Last night was our third on the train, and our last before stopping in Irkutsk. We passed through some beautiful broad river valleys last night, and woke this morning to find ourselves approaching Ulan Ude, the city where the Trans-Mongolian line splits off.
Ulan Ude is a city of around 380,000, and the first major town we have seen in a few days. We had 20 minutes to get off and stretch our legs. Somewhere in town is Russia’s biggest statue of Lenin’s head. Despite many other railway stations having a statue of some famous revolutionist prominently out front, this mighty Lenin statue was not on the platform.
The first glimpse of Lake Baikal had everyone rushing to the windows. It’s a huge expanse of fresh water, containing 20% of the world’s fresh water. Our guide, Kostya, speaks almost reverentially about the Lake. He’s from Irkutsk and knows everything to know about it.
In the old days, before the train line was built around the southern shore of the lake, a steam er used to carry the train and its passengers from one side to the other. Apparently, one train fell into the lake, and according to superstition, its lights can still be seen in the lake. Spooky.
The line follows the shoreline around the southern side, and will curl back around to Irkutsk. We arrive there in about three hours, and it will be good to have a shower and get off the train after 3 days straight.