A slow but busy day in Listvyanka

Listvyanka Travel Blog

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Walking down towards Lake Baikal
Our bus took us into Listvyanka first following the Angara River (the only river flowing out of Lake Baikal), then turning parallel to Lake Baikal itself. Listvyanka itself is a relatively small village. There are several small hotels along the main street, but there are many more small bed and breakfast style accommodations on the side rides that go back into the hills. We were dropped off and headed back along one of these side streets to Nikolai's who had an aforementioned B&B where we would be spending the night. We dropped off our gear and then headed back out to explore the village and see the lake.
Architecture in Listvyanka


The first thing I noticed was the architecture of the houses that we walked past. Most of the construction is wood and there was the ornately decorated wooden shutters in a bright variety of colors that appears to be a local custom. We reached the lake and walked along it for a bit towards the center of town and the pier where several medium sized fishing boats are docked. We learned that you could hire a boat to take you out on the lake for a short excursion and most of the group thought this was a great idea so we negotiated with one of the captains to take us out for two hours for a modest fee (400 Rubles or about $12 per person for the eight of us that decided to go).

As we pulled out from the pier and onto Lake Baikal, the breeze kicked in and it got mighty cold.
Boarding a boat we hired out to take us out on Lake Baikal
But still the views were amazing. The forested hills as we went northeast of Listvyanka were speckled with birch trees that would become our constant companion on the train for several days as we passed through the Siberian countryside. Birds flitted about overhead on the air currents. We peered over the edge of the boat into the crystal clear waters of the Lake Baikal reportedly one of the clearest lakes in the world. Was told later that we were probably seeing around 10-15 meters (30-50ft) deep in spots. What was even more incredible is that at one point you could see the bottom on one side of the boat, but go to the opposite side and it was inky blackness as far down as one could see.

Lake Baikal is the largest lake in the world by volume (reportedly containing nearly 20% of the liquid fresh water reserves on the planet), and it is the deepest.
Hillside reflected in the gently rolling water (incredible scenery)
Formed in a rift valley where two plates are pulling apart the lake is over 1600 meters (1 mile) deep in some spots. And as we saw, this change in depth occurs rapidly a short ways off shore in the rift zone. In addition to the geographic features, the lake is home to many fish, bird, and animal species endemic to the region.

We motored north for about an hour and then turned back around and headed back the way we came. Even seeing the same sights didn't change the fantastic views. Seeing this in early summer, I wonder what it would be like to come back in the winter to see the lake frozen solid. Maybe someday...

Back on land again, it was time to grab some food. At a market on the edge of town found some shashlik and plov among the stalls selling Russian knockoffs at inflated prices to the tourists.
Wandering the side streets of Listvyanka
Skipped the knick-knacks and went with the food.

After lunch, Jon, Heidi, Carlie and I wandered to the end of the road on the northeast edge of town on the recommendation of Andy and Mary who went that way while the rest of us were on the boat. At the edge of town was a small park, a rusting hulk of a ship along the lake, and then some more small homesteads. But nothing much else. So we headed back through town the way we had come before past the road back to Nikolai's looking for a couple of sites that were referenced in some books.

We were looking for St Nicholas Church and Retro Park. At first we didn't realize these were set back from the main road a bit and we walked right by. But this turned out to be an interesting excursion as we came to a different church along the road and as we walked around to see if this is what we were looking for we wandered through a small cemetery with ornately decorated headstones.
Saint Nicholas Church outside Listvyanka
It was a bit weird but oddly interesting to look at these people who were likely born here, lived here, and died here and to think about what their life was like in this small town that is so far away from my home (both literally and figuratively).

Turned back towards town and chose to take a side road that we thought might lead to the church and after heading back a ways we found it. The church wasn't much, but it was the first Russian Orthodox I had seen. We were allowed inside (they had obviously seen a fair share of travelers) and it was truly a different experience from Western Christian churches. The obvious difference is the separation of the congregation area from the sanctuary by the iconostasis. And then there is the iconography that is present in these churches commemorating the lives of various saints and apostles.
Some of the fun creations at Retro Park.


That said there wasn't a great deal on display here and it is a operating church so we moved on. Back out towards the lake we finally found Retro Park which was an intriguing little spot. Its really just another home where the owner has taken old Russian cars, torn them apart, and built all kinds of little creations in his yard. Pictures speak louder than words here so just take a glance through the images.

On the way back we realized we had some time to kill before an earlier planned rendezvous so we stopped at a small bar/cafe for a quick bit of refreshment. Then it was time for the grand event. I haven't mentioned it until now but earlier in the day when we first arrived at the lake and read a bit about the old wives tale that if you step in to Lake Baikal you will extend your life by 1 year, if you enter knee deep you will extend your life by 5 years, and if you go all the way in you will live 10 years longer.
Heading out for a dip in Lake Baikal
So Jon, Andy, Gabe, and I decided we would go whole hog and take a dip in majestic Lake Baikal.

