Siberia: Irkutsk, Lake Baikal

21-25 July 2006







An extension of our trip to Mongolia was to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. We flew from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk. The yellow line is our driving and boating GPS track.



Irkutsk is a very interesting and architecturally beautiful town. Something one wouldn’t expect in a remote area of Siberia. To a large extent that’s due to the fact that after an uprising of the nobility against the Tsar in the 1825, he first jailed then exiled the males to this area. Some of their wives followed and an oasis of culture and European tradition was established that is still very much visible today. The Trans-Siberian railroad gave another boost to this area.









Above and to the right are Russian orthodox churches and below is a much venerated icon of a weeping Mary in the Zhamensky Sobor Omen cathedral.






The Russian orthodox church was suppressed under Soviet rule. It’s now coming back but, like Buddhism in Mongolia, has to compete with proselytizing western religious traditions. For example, the Roman Catholic Church sponsors rock concerts to attract young people.









Irkutsk is famous for wooden houses with intricate carvings. There was a lot of superstition involved in the design of these shutters.










Now a museum, this was the house of one of the noblemen who revolted against the Tsar.







Even though Siberia has a pretty harsh climate, some of mankind’s earliest carved figures were found in the area.








Lake Baikal (above and left) is fascinating in many aspects: it’s the largest fresh-water lake in the world – it holds 20% of the world’s fresh water.










There are colorful little villages along the shore. We spent the night in this one.





There is a very nice aquarium/museum on the lake with many endemic species displayed. The lake is some 40 million years old which is enough time for many evolutionary designs. On the left is one of the 250 varieties of shrimp found in the lake.











A fresh-water sponge.








The famous fresh-water seal.











A fish with legs?









At an outdoor market, Yvonne buys a pair of earrings made from a local purple mineral called charoeet.








On the road from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal, there is an outdoor museum. On the left is an unusual Russian orthodox church with different dome designs.











A hitching pole that every house had to have – it had to do with the shaman heritage of the area.










An underground house offers good insulation in winter.










The type of tent used by people living north of Irkutsk.








Temporary storage place/coffin to keep a body out of reach of animals.