14 May 2010

Irkutsk part two, my head

The previous evening, Igor had agreed to take Audrey, Herman and I down to Lake Baikal the next day.  I woke up that morning feeling the worse for wear, and it only got rougher throughout the day.  That morning a very forward Malaysian guy invited himself along also.

We had planned to get a bus down, but thankfully we didn’t have to do that, as I wouldn’t have been able to cope with it.  Even in the comfort of Igor’s beamer, I was somewhat dicey.  The road down was interesting and quite scenic, but nothing in comparison with Lake Baikal itself.  People had told us that it was still frozen (when we were in Moscow), so there wasn’t much point going, but for me this was the reason.  I’ve seen countless unfrozen lakes in my life, and this was the largest freshwater reserve in the world, still frozen in May.

The ice extended for an age, until it suddenly hit a backdrop of the snowy Sayan mountains, rising sharply, but with little indication of where the ice ended and they began.  It looked awesome.  We walked a little bit out onto the ice, I would like to have gone further, but there seemed to be a no-man’s-land between the ice near the shore and the ice further out where the ice looked dicey.

Near the shore, it was heaped up, as if the cold weather had hit so hard that the waves had frozen as they crashed (it was the pressure of the frozen ice that pushed them up, unromantically).  At the shore, they were made of little ice crystals, which came from the ice partially freezing and refreezing during the end of April/start of May.

On the way back we visited an ethnographic village, but my head wasn’t in it.  I think Audrey enjoyed it.  Got back to the hostel, and the rest of them went out for Chinese food, while I went to bed and felt sorry for myself.  Mistake.  According to Audrey the food place was a little authentic cheap diner, and the food was brill.  I had some dry bread and ham.

9th of May (the day after) is Victory day in Russia.  My head was finally back in order.  In the morning we walked around town, to the central market and a couple of churches (it’d been a while since we’d seen any).  We also visited a local food place where the food was decent and dirt cheap, similar to the milk bars we found in Poland

The whole town was gearing up for the parade.  80-year old men wandered down the street with tens of medals on their chest.  Children waved Russian flags.  They take it very seriously here.  It’s not called WWII, but the Great Patriotic war, and lasted only from 1941 to 1945.  And they won the war.  Not the allies/the west.  The perspective from the different sides is really interesting.

The crowds were immense, so we didn’t see, much, but went indoors to watch the main one in Moscow.  We asked Igor quite a few questions around it (he joined us for the parade) among other things, then, after a cup of tea at the Hostel, we said goodbye.  With Igor’s help, we couldn’t have beaten our time in Irkutsk with a big stick!

We left Irkutsk at 08:50am the next day.


Ada said...

Frozen lake reminds me of the salt deposit in a really hot place. Arent you guys cold in front of a frozen lake with so few layers on?