LAKE BAIKAL — Thanks to yesterday’s rainy weather, we postponed our trip to Baikal until our final day in Irkutsk. This was a great decision — just look at the blue sky! But it meant that we had a little less time there than we had originally planned, since we had to be back in Irkutsk in time to catch a dinnertime train to Ekaterinburg.
So we decided to see Lake Baikal like the Russians do it. In the morning, we hopped on a minibus to Listvyanka, the easiest place to see the lake from Irkutsk. We skipped the nearby Baikal Museum, didn’t climb the hills for views over the lake, and failed to get in touch with our inner Nerpa seal. Instead we wandered up and down the beach and tried dipping our toes in the water. Even on a sunny day, the largest freshwater lake in the world does a pretty good job staying cold.
After we’d gotten our fill of lake snapshots, we followed the crowds to Listvyanka’s little market, where vendors hawk piles of smoked omul fish, the local specialty. We nabbed a big fish and a round lavash (flatbread). On our way out, we couldn’t resist the delicious shashlik (kebabs) being grilled near the entrance. We took our haul down to the beach, where you can rent covered picnic tables for 100 rubles an hour. For a view like this, it’s a bargain:
We may not have learned much about Baikal’s environment or diverse wildlife, but I can’t say I’m too disappointed. Sometimes, it’s nice to be on vacation.
This was also an affordable way to visit Lake Baikal. The minibus from Irkutsk was 100 rubles each way, renting the picnic table cost 100 rubles for an hour, and we spent around 300 rubles each on picnic supplies (some of which turned into train supplies, since our eyes were bigger than our stomachs).