm from Chicago. It's currently below freezing, and has been for the past few days. Heck, I'm stubborn and still haven't turned on heat in my apartment, and it's 52*F currently in here. I've walked home a mile from work in 14*F, when schools and businesses were closed because it was too cold. My eyes teared up from the cold, and my eyelashes froze together. I get it. I understand cold.

But cold is still cold. And not knowing when you'll have comfort from the cold is disconcerting. Will there be fireplaces? Please let there be fireplaces. Please don't let the only place saving me from cold be in my bedsheets in the dead of night.

By far the coldest place we will be is Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where we have the brilliant plans to spend THE MOST TIME OUTDOORS.

It is in Mongolia where we will be going horseback riding. Apparently they will supply us clothing while we're there, and I hope that the supplied clothing is the shell of an animal carcass because I am pretty sure that is the only thing that could keep me comfortable in -20*F (-29*C) weather. But hey, the bright side is there's no windchill factor like I've experienced in Chicago. Don't you worry, when it says it's -20*F, it "feels like" -20*F! So...great.

After concerning myself with my warmth and my comfort, I realized...these horses have to deal with the bitter cold, too! A quick search on Google, however, ensures me that horses (as long as they have shelter) can withstand temperatures as low as -40*F, according to the University of Minnesota. To think that every year people protest for horse comfort to the drivers of the little tourist horse buggies here in Chicago when it dips below 20*F. I guess they're still 60 degrees away from complete discomfort!

So these are my current concerns/thoughts. Maybe I will return from this trip without any fingers or ears (I feel like those are the first to go in extreme freezing temps). Maybe I'll return in snowwoman form. I just don't know.