On the Road - Stockholm to Beijing travel blog


Our train pulled in at 4.45am Moscow time, 9.45am local time. Whatever the time was between Moscow, local and my body clock, all I know was that I felt tired. I was so excited to get of the train that I couldn't sleep. It felt like the same excitement you had as a child on the first day of school. I arose an hour early as the Provenista (train attendant) was locking the toilet, humph... It worked out OK though as I packed my belongings, returned my linen, had a MacGyver shower then simply stared out the window at the lovely country side and birch tree woodlands. This part of Russia is stunning. A Russian named Ivan met us outside the station, driving us for around an hour to Port Baikal. By now the heat from Moscow (34 degrees) had well and truly left my body and I was slapped in the face with 8 degrees on a ferry over the lake to our guesthouse. Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. Known as the 'Galapagos of Russia', its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. The water today was extremely calm, making it look so thick that you would dare to lay on it! Being as cold as it was I felt reminiscent of Scotland as it is edged by rocky cliff faces and surrounded with mysterious mists. The landscape surrounding the lake basin, with its mountains, boreal forests, tundra, lakes, islands and steppes, is exceptionally picturesque. The Baikal region has some 1,200 historical, archaeological and cultural monuments of which 1,000 have state protection. A number of these are considered sacred. There is also a mix of distinctive cultures in the region and an interesting human history. The ferry was a short one, only about 25 minutes, then we had a 10 minute walk to our B&B. It seemed luxurious to have a steamy hot shower, and to eat a home cooked meal of salad, vegetable soup and buckwheat something or other! The meal was 'vkosna' delicious. We have just been for a walk around as the sun has emerged, though it is still 'palodnay' cold. There are two tunnels we found built in 1911. Originally the builders wanted to get around the vertical cliff on Kirkirey cape but because of danger of collapsing, it was decided to build a tunnel on the narrow part of the cape. During construction of the tunnel, collapses occurred frequently allowing cracks to appear. When the construction of the tunnel was almost finished, a strong earthquake occurred causing irreparable damage. All efforts made by builders to reinforce the tunnel was useless. The engineers then decided to build another tunnel, a mere 636 meters long. When stumbled across an old local whom told us a legend of Baikal... In old time, along the Earth’s edge a man was wondering. Once he saw an enormous bog through which no animal had ever come, no bird had ever flown to. The man wanted to know what kind of land was there beyond the bog. He took a run-up and jumped the lake, reaching the opposite shore. He saw a lot of saddled animals there. At once from under the ground appeared little eternal people that were riding these animals. They told the man that a rapacious animal inhabited their land – a sable that bit to death one of the eternal men. They implored to the man to kill the sable. The man went hunting and managed to kill the savage animal quickly. The eternal people were very satisfied and happy. They thanked him for the all done by the life-giving water. The people promised to bring it to the place where the man was living. The hunter came back home and told about the happened to his relatives about soon coming of the guests. The life-giving water could make all the people living eternally. Then, women began to light fireplaces and were looking forward the eternal people’s arrival. Promptly they saw them riding the sables. All the people burst in laughing at their strange aspect. The eternal people got offended and decided not to present the water. They poured it out on the trees –cedar, fir tree and pine, and turned back home, beyond the bog. Since then cedars, fir trees and pines are always green all over the year. Its now time for dinner, then a Russian faviourite, a Banya (sauna). It will be nice to be fed, clean and in a bed that isnt rattling!



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