Ask Baikal

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.

Gastronomic tour to 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.

Keep travelling!

TOP Places to Visit at Lake Baikal, Russia [tips + video]

Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by

On the boat. On Lake Baikal.

Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by

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.

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Vladimir Sukhachev’s Household

A history of Irkutsk is inextricably linked with the name of Vladimir Platonovich Sukachev (1849 – 1920). The mayor, philanthropist and patron of the arts, the creator of the Irkutsk Art Gallery – he gave his strength and resources to his hometown.

Vladimir Sukhachev

Irkutsk developed a lot during his administration time. Sukhacev organized the first Voluntary Fire Company. Telephones and electricity appeared here. The first pontoon bridge and the bridge across the Angara River were built: they replaced the inconvenient ferry. Despite the diversity of public interests of Vladimir Sukachev, Irkutsk citizens will remember him mainly as the creator of Irkutsk art gallery. It was an old dream of Sukachev: open in his hometown a Museum of Art. And thanks to him, nowadays we have a great opportunity to enjoy the paintings of Russian artists – Repin, Platonov, Makovsky, Vereshchagin, Aivazovsky, as well as European ones.

But today I invite you to visit his household which renovation started in 1989. Now it’s a museum that carefully preserves chronicles of the past – memories of a bygone era and its contemporaries.

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Top 10 things to do around Lake Baikal. Travel tips by Lonely Planet.

Snowdrops and Lake Baikal in spring. Photo by Vladimir Tumentsev.

Snowdrops and Lake Baikal in spring. Photo by Vladimir Tumentsev. More spring photographs on the Ask Lake Baikal facebook page.

Lonely Planet has its opinion on everything. For instance, it offers to consider its top 10 highlights for Lake Baikal. Here are some of them:

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Pretty good hotels near Lake Baikal, Siberia / Russia

Baikal Business Center Hotel. Photo by Tsvik Ilya.

Baikal Business Center Hotel. Photo by Tsvik Ilya.

Here is the list of pretty good hotels located in Irkutsk near Lake Baikal and recommended by USA Today’s Travel Tips. Right, they are not cheap, but pretty good to stay and spend time :)

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Jennifer Smith-Lee: questions and answers

Jennifer at Lake Baikal

Jennifer at Lake Baikal

Jennifer Smith-Lee is an Executive Director of an international NGO Tahoe-Baikal Institute. She studied in Irkutsk for one year in 2001-2002 and travelled to Lake Baikal several times. I asked her to share an experience of being here.

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Some history of Italians in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Nothing happens without a reason. Some years ago an Italian friend of mine intended to launch a joint business project with participation of specialists from Irkutsk and Italy, and some initial plans were developed, however, due to various reasons, the project has never commenced.

About 1 000 Italians worked at the Circum-Baikal Railway construction

One day, while preparing the project, I realized that if an Italian delegation comes to Irkutsk, they would definitely ask me if there were any historical ties between Italy and Irkutsk, and I wanted to find such information. About a week passed without any attempt on my side to search for the information, but the Universe was helpful as always – in a local magazine I came across an interesting article about Italians in Irkutsk. And it encouraged me to search for more information. 

So, here are some facts of incredible and often extreme adventures of Italians in Irkutsk and at Lake Baikal. This historical information is limited, and I realize that a deeper research demands time. It would be good to learn more about these historical facts, as many questions arise, and I hope that you can help me to find out more facts, and we can get a better coverage of this topic together.

The story began at the end of the XIX century. Read more »

Your days in Irkutsk: basic information on where to stay

When you plan a trip to a foreign country the first question that arises in your head is “where to stay…?”. The minimum requiremets that you probably keep in mind is that a place should be safe, comfortable, and easy to reach and preferably located in the city center or at least not far from the main sightseeing points.

As in every city, there are several options in Irkutsk: hotels, hostels, apartments. Read more »