GEOGRAPHIC AND HISTORICAL INFORMATIONS
In the common imagination, Siberia is always a very cold and inhospitable place.
For this reason, going to Siberia was my objective.
These over 13 million square kilometers are occupied by 3 inhabitants per square kilometer.
In winter the temperature can go up to -76°F and the summers are warm but short.
The ideal place to send enemies to work in Soviet gulags.
GETTING TO SIBERIA
There are over 20 airports serving Siberia, from international ones to smaller ones used as support in emergencies.
But of course the most fascinating means of transport is the train, the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivastok, or the Transmongolic which crosses Mongolia and stop in Beijing.
MY TRIP TO SIBERIA
At the Irkutsk station I get off the Trans-Siberian for my first long stop.
Siberia and Lake Baikal are worth a few days dedicated.
I take the bus to Listvyanka, from which you can also reach Bolshie Koty by hydrofoil.
It is impossible to imagine the Baikal as a lake. Even more difficult, in summer, to imagine it frozen.
In summer it can easily be compared to the sea, in winter cars and trucks run on its icy base.
636 km from north to south, 48 km of average width (maximum 79.4), 744 meters of average depth (1.642 meters the maximum) make it he deepest lake with the largest water volume in the world.
It is estimated that it contains about 20% of the Earth’s fresh water, so clear and pure as to be drinkable.
Visibility in depth in its cold waters reaches even 40 meters. It is the only lake in which I swam.
The environment of Lake Baikal is inhabited from beyond 2.500 living beings (of which about 60% are animals).
Listvyanka, the town on Lake Baikal closest to Irkutsk, consists of a main dirt road, where there are small restaurants, the market and souvenir shops.
At the port you can eat freshly smoked omul.
On the hill there is the astronomical observatory, from which better observe the immensity of this lake, which goes beyond the horizon.
The classic base for visiting Lake Baikal, the city of Irkutsk, deserves at least a dedicated day.
The main street, the classic Karla Marksa, starts from a well-kept park, where children have fun with the fountain’s water.
Following the road, we are accompanied to the Angara river by the Russian music spread from the crates attached to the lampposts of light. The city is alive and there are beautiful shops.
Ulitsa Lenina, another classic street, perpendicular to Karla Marksa, leads to the river but passes by some beautiful parks where there is the statue of Tsar Alexander III, the Monument to the Soviet heroes and the eternal flame to their memory and, on the riverside, to remember 350 years of the city (birthday on 2011), stands the statue in honor of the Cossack founder Yakov Pokhabov.
There are dozens of statues in the city but the most ironic one I’ve seen depicts one of the many boys who have arrived here with the Trans-Siberian Train and who remains speechless walking with his backpack over the streets of the capital of Siberia.
Another symbol of Siberia are wooden houses used against the Winter General.
Some are so perfect they seem fake, others, certainly the most fascinating, show all the signs of the time and date back to the 17th century. To ensure a wall thickness of about 40 centimeters, the largest trunks of the Siberian forests were used.
You have to analyze also their windows. Beyond the beauty of the carvings that decorate them, they do not have 2 single doors, but they are divided into smaller windows.
During the harsh winters it is unthinkable to open an entire window, but thus it is possible to open only a small slot.
Especially in the old quarters some homes are incredible, with wooden windows decorated with perfect carvings.
There are many Orthodox churches in the city and one must at least see the Church of Kazan, beautiful and colorful both inside and outside.
After 6 days in Siberia, at 22.15 I board the 362 train, direction Mongolia.