August 20, 2009 - 8/18 – Lake Baikal

As you may know, Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years+), deepest (5,390 ft), and largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.  It contains over 20% of the freshwater in the world, and over 80% of Russia’s.

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Tomorrow I ride south out of Irkutsk, away from Baikal, but hope to ride by it’s southwest tip by the end of the day, and then ride along it for the next two.  But I really wanted to see the ‘resort’ town of Listvyanka.  The Lonely Planet guide warned me that “… many visitors wonder why they came.”  Here’s the main road just outside the market and two shots of the local market.

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All around here (Irkutsk/Lake Baikal) there are old, beat-up log homes, some with very modern buildings right next to them.  Here’s the biggest (and only big) building in Listvyanka, a side street, and the ‘backyard’ of a home on the main (and the only significant) street in town.

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Alexsy stayed in the car (and smoked, like many Russians) while I walked around.  He’d seen it all one too many times.  We then headed to the Museum, which has a number of features, including an aquarium containing “two frolicsome nepra seals (rare freshwater seals) and various Baikal fish that you’d otherwise encounter on restaurant menus.”

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The Baikal Museum also had a number of exhibits, which in spite of their interesting and indecipherable scholarship reminded me of high school science exhibits.  Behind the museum they built a wooden walkway up the hill and through the forest, replete with signs in Russian and Latin describing the flora.

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On the way out of town we saw this group of people singing in front of a monument.  Alexsey couldn’t explain the singers, but he told me that the monument was for a famous poet who died trying to swim across the opening of the Angara River to Port Baikal on the other side. 

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And then, about 1/3rd of the way back to Irkutsk, we went to the Talsy Museum of Wooden Architecture – “an impressive outdoor collection of old Siberian Buildings” set naturally in a forest along the beautiful river.  When they built the dam across the Angara in 1959, someone thought to disassemble and reassemble some of the best homes, along with a church, a prison, a school and some shops, all made from wood.

Here’s Alexsey showing me how to get around (he slept in the car) and some shots of the buildings.

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That’s it for Lake Baikal / Listvyanka.  I have lots more photos if you’re interested…  You’ll never get another update this long again, from me…

Bob 8/18 7:22pm

PS.  BTW, they still build home the exact same way today around here…

PPS.  Of particular note are the two species of golomyanka or Baikal oil fish.  These long-finned, translucent fish normally live in depths of 200 to 500 meters (660–1,600 ft) and are the primary prey of the Baikal seal, representing the largest fish biomass in the lake. They are famous for disintegrating into a pool of oil and bones when exposed to sunlight.

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