This is a continuation from: Eating in Irkutsk
If you asked me what I remembered about a visit to Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. I would say it was beautiful but very cold. In fact, it was snowing when we arrived. It was quite a challenge to get to Listvyanka, as the bus stop was a 15min walk from our hostel at subzero temperatures. Nonetheless, as most seasoned travellers would agree, the most beautiful places are often hard to reach.
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To get to Listvyanka
To get to Lake Baikal, the nearest point is Listvyanka, some 70km away from Irkutsk. To get to Listvyanka from Irkutsk, it will be good to learn some basic Russian words so you can ask for directions. Otherwise, just wing it – head down to the Bus Information Station (I included a picture of it below) and try to purchase some tickets.
Alternatively, you can take an hourly marshrutky (private van) which waits outside the bus station. Try asking the locals for help. A kind marshrutky driver told us quite wordlessly which van to take. Marshrutky sounds like the English pronunciation, Google translate for the exact way of saying it.
The waiting time can be up to an hour. We waited for 30 minutes. The trip costs RUB200/ USD6/ SGD8 one way and takes about 45 minutes because the driver goes fast. Listvyanka is the last stop, so you don’t have to worry about where to get off.
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The fish market
When we arrive, it was snowing and very cold. Lake Baikal was there, at it’s calmest. It’s probably the first lake I have come across where I couldn’t see the opposite end of the shoreline.
It’s freezing cold and I have frost bite all over my hands. We hurry on inside, into a fish market. You can’t get much warmth there unless you stand next to the kebab seller. But then again the whiffs and smells of succulent omul makes you forget the frost bite that’s attacking your hands and feet.
Like in the post “Eating at Irkutsk“, we bought an Omul to try. It’s cheap – RUB50 for a fish, compared to the restaurant price of RUB400 (even though it comes with potatoes). It’s so good that we brought more back to the hostel. People at the fish market also sell some grilled meat, as well as paella rice.
The cold got so bad that we had to take rest at a coffee house before venturing out again to take more pictures of Lake Baikal.
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To be honest, the Dal Lake in Kashmir seems to be more interesting – with houseboats floating about, and people sitting in shikaras (little boats) going about their way of life.
I guess we just came in the wrong season. In Summer, I suppose you can even go skinny dipping in Lake Baikal, just make sure you don’t get bitten by an omul that’s swimming by!
We also endured the pain of a frost bite to touch the clear Baikal waters. I licked my fingers to get a taste – it’s quite clear and sweet. My hands were screaming out in pain after that, but I survived.
My advise is that if you want to enjoy Lake Baikal, go in summer. There are benches by the shore, and you can spend hours outdoor marvelling the misty mountains across the lake. It’s a sight to behold.
Watch this space for my next post, on the continuation of the 4 day Trans Siberian train ride.