We finished our brief interlude in Irkutsk with an overnight stay at a chalet in the lakeside town of Listvyanka. Our home stay was in a rambling guest house – a bit like some of those at Marysville in Victoria. The village of Listvyanka was about an hour from Irkutsk. It is a holiday village for Irkutskites, and felt a bit like a Russian version of going to Dromana for a holiday weekend.
On the way, we stopped off at the Talsty Museum of Wooden Architecture. This is a collection of traditional buildings – homes, churches, schools etc that existed over the centuries. Most of these examples have been saved from the rising waters of the Angara River when it was flooded by a hydro dam near Irkutsk in the 1950s.
The lake is very clear and seems to have a number of boats that operate on it for both freight and transport. It is the world’s deepest lake – 1637 metres at its deepest point, 636 kms long and 60 kms wide. In winter, it freezes to a depth of 1 metre. It contains more water than all the American Great Lakes combined.
In the afternoon of our visit, David and I walked about 3 kms to the top of a mountain ridge to an observatory run by one of the universties in Irkutsk. From this high vantage point we found a splendid view along the lake before returning down a foot track through the forest. Kostya, our guide, assured us that the season for ticks had finished and that it was safe to walk through the forest.
We were back to Irkutsk and on the train at 4.30 pm. Our train is another on the Trans Siberian Network – train number 9 and this one goes from Irkutsk to Moscow. It is a nicer train than our first one although the air conditioning in our carriage is not working and by the afternoon it is getting rather warm. Our compartment even has a TV, although there are no channels operating on it to watch. We think that we might be able to ask the provodnista to play movies in the evening.
The countryside on this western side of Irkutsk is subtly different from the first part of our trip. We pass by settlements more frequently and some areas are sown with grain crops. There is still kilometre after kilometre of birch forest with the occasional patch of fir trees. At the moment, the country side is a bit reminiscent of that around southern NSW – undulating hills with long stretches of flat plain. The grassy patches in the forest clearings are full of yellow, pink, purple and white wildflowers. If we were to dig down perhaps a metre into the soil we would reach permafrost.
We also have some different company on this train. We have come across a group of fifteen people, mostly Australians, who started their tour in Beijing and spent two weeks in China and Ulan Bator in Mongolia. It is rather nice to have a range of other people to chat with. We will leave them at Ekaterinburg tomorrow night as they are going straight through to Moscow.
Anyway, it’s nearly time for another stop. Our next station is Mariinsk where we will stop for 20 minutes. That gives us an opportunity to walk along the platform and get some fresh air. It will be our first stop for over two hours. Perhaps there will be some more people selling produce at the station – and hopefully a cold drink.