Day 8: Listvyanka / Irkutsk

Listvyanka Travel Blog

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the glorious lake Baikal (where?)

Today we got a little reminder that we were in fact in Siberia. While yesterday had been a pleasant, sunny day with a temperature of 26 degrees, today the temperature had dropped to 6 degrees and the weather was cold, windy and foggy! Unfortunately for us we didn't really realise this until we had taken the 2 hour bus trip to the town of Listvyanka, where we found out our clothing of choice was in no way suited for this weather. Both Robbel and I had only taken a fleece, which, though warm, did zilch to block the wind, while Maciek was wearing sandals and his toes were nearly freezing off!

Lake Baikal is apparently one of the highlights of Siberia. It is the deepest lake in the world and the largest by volume, containing the staggering amount of 23,600 cubic kilometres of water - 20% of the world's supply of fresh water.

Nerpa seal
The lake is surrounded by snowy peaks, lush forests and taming with unique wildlife (the lake is a biosphere in its own).
However, we got to see none of that. The weather was so foggy, that all we could see is bleak greyness... In hindsight we were pretty glad we hadn't been able to book any tours yesterday.

There were some boat trips and horse back riding trips available from Listvyanka, but in the end we did none of that, because of the weather. We visited the biology museum, where we had an interesting tour around some displays and stuffed animals and we had all the uniqueness of the lake explained to us in detail. The museum also has several aquariums with Baikal fish on display, so we didn't need to go for a swim to see any. The highlight was of course the tank which held two 'Nerpa' seals, the endemic seals of Lake Baikal, which are the only fresh water seal species in the world.

fish market in Listvyanka

We wanted to walk up to a lookout point above the museum (which is part of a skiing area actually) but in the end decided not to as the visibility across the lake was almost zilch due to the fog.

Fortunately this trip to Listvyanka wasn't completely futile, as the Listvyanka fish market was an unexpected highlight of the day. At the daily fish market we were able to sample the local delicacy: Omul, an endemic fish which we tried in every possible variety: raw, smoked and warm, smoked and dried and finally salted and dried. Absolutely delicious!
The fish market was also a welcome change for the fact that at this place the people were used to seeing tourists. So people actually talked to us, tried to sell us something and, lo and behold, smiled and made jokes!

After we had spent about an hour at the fish market the cold wind drove us back to the bus, which brought us back to Irkutsk.

fish market in Listvyanka
The rest of the day was spent shopping supplies for the next stretch with the train, and enjoying our last chance of Internet for the next 2 days.

We ended our last day in Irkutsk (and in fact our last proper day in Russia) at the place where we had had breakfast the day before: Russkaya Chaynaya. This is definitely the best place we have eaten in all of Russia (at least where official restaurants are concerned, because nothing beats the home-made cooking you could buy from the babushka's at the train stations), gourging on some local specialties like several types of Siberian dumplings, potatoe salad and, of course, bliny's!

Biedjee says:
Philip, I don't think the seals crawled into the lake, I think the sea crawled away from the seals over the span of thousands of years, turning an estuary into a lake and leaving the seals to evolve and adapt. :-)
Posted on: Nov 17, 2008
IndoMaluku says:
I wonder how these seals ever made it crawling from the sea to this lake...
Posted on: Nov 16, 2008
_francine_ says:
I love the picture of the woman with the head scarf. Very good portrait; very characteristic.
Posted on: Nov 06, 2008
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the glorious lake Baikal (where?)
the glorious lake Baikal (where?)
Nerpa seal
Nerpa seal
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
fish market in Listvyanka
Listvyanka
photo by: Biedjee