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Once Around The Sun

8158 km


Once again we had a fun ride on Trans-Siberian, shared our coupe with interesting people… At first very annoying due to tons of luggage, which were lying

around everywhere in our compartment without second thought for the rest of us

wanting to 'move in’. Majka and I have decided to ease the atmosphere by heading to the dining carriage and ordering a delicious lunch accompanied by ‘Zsiguli’, which is a beer surely local somewhere. Russian for sure as we couldn’t make it out from the Cyrillic coding. After meal we had another couple of ‘Zsiguli’s’ and that was the time when I decided to tell Majka a story about LADA 1500 aka Zsiguli. You, homies, will surely know a story or two yourselves…

Once we were back in the positive mood we headed back to check on our friends in carriage number 2, compartment 4. The gentleman with far too much luggage turned out to be Vasily Stepanov, a painter specialising in landscapes, and he was already showing his portfolio to Oleg, and electrician from Krasnoyarsk. They invited us to join and look through the portfolio. After the first few minutes and some awkward language barriers we have found a ‘sort of’ way of communicating. I've asked a few unremarkable questions and then another one: ‘How large are these paintings?’ Vasily did not hesitate too much and started to look for one of his luggage’s, only he knew which one… Shortly he located it and from it he freed a tube which looked like a giant ancient scroll. His paintings! Actually scrolled up and travelling to China with him. Soon I knew from first hand exactly what size the paintings were…

Not too much later, Wei a Chinese trader, joined us in the chatter. As it wasn’t confusing enough scrambling Russian, English, Polish and Slovak, Wei brought in a whole new dimension of Chinese language. The talk went on, we went to sleep quite late and we’ve arrived in Irkutsk very early. Timezones and time changes are working agains us on our way towards east…

Irkutsk is an interesting city. Still European looking, although traffic starts to resemble SE Asia, with some set of basic rules. The megalomaniac Soviet architecture starting to give way to more modest European like almost colonial buildings and of course the pretty and colourful traditional wooden houses from the beginning of 20th century or maybe earlier… One of these pretty houses, near the junction of Sverdlova and Marata Ulitsa, hosts a little restaurant called ‘Cafe Babushka’. Honest home made food, which reminded me of my grandmother and growing up in ‘east block’. Do visit them when in Irkutsk, your wallet will stay heavy and belly will be full.

The city lies on rivers Irkut and Angara and is about 60km away from Listvyanka, Port Baykal and the lake itself. Interesting thing about the lake is that the reason of it’s formation is the same as of Himalayas, the Indian plate colliding into the continent. In case of lake Baykal the collision created a trench, which was soon filled with water, creating the deepest lake on planet, 1636m deep.

We have paid our visit to the lake on our last day in Russia. Spend the morning browsing the market in Listvyanka, had a breakfast of smoked ‘omul’ fish on the beach, walked the shores and watched the boats going on about their business, visited the Baykal museum and took the cable car to a close hilltop, where amazing views of the lake and it’s size unravelled on the front of us. Lake Baykal would have deserved at least 3-5 days on it’s own, but at the moment Mongolia awaits us…


​© 2022 by JAN ROCKAR

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