World's Hottest, Make That Coldest, New Tourist Destination? This Russian Ghost Town

David Matthews
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If there's one thing you can say about planet Earth, it's that the place never runs out of interesting vacation spots. Take, for example, Pyramid, an abandoned former Soviet coal-mining town that is 800 miles from the North Pole.

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Located on Spitsbergen Island in the Arctic Ocean, Pyramid once boasted a population of 1,000 tough people who didn't mind the well-below-freezing temperatures and the fact that the sun rises a little earlier than you might be used to, at 4:30 a.m. But in 1998, seven years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia pulled the plug on the place, leaving behind little more than the world's most northerly statue of former USSR premier Vladimir Lenin, old film reels, and snow boots.

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Now it's a ghost town with one permanent resident: Vladimir Prokofiev, a 33-year-old tour guide. Left to his own devices when there are no tourists to show around, and with no television, radio, or Internet and very weak cell phone signal available, Prokofiev passes the time by using the still-functioning amenities on site, including a gym, and making friends with an arctic fox that lives nearby.

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While the accommodations are rather spartan, they are well-preserved due to the cold temperatures, and Prokofiev admits that he doesn't require much in the way of supplies outside of the rifle he uses to ward off interloping polar bears. Russia hopes to draw increased tourist activity to the offbeat locale and has made mild improvements to the buildings' security and electrical wiring.

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