OVSYANIKOVGRAD, Wrangelia, Ice Planet Halloran V
Ovsyanikovgrad is the northernmost major city on Ice Planet Halloran V, and the capital of Wrangelia, the planet's largest but most sparsely populated semi-autonomous region. Wrangelia is to the north of the planet's arctic circle, and as such is a cold and inhospitable place even by the liberal standards of Ice Planet Halloran V. It is inhabited almost exclusively by members of Ursus maritimus sapiens, the sapient ursine species originally engineered on Earth to assist in the colonization of the planet. From this comes Ovsyanikovgrad's common nickname, Bear City.
Home to more than 150,000 sapient polar bears and only a couple hundred hardy souls who aren't bears, Bear City is a modern, fully equipped city that has everything you would expect from a town of that size. All of it is scaled for bears, so the average humanoid will tend to find it rather refreshingly roomy. The architecture is handsome but a bit austere, with clean lines and something of a Bauhaus sensibility. Trains run on time, portions in restaurants are plentiful, and the streets are tidy and (as one might imagine) tend to be quite safe, since virtually everyone in town - including the police - is an enormous bear.
Really, the only thing about Bear City that doesn't recommend itself to the law-abiding hitchhiker is the weather. It's cold in Wrangelia. The average daytime temperature is rarely above 0° F, and at night temperatures as low as -50° F (cold enough to freeze mercury) are not in any way uncommon. Most hitchhikers don't have and can't afford the sort of hostile environment gear the vast majority of lifeforms which evolved in a Standard environment require to survive, let alone be comfortable, in such a place. The standard psychological stresses of an arctic environment are also present: as on any planet with a significant axial tilt, the length of day varies insanely at Ovsyanikovgrad's latitude, from the full 24.21 hours in high summer to zero for several weeks in the dead of winter. The bears don't mind; long before they were engineered for intelligence, they had evolved to deal with it. For species which come from more temperate regions, it can be a bit hard to take.
The city has a large spaceport, but the vast majority of its traffic is cargo; no regularly scheduled passenger service exists there. Similarly, there is a seaport, but it serves only freight traffic and is closed by ice for more than half the year. The only scheduled passenger traffic of any kind into or out of Ovsyanikovgrad is on the rail line south to Barrow, the northernmost human settlement, which lies 620 miles distant (well below the arctic circle).
As such, the bears of Bear City are always a little surprised to receive visitors from the outside, particularly from offworld. However, there is a strong tradition of hospitality among the ice bears of Halloran, and what few outsiders do venture so far to the north are warmly received (pun intended). So long as a traveler in Bear City minds his manners, he will find that his welcome is long indeed.
Languages commonly spoken in Ovsyanikovgrad include Standard (naturally), Greenlandic, Inuit, Swedish, and Russian, reflecting the "nationalities" of the original settlers, whose pre-uplift ancestors came from different regional stocks on Earth. The city is named for its founder, Anatoly N. Ovsyanikov, "son" of the (human) Russian U. maritimus sapiens project coordinator. Oddly enough, the next most common language one is likely to encounter there is Kumbarese; almost everyone in town who isn't a bear is a Kumbari Salusian.
The city has a council/mayor form of government in which the mayor's role is largely ceremonial. As of this writing, the current mayor of Bear City is Winston Sanders, a hugely popular figure who has been elected to five four-year terms in absolute landslide victories despite his almost complete lack of documented qualifications for office. To be fair, in 19 years in office (and he's almost certain to be re-elected next year), he hasn't particularly needed them.
Things to see in Ovsyanikovgrad include the Wrangelia State Museum, which has the finest collection of documents and artifacts relating to the planet's colonization period; the Ice Cliffs of Kurvanoye Sound, ten miles to the north (guided treks readily available); the Knurbuj, or Wrangelian parliament, which meets in a magnificent, palatial hall of government in the city center and is legendary for the quality of insult employed in its debates; and the regular rugby matches between the Bear City Marauders and teams fielded by Wrangelia's five other significant settlements, which are held in the colossal Anders Langenberg Memorial Stadium downtown and which absolutely should not be missed. Perhaps the best show in Bear City, though, happens on no fixed schedule: Its high northern latitude and Ice Planet Halloran V's extremely active magnetosphere make for some of the most spectacular atmospheric auroras to be found on any inhabitable planet.
It can be a hard place to get to and an even harder one to get by in, but for the truly intrepid (or naturally cold-resistant) hitchhiker, Bear City is a worthwhile destination - if only for the ability to say later on that you've been there!
This Guide entry was written by TV and radio personality Bobby Drake, who didn't have any problems with the weather in Bear City at all.