Hi there! My name is Maxim Milyutin. I am based in Irkutsk, Russia's Siberia.
Traveller, organiser of local travel talks, and owner of Irkutsk hostel. Travel for me is not necessary movement to some place far away from home, it's a state of soul. That's why I like to travel around my home region and and abroad as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge about Baikal with everybody!
Feel free to ask me about Lake Baikal via the contact form
Tatiana Baksheeva, our previous blog runner, remains with us as a contributor.
Angara river is the only river flowing from Lake Baikal. It is amazing that it never freezes, even during coldest time of winter. It is the only winter-stay for birds in Northern Asia. It happens because of natural reason: water in the lake changes temperature only at its upper part, it stays the same all year round deeper than 300-500 meters (depending on season) and it’s 4 C. At the beginning of the river the water flows from the bottom layer. That’s why it takes at least 2 kilometers to cold it down enough to freeze.
When you travel to some new place, usually you compare it with some other, that you already know. There are many such things and places in Siberia, that both unique and have something silimar to other things. I write about some of them.
Siberian Alps – Sayan Mountains, that located in Tunka Valley, they are so beautiful, when their peaks are covered by snow (from August to June).
Siberian Tibet – Valley of Shumak river, which famous for its hundreds of mineral springs. Very good place, but to reach it you have to pass the mountain about 2,500 m height. Or take a helicopter.
Siberian Paris or Siberian Athens – Irkutsk was named in 19th century by many visitors, comparing with these cities beauty.
Siberian Riviera – Peschanaya (Sandy) Bay at Lake Baikal, one of the sunniest and warmest places at the lake.
Siberian Barocco – Unique style of wooden architechure, traditional for 19th century. You can find many such wooden houses in Irkutsk and Irkutsk region.
Finally, Siberian Health is guaranteed for everybody who will visit all mentioned above :)
Hi! Today I’ll tell you about very famous Baikal fish in Russia, it’s Omul, also called Baikal whitefish, or stranger whitefish! You can find it everywhere at the lake, at markets, cafes and restaurants. Locals cook it in many ways, boil it (then you get local fish soup, called “yushka”), fry it. And salted omul fish is very good in salad, called “zagudai”, when except the fish you have slices of onion, pepper, salt and vegetable oil. It is traditional food fot local minority called “buryats”, originally nomads, but here they are also hunters and fishermen. But the most tasty it is hot-smoked and cold-smoked (I prefer hot!). Try it!
Now the season of ice driving and walking has almost ended, some parts of the lake are dangerous now to walk, so those who wanted to visit ice caves, it better to do it next year! It melting will continue till June, during this month you can swim (+2°C, by the way), and see some small ice floes. Something irrational :) It’s still beautiful to visit, spring in Siberia is very nice, but dirty. For those who are going to exlore our lands in April and May, take some warm clothes, locals know that every other year we have strong snowfalls in May holidays, and the year before we hadn’t!
You probably know, that there is something happening with Russian economy. Here is my forecast for prices for the next year. The pros of this process is that prices for everything (tours, food, accommodation, guides…) had dropped dramatically, USD/RUB and EUR/RUB exchange rate strongly decreased (ruble is now twice cheaper), and now everything here is twice cheaper than before. I think it’s good time for travelling. Some examples below. Hostel accommodation costs 600 rubles, in 2014 it was around 15 USD, now it’s 7 USD. Dinner at good restaurant costs 1500 rubles, it was 40-50 USD, now it’s 20-25 USD! The prices is going to rise during 2015, but not so dramatically, because Russian government manages the situation, and averate salaries won’t increase two times. Probably, during the 2015-2016 dollar and euro exchange rate to ruble will be normalized, but still it’s really cheap.
The con is that travelling abroad for Russians is very expensive currently (since we get salaries in rubles, not dollars). I think 2015 should be great year for travelling. Happy New Year and see you in Siberia!
What to taste in the far-away Siberia? There are several meals that very typical here. First of all, Omul – yummy-yummy Baikal salmon, famous around all Russia. Try it fresh, salted, cold-smoked in Irkutsk, or hot-smoked in Listvyanka and Slyudyanka.
Buuz (do not confuse with booze :)) is traditional Buryat big dumplings, cooked in special bowl on hot steam. Local people always eat them from 1 to 15 at once, some locals say it’s healthy alternative to McDonalds. They are cheap and usually made of good beef.
Want some sweets? Okay, we have Cedar grillage candies, very tasty and nutricious, made of local cedar nuts, that you can buy on the Central market during August and September.
Zhivitsa (or “sera” in Russian) is unusual brown chewing gum that seems to be the only natural one. It is made from trees sap. When you chew it, it’s soft, but once you take it from the mouth, it becomes hard, and then you have to chew it some time to make it soft again.
Local drinks. If you will come to Lake Baikal during summer, you will see many yellow tanks in cities and towns. It’s so called “kvas”, traditional Russian non-alcohol drink, made from yeast, it’s sweet and cold and that means very good when it’s warm. If you want a herbal tea, ask Sagaan-Dalya (Rhododendron adamsii Rehder), it’s refreshing herb, just add 1 or 2 leaves for the teapot, no more unless you want to have hallucination (no kidding). Alcohol? If you want to try local beer, buy Bagira’s beer, just ask it in supermarket. If you want to try Soviet old-school beer, buy “Zhigulevskoe” or “Admiral Kolchak”. Irkutsk is the homeland for federal Irish pub chain Harat’s, and many local people like it, it’s good place to meet with locals.
The Baikal Seal or nerpa is a unique animal of Lake Baikal. It’s the only mammal that lives in the lake.
A lot of people go to the Baikal to see this charming creature. In summer, the seals like basking in the sunshine and you can see how variously they can behave. Like people, the Baikal Seals have different characters and temperaments.
Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by Panoramio.com
Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by Panoramio.com
Lake Baikal is the oldest, the deepest and one of the most fascinating lakes of the world. Wherever you go at this charming lake, you will feel its spirit, spend a wonderful time and will be filled with its powerful positive energy!
If you arrive in Irkutsk and you are limited in time or have limited budget, then it’s better to visit Listvyanka, which is situated on the shore of Lake Baikal, 70 km (44 mi) from Irkutsk.
I decided to make a list of interesting events that happened at Lake Baikal in 2011. The Lake is very unique by itself, but there are a lot of people’s stories connected to its existence.
A barrelfloatingon the sea
In summer 2011 one retired man from Kultuk village decided to swim across Baikal in…a barrel. He was inspired to do such a heroic feat by an old song “Sacred sea, sacred Baikal,” in which the main hero – a state convict – swims across the lake in an omul barrel. Modern barrel was made in accordance of author’s drawings. The vessel consists of two sections – large wooden spools, on outer side of them pieces of foam and empty plastic bottles are fixed. There is a cabin with a table inside the barrel.
However Nikolay Lupynin had more difficulties than his inspirer. The Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) prohibited this adventure, explaining that he must register the barrel as a vessel and pass through a technical inspection.
The barrel is ready. Photo taken from www.gazetairkutsk.ru
Nilolay was not ready to such requirements and wrote a letter to Irkutsk Region Governor with a request for assistance and permit to swim. However, Nikolay didn’t get any answer. But the traveler is not discouraged, he is confident that the voyage will take place in summer 2012. By this time the retiree promises to fulfill all the demands of the MES and will sail according to the official rules. Read more »