[Russia] Neverending ice, -30 °C, Buryat Region and great railway with lake view – in one word it’s Baikal

Long time ago...

Long time ago, in a small village in central Poland, after Sunday lunch with my grannies I laid down on the sofa and I switched on TV. That was the moment for my favorite documental program “World’s animals". At that time, we didn’t have any Discovery or Animal Planet in Poland. Only once a week, on Sunday afternoon I was able to connect with the nature world. I looked at the screen – blue ice was everywhere and the title appeared “Baikal Lake in the winter”. Shoot after shoot my eyes were opening more and more, I was shocked by the beauty of this place… from that moment it was my dream to see it in live. Today, when I’m looking at the frozen Baikal I feel happy and proud – We’ve made my dream comes true.

Irkutsk

Nobody who lives close to Baikal call it ‘lake’. It’s just Baikal. It’s too big to be a lake. Surrounded by the mountains (until 3000m) Baikal looks magical. Those mountains and its depth make the water in Baikal so cold. The result? From January till March all the lake is frozen. Can you imagine it? 600 km of ice… Over 300 rivers are going into the lake and only one is going out – Angara. It will take us to Irkutsk, our first stop around Baikal.

Irkutsk is the biggest city in Siberia. The place is known from being close to the Baikal and also from the biggest plane factory in Russia - “Irkut”.  You will find here a lot of beautiful wooden houses, decorated with typically window shutters, few churches and the “Rolling Stones” – our great hostel.

When the Russian embassy refused our visa application because of not paying hotels confirmation, we sent around 20 emails to different hostels asking for booking and possibility to pay J Only one answered. Until now, we are wondering why only one? But we were very lucky and we loved our stay in Rolling Stones. We liked a lot dorm area (check at the picture). The capsule solution gives you a piece of comfort even if you stay with 16 other people in the same room. Hostel is small, very cozy and warm. You can’t stop to talk to the people. We even took the opportunity to translate basic sentences to Chinese, as at that time Irkutsk were full of Chinese people. We also made first job offer for our hostel – hope to see you soon Sasha!!!

How to get from Irkutsk to Baikal lake? You can order a mini bus in your hostel, they will pick you up from the place. Or you can just go to the bus stop and take the right number of marszrutka (you know this one already from Georgia). It’s very easy!

 

Olkhon – Magical Island

To say about it – the biggest island on Baikal – it is not enough!!!

This place is extraordinary for many reasons. For me the most interesting was the shaman one. Long time ago The Greatest Shaman came on the Olkhon as a White Eagle. Each year, in August many shamans from different places in the world are coming here to pray together and talk about the future of the shamanism. All of the rituals are taking place at the Shaman Rock. During our stay we could admire this rock in ice. There was nobody else, just us, Shaman Rock and philharmonic of the ice. For the first time ever we could hear such a sound of ice. To try to describe it, I would call it – yawning and sighs of ice. They are very different and loud, long, high and without ending…

During visiting this place, do not climb at the rock. It is holy place for a lot of people and let’s respect it.

 

Olkhon Island 

The island is the sunniest place in whole Siberia
Close to the north point there is the deepest point of Baikal – 1637 m
The highest point of the island is Iżimej 1274 m
In the north-east you can see beautiful view from high and sharp cliffs


The most common vehicle on the island is Uaz.
Who doesn’t love it?!
The specific combination of the wheels system
and the roads (well, let’s call it roads)
guaranty stomach adventures.
It’s better to not eat too much before.
5 hours excursion from Chyżur to the north of island cost us 1000 rub.
The lunch inc – sausage, piece of bread and tea!
It was great!

 

Baikal in facts

Baikal - the biggest lake in the world
– from the quantity of the water.
636 km long and 80 km wide (max).
Deepest in the world – max 1637m.
Coastline is 2100 km long.
It is also the oldest lake in the world –
25 mln years old

Baikal it’s home for 1500 different animals
In its water you can find around 1000 …. Plants
80% of the animals and plants are endemic.
Baikal is listed in the UNESCO

It’s a home for sweet water seals – Nerpa
The most known fish is Omul
delicious when it’s smoked…

Baikal in Winter

Datsans and Buryats – Mongol society at the Baikal

Before I came to Ulan-Ude (capitol of Republic of Buryats) I didn’t know anything about Buryats and Dacans. Russia as the biggest country in the world is much diversified – Russians from Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Ulan-Ude or Yakucja can be 4 different persons – with different looking, beliefs and ways of thinking. It was the most surprising for me in Russia. In Poland we know this country most of the time from the TV news and looking at it through not easy history and stereotypes. It’s time to change it! Go to Buryat Mountains, see the Baikal covered with ice, have a ride with Transsiberian in III class, and be curious of the people!!!

Buryat Republic is an autonomic republic subordinated to Russian Federation. Adjacent to Mongolia, Irkutsk and Zabaykalsk Country. 60% of Baikal coastline is located in Buryatia and the highest point is Munk-Sardyk 3491 m. Buryat people believe in Lamaism and in daily life very often they refer to shamanism. Do not be surprised to see a lot of trees covered with colorful ribbons.

Russia Irkustk River
Russia Ulan Ude Market

Lama’s come back

In the coldest day ever we decided to go and see one of the Datsan. Yeah! After 10 minutes of being outside my eyelash were frozen… Datsan means Buddhist monastery and temple. About Ivolginsky Datsan we have already heard from Aleksander from Transsiberian.

“In 1927 lama Itigilow started a meditation, from which he has never waken up” – this is news from one of the web page. A lot of tourist attraction doesn’t have any English information. So when we came back to the hostel I was looking for some details of what I have seen… Each temple in this complex is somehow touching and relaxing. The one with ‘meditating lama’ is mystic. Lama ….. Daszi-Dorżo Itigiłow…. died during his meditation and he was buried in this same position. In the 50’ he was exhumed (that was his will). Until 2005 in different tests they found few weird things like – high temperature around his heart or some alive cells in taken samples. From this date, the monks decided to finish experiments cause for them he is just in deep meditation and one day he will wake up. Today you can see this mummy in datsan.

Russia Dacan Temple

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