Opening Asia for Russia

28.03.2018 85 просмотров

Baikal has long turned into an actual world tourist destination. Many foreigners enthusiastically visit the world's largest freshwater lake. And what about us Russians? Alas, for many residents of Russia, the concept of “visiting Baikal” has acquired a slightly different meaning. If, of course, they get here.



Usually a trip to Lake Baikal for many Russians consists in making a short bus march from Irkutsk to Listvyanka, buying smoked omul and a couple of cedar cones at the market, feeling the cold water with your hand and making sure that it is really very clean . Sometimes enthusiasts sing "Glorious Sea - Sacred Baikal", take a half-hour boat trip along the coast - that's all. Baikal looked. You can check the box and get ready to go back. It's like trying to get an idea of Paris from the Charles de Gaulle airport or about Armenia from the store of the same name on Tverskaya. This is wrong. Listvyanka is a wonderful village, but it should only be the starting point of a big tour of Baikal.

The Old Road

Listvyanka gives you the right mental attitude. Everything at once is concentrated on its central square: the bazaar, the bus station, and the pier. This is a place where they eat, meet, say goodbye, get acquainted, bargain. Smoke from dozens of smokehouses mixes with the exhaust of mooring boats and motor ships. A steady fishy smell, aromas of cedar resin and special Baikal freshness hang in the air. The streets crawl away from the embankment into the mountains. Every second house has been converted into a private boarding house, as indicated by signs in Russian, English and German. You can choose from any level of comfort, from courtyard amenities to a Mediterranean-style villa. That's just cheap housing in Listvyanka has long been gone. Even the huts with field toilets, enterprising residents manage to shake off foreigners under the guise of local exotics. Of course, you can stay not in a hut, but in a yurt, but this pleasure will cost a tidy sum, because the yurt is not simple, but with amenities: imported plumbing and cable TV.

Russia, Baikal
Irkutsk region. Tourists go on a hike. Listvyanka village. Photo: Vladimir Smirnov / TASS


Nevertheless, despite the comfort and pleasant relaxed atmosphere, it is not worth staying in Listvyanka for a long time. From what is nearby, you should definitely visit the old Circum-Baikal Railway, which connects the port of Baikal with Slyudyanka. This branch was laid even before the revolution, when the Trans-Siberian was built. Later it turned out that the route runs too close to the water, it was flooded a couple of times during the floods, so they decided to let the highway go higher, and the Port Baikal-Slyudyanka section turned out to be almost abandoned. Once or twice a day, a short train crawls along a single track, which, like a fixed-route taxi, picks up everyone who wants to ride. The rest of the time, lizards and ground squirrels peacefully bask on the embankment, and bats sleep peacefully in numerous tunnels. By the way, these tunnels and bridges across the rivers are wonderful well-preserved monuments of engineering architecture of the turn of the last and the century before last. People were even able to build a railway bridge in such a way that it turned out both reliably and functionally, and in addition it was also beautiful! Now the Circum-Baikal Railway is a wonderful walking route. There is no other road, except for the railway track, so motorists do not get here. This is a big plus. Walking on the sleepers is not at all difficult. On the right - wooded mountains with picturesque ravines, on the left - Baikal in all its glory. A lot of great places where you can put up a tent, and if there is no tent, it does not matter. You can spend the night in a hotel in Port Baikal, or return to Listvyanka by ferry. The ferry runs several times a day, exactly on schedule.


South Coast

There are practically no roads on Lake Baikal. There are only a few relatively small sections of the coast compared to the total coastline that can be reached by car or train. One of these sections is the southern tip of Lake Baikal, where the Trans-Siberian Railway passes. This is the center of tourist bases and holiday homes. Starting from the old ones, left over from Soviet times, owned by various enterprises and departments, and ending with newly built ones, with all modern conveniences. Old tourist bases are interesting for their traditions that have developed over decades. Here they go on multi-day trips in an organized manner, sing songs around the campfire, organize amateur competitions, local poets come here to read poetry, they arrange cognitive lectures in the library, they even do morning exercises together to the song of the same name by Vysotsky. In the canteen they serve homemade cutlets and dried fruit compote - everything is just like in the good old days.

Russia, Baikal
The water in the lake remains cold even in the height of summer. Bay Aya. Photo: Wothe, K./TASS


The shore at the southern tip of Lake Baikal is relatively gentle, in some places overgrown with shrubs, with a mass of small small bays where the water warms up on hot days. For Baikal, this is a rarity - places where you can swim. Not for long, of course. In the lake itself, the water remains icy even at the end of a sultry July. This is its peculiarity, and this circumstance largely explains the unique purity of Baikal water. In general, July and the first half of August is the best season on Baikal. There is a lot of sun here, but at the same time there is no deadly heat, something special is dissolved in the atmosphere, thanks to which the tan is exceptionally even and persistent. At the end of August, winds begin to blow from the mountains, on which snow caps have not had time to melt over the summer. However, if you're lucky, then at the end of summer you can get a week of sunny weather. In September - a feast of Indian summer colors. You just need to always keep warm sweaters and jackets ready. A typical phenomenon for Lake Baikal – it had just been hot, suddenly a light breeze rose in a matter of seconds, it felt cold, as if someone had opened the door of a huge invisible freezer. In winter, Baikal also has something to do. A modern ski center has been built in the vicinity of the city of Baikalsk, the slopes of which were once personally tested by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition to skiing, a whole range of winter active entertainment is offered - snowmobiles, dog teams, cross-country skiing.


Life on the island

No need to hope that it will see "whole Baikal" during a short vacation. This may not be enough for a lifetime. In the century before last, the Polish explorer Chersky sailed along the entire coast of the lake in a boat, compiled maps and detailed descriptions of nature. Here he, perhaps, saw Baikal. True, he had a special situation. He could take his time and not be distracted by trifles, because the tsarist government exiled him to these parts for life exile for revolutionary activities. And the vacation traveler has only two or three weeks of vacation. Therefore, it is necessary to find a place where all the diversity of Baikal is presented in the most concentrated form. There is such a place. This is Olkhon, the largest of the Baikal islands.

Getting there is not so easy. There is a regular bus from Irkutsk to Khuzhir (the administrative center of the island). Travel time is about eight hours, the hardships of a long road brighten up the stunning landscapes that open outside the window. The taiga is replaced by a rocky steppe with flowering herbs. On the hillocks near the road there are Buryat prayer posts, tied with bright shreds. So people ask their gods to fulfill their desires. The gods who created such beauty around cannot be merciless.

Russia, Baikal
Baikal is a fantastically beautiful place. Photo: Wothe, K./TASS

In Khuzhir, there are ten tourists per each local resident during the season. However, this village has not yet managed to turn into a second Listvyanka, where all the beauties of nature are instantly converted into hard currency. The locals still have a special psychology inherent in all islanders around the world. For them, a person from the mainland is interesting in itself, and not just his wallet. Therefore, they actively make contact, asking about life on the mainland. They can even treat you for free - hospitality is the norm in these parts.
Of course, over time, several dozen new ones will be added to the ten already existing camp sites on Olkhon. This place will inevitably turn into a highly developed tourist center. Perhaps someday a new all-weather road will be built there. But I really want to believe that the locals will not change much.

Russia, Baikal
The beauty of Baikal must be seen with your own eyes.  Photo: Ulf Mauder/TASS


It is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to express Baikal beauties in words. Yes, and you don't have to. Today no one has to be convinced that Baikal is a fantastically beautiful place. Unique. Known, but still unknown. You should definitely see it with your own eyes. It is advisable not to wait for the moment when luxurious hotel complexes are built there.
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