Now Lake Baikal never gets very warm even in mid-summer, and this was still early summer. A sign posted at the pier earlier said that the water temp was 12C (53F) and the air temp was lucky to be pushing 15C (60F) this afternoon with a nice stiff breeze. It was COLD!!! Andy had a bottle of vodka that he had purchased earlier in the day and we all took a quick stiff shot of liquid courage as we disrobed down to our swim trunks or skivvies as the case may be and then it was a dash down to the water's edge. The first step was jarring, the second and third as the water quickly came to waist depth was shocking, the final dive into the icy cold water just took my breath away (literally).
Get me out of here.
Now the old wive's tale didn't state how long said swim had to be so after about two strokes it was a quick 180 and a mad push for the shore and our towels and dry clothes.

All in all it was 10 minutes of action (took me longer to write this than to do it probably) but what a fun experience. And crazily enough we weren't finished jumping into bodies of cold water just yet either.

Back up at Nikolai's, he had been getting his banya ready for us to experience. A banya is essentially a Russian sauna. There is a standard method of using the banya that involves first sitting in the banya (at temps approaching 100C (180F) for a period of time, then heading outside to sit in the cool air for a short period. Once ready, you go back inside for a second sit in the steam and this time you have someone massage (or really slap) you with a venik (a set of leafy branches).
Smoked Omul dinner in Listvyanka
This time after you exit the banya you proceed to jump into a small pool of cold water to rinse all the sweat off of your clammy skin (which in honesty after the shock is quite refreshing). Most everyone went for one trip through the banya and a few of us enjoyed it so much that we went for a second round after recovering from the first.

Finally it was time for dinner. We enjoyed smoked omul (a fish found only in Lake Baikal), mashed potatoes, and veggies prepared by Nikolai and his wife. The omul was quite tasty (and this from someone who is not a huge fish eater). At the end of the day we enjoyed some crazy charade game that was accompanied by many rounds of various drinks. It was a male verses female competition and suffice to say the blokes won handily and celebrated accordingly (with a traditional Mongolian wrestling celebration.
The Russian Flag whips in the late morning breeze.
.. don't ask you had to see it).

Well inebriated at this point it was finally time to end this day. The day itself didn't seem that busy at any point but it sure seems like a lot happened as I go back and write about it. Guess that makes it a good one.
Kramerdude says:
I much preferred the water temps in the mid-80s in Thailand.
Posted on: Jun 05, 2010
vances says:
Lake Baikal is similar to Maine ocean water, if its above 54 Fahrenheit that's toasty, lol!

Since you are not a "huge fish" fan I infer you only like anchovies???

:^)
Posted on: Jun 04, 2010
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Walking down towards Lake Baikal
Walking down towards Lake Baikal
Architecture in Listvyanka
Architecture in Listvyanka
Boarding a boat we hired out to ta…
Boarding a boat we hired out to t…
Hillside reflected in the gently r…
Hillside reflected in the gently …
Wandering the side streets of List…
Wandering the side streets of Lis…
Saint Nicholas Church outside List…
Saint Nicholas Church outside Lis…
Some of the fun creations at Retro…
Some of the fun creations at Retr…
Heading out for a dip in Lake Baik…
Heading out for a dip in Lake Bai…
Get me out of here.
Get me out of here.
Smoked Omul dinner in Listvyanka
Smoked Omul dinner in Listvyanka
The Russian Flag whips in the late…
The Russian Flag whips in the lat…
Along the Lake Baikal shore
Along the Lake Baikal shore
Baikal Rulezzz!!!

Dude!!!
Baikal Rulezzz!!! Dude!!!
Boats at the pier in Listvyanka
Boats at the pier in Listvyanka
Heading out for a short Lake Baika…
Heading out for a short Lake Baik…
Rusting hulk along the shore of La…
Rusting hulk along the shore of L…
Twas really cold out on the lake t…
Twas really cold out on the lake …
The hilly shoreline of Lake Baikal
The hilly shoreline of Lake Baikal
Bird flying on a breezy day.
Bird flying on a breezy day.
The Russian Flag whips in the late…
The Russian Flag whips in the lat…
Heidi working to get her shot of t…
Heidi working to get her shot of …
A misty morning lake excursion, wh…
A misty morning lake excursion, w…
Need to get the I was there phot…
Need to get the "I was there" pho…
Some of the fun creations at Retro…
Some of the fun creations at Retr…
Some of the fun creations at Retro…
Some of the fun creations at Retr…
Retro Park
Retro Park
Partaking of a bit of the ol liqu…
Partaking of a bit of the ol' liq…
Damn, this is cold
Damn, this is cold
Turning around and returning to sh…
Turning around and returning to s…
Cold, cold, cold, cold...
Cold, cold, cold, cold...
Freezing - air temp about 60F (15C…
Freezing - air temp about 60F (15…
Drying off after the Lake Baikal s…
Drying off after the Lake Baikal …
Task Complete
Task Complete
Celebrating victory!
Celebrating victory!
Listvyanka Sights & Attractions review
An amusing diversion in Listvyanka
So you're in Listvyanka, you've seen the mighty Lake Baikal, you've walked the streets, shopped at the souvenir stalls, and partaken in the experience… read entire review
Listvyanka
photo by: Biedjee