We had a morning of sightseeing before we headed to the lake so started off reasonably early. Our first stop was the tourist information centre to find out some information on tourist registration in Russia. We had read that you are supposed to be registerd by your accommodation and receive a ticket to show police if you are stopped but so far nobody had done that for us. The lovely lady at the tourist office assured us that it wasn’t a big issue and to just make sure that we have been registered at least once during our stay and most of the hotels should do it.
Our next few stops consisted of some amazingly decorated churches all with different patterns and structure. The first three were about 200 meters from each other. Although the first two were lovely the third of these was very impressive. A white concrete church which had intricate designs of spirals and lines all around the outside painted in green, orange and yellow. The inside was also covered in artwork painted in similar bright colours of Jesus etc. It was one of the prettiest and lighthearted churches I have ever been to. Almost as if it was built with children in mind.
Irkutsk is apparently the Paris of Siberia which Tim and I had a little chuckle to. But after walking around a little, the statement is pretty accurate. Some of the stone buildings could sit either in Paris or London.
The really facinating architecture for me is the wooden buildings. I am currently reading War and Peace (very cliche I know) and they could be straight out of the book. I suppose I imagined Russia to be all soviet era rectangular apartment blocks but it so far has been pretty diverse. They have kept a lot of the old stuff. Way more than China that is for sure.
We then caught our bus to Listvyanka on lake Baikal. Interestingly this was touted as the Baikal Riviera of Siberia and after Irkutsk kind of living up to its name we were pretty excited. The bus drove along a ridge through a forest and suddenly we caught glimpses of the lake. We then hit the road that leads into Listvyanka which also doubles as the Main Street and laughed at the Riviera comparison. That is not to say in the least that this place was not stunning. It really was, but more in a fishing village kind of way. Definitely not the glitz and glamour associated with the Riviera.
Walking to our guest house down one of maybe three roads off the Main Street in the town we had to pass our previous accommodation that informed us yesterday it had burnt down. Both of us were still kind of expecting it to be still standing but were completely shocked to see the charred remains on passing. Nothing was left. The poor owners had lost everything. It kind of made us shudder at the thought that we missed it by two days. I hope everyone got out safe and sound.
We dumped out bags in our cute little log cabin style room and headed down the front for some food and to watch the sun set. It was again very cold but nothing new there really, but extremely beautiful. As the sun was setting we watched fishermen board the boats and start getting ready for their nights fishing.
Once the sun had set we found a little cafe that sold omul (trout) the local fare and after some much appreciated translation assistance by a lovely young Russian lady we sat down to trout cakes and a traditional trout soup. They were lovely but unfortunately not enough food so down the road had to stop for a shashlyk to satisfy our hunger.
After only a day we had kind of fallen in love with the place. The lake is crystal clear and beautiful, the houses are an eclectic mix of ramshackle cottages or mansions and tourism is a source of income but fishing seems to be the winner. Though in saying that we have hit the place very much off season so maybe that is not always the case. Looking forward to our hike on the Great Baikal Trail tomorrow. S
Tim beside tank number two in Russia.
Some of the old wooden buildings I was talking about.
Very stunning architecture on some buildings.
One of the churches.
My favourite of the churches.
The outside view, including onion spires.
Some more amazing Paris styled buildings.
Another of the churches. Interestingly none of the churches we went into had pews for a service. They more seemed to be for individual prayer or reflection rather than for mass.
Our previous accomodation in Listvyanka.
We dipped our toe in and it was Baltic! Even so still hard to comprehend that this lake freezes in winter!!
The boats readying for their night time fish.
The colours of autumn here are stunning.