Russia Part 4 – Listvyanka and Irkutsk

Day 160: August 19, 2018

I didn’t have as good a sleep as the previous night on the train. We woke up around 9:00 am and finished packing up our stuff. We had dry cereal for breakfast. We got off the train around 10:40 am and a bus was waiting for us in Irkutsk. On the bus we all sat alone needing some space after being cooped up in the train.

The bus took us to Listvyanka on Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume and the deepest lake in the world.

We checked into our room and then all had showers to clean off after three nights on the train. We met at 2:00 pm to walk to the market in town.

Listvyanka market

The market had mostly fish and then some souvenirs. I had the hot smoked fish and Danny had the cold smoked fish. They were so tasty. We also had a salad and pilaf. We walked around the market a bit then sat on the shore of Lake Baikal watching the waves.

We met the group again for an hour boat ride on the lake. It was a bit wavy, but the fresh air was nice. We were able to taste the fresh water of the lake which was very nice.

Lake Baikal boat ride

We returned for supper at the hotel then we went to a banya, a Russian sauna. We were given wraps and hats to wear inside. The hats are to stop your hair from getting wet. It wasn’t too hot to start, but I could only stay in for 15 minutes. David got the local treatment of getting hit with birch branches. The owner added more water to the coals which made it super steamy and near unbearable to stay inside. I went in and out to watch. Wearing contacts was probably not the best idea as they dried up from the heat. There was a bucket in the adjacent shower and you could pull a rope to dump ice cold water on you. It was quite refreshing after the heat.

I tried beating Danny with the branches for a bit, but it was so hot. He then beat me for a bit. When we were sitting afterwards I could feel the blood pulsing through me. We spent about two hours at the banya before returning to our rooms for some sleep.

Day 161: August 20, 2018

We slept in until 9:00 am, but probably could have slept more. Between the time change and sleeping on the train we’ve needed to catch up on some sleep.

Breakfast was served in the main lobby area. We had an “omelette” which was eggs cooked in a casserole dish with veggies on the side. We sat for a bit chatting then returned to the room for the iPad. Danny tried to call his parents, but it was a bit noisy and he wasn’t in the best mood. He returned to the room while I caught up on blogging.

At 1:30 pm we had lunch in the lobby. The grilled veggies I had were very good, but the chicken wasn’t so great. We weren’t sure it was cooked through.

We met the group at 3:30 pm and the youngest of us went for a hike. We had to register in town that we were going for a walk. In summer no one can go into the forest without registering to prevent forest fires. It was about a 20 minute walk to the end of town and then we went up a trail. My belly was starting to get very rumbly.

Hike to look out over Lake Baikal

We got a nice view out over Lake Baikal. From there we went through the trees and back down to town. By the end of the hike my stomach was ready to explode. We had planned to go for a swim, but I just wanted to get back to the hotel.

The walk back was way longer than I remembered. When we got back I realized it must have been that chicken that wasn’t good as I definitely had food poisoning.

We went for dinner at 8:00 pm, but I could only eat a bit. I was feeling weak and fluish. We returned to the room so that I could get some rest.

Day 162: August 21, 2018

We had breakfast at the hotel then we boarded the bus to Irkutsk. We toured a Decembrist’s home. It was the home of Sergei Volkonsky who was a friend of Tsar Alexander I. He had fought in the war against Napoleon and while fighting in Europe saw that there was no serfdom. When he returned to Russia he formed a secret society to discuss abolishing serfdom. The society created a new constitution and presented it to Alexander I. He died in 1825 and Nicholas I became tsar. He didn’t want to abolish serfdom.

On December 26, 1825, the Decembrists went to Nicholas I and demanded he reject the throne. He chose instead to send 121 Decembrists to a mine in Siberia for hard labour until their deaths. Twenty-four of the Decembrists were married. Nicholas I allowed the women to divorce, but many chose to share their husband’s fate. They were forced to resign their noble titles and leave their children in European Russia.

The criminals lived in prison with their wives living nearby. The wives wrote letters to their relatives back home telling them of the awful conditions in the prisons. The families were able to influence the tsar to improve the conditions.

We were shown around the house and it seemed the family lived fairly comfortable there. We were hoping for more history on the actual revolution, but the guide told us mostly about the family.

Decembrist home

After, we were driven to a hotel where we had two day rooms to store our luggage and freshen up. We dropped our bags and walked with the group up Lenin Street to a restaurant for lunch. I had a couple of different types of dumplings and Danny had a salad with rabbit meat.

Group photo

Following lunch, we walked up the street to a mall. It was similar to the main mall in Batumi with lots of small clothing shops. We walked up the pedestrian street and I bought some insoles for my shoes that are worn. Danny found some socks at a different shop and had to wait in line for 15 minutes.

Back at the hotel I booked an appointment for a haircut. It was a bit complicated to explain what I wanted when I didn’t know Russia and the stylist didn’t know English. She kept going over to the aesthetician to show layers and bangs. The haircut turned out pretty well.

We sat in the lobby and wifi’d until it was time to head to the train station. We purchased Subway for lunch which was a bit disappointing compared to Subway in Canada. On the train we roomed with Helen, a lady from Canada and David, a guy from the UK. We settled in and went to bed for a short ride to Ulan-Ude.

Listvyanka was an amazing place to spend some downtime. The fish market was fantastic and Lake Baikal was beautiful.

M

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