Touring Lake Baikal in Wintertime
Admittedly, a trip to winterly Siberia, to the shores of the frozen lake Baikal is not everybody's thing. Thinking of Siberia often simply means thinking of extremely cold weather, boundless landscapes and a corresponding loneliness.
Nevertheless, wintertime in Siberia is also a fantastic experience of nature, especially because transportation becomes so much easier than throughout the rest of the year. There is something very special about experiencing Irkutsk in hoar-frost, or to stand at the edges of the ever-steaming lake Baikal in December, or to wander across the frozen lake in the first four months of the year. The only thing to hear and to make oneself stop is the cracking of the meter-thick ice, which reminds of the sound of steel-ropes aching and moaning just before breaking into pieces.
Olkhon in winter time
Photo: Tom Umbreit
Arriving in Irkutsk is hard to describe in words. Taking the first breath of the dry cold air when you exit your airplane is just as surprising as opening your train window at every stop of the transsiberian railway and finding that the temperature, again, has gone down since the last stop.
A quite different world is awaiting visitors on their first walk through town. It is like taking a time-machine back to the days of Tolstoi and Puschkin - everywhere in the streets there are people around with most expensive real-fur coats. Mostly, they are handed down to the next generation because they are so valuable. Among all those who are wearing the traditional fur-Tschapka in addition to their cotas, all differences of class or age seem to be disappearing.
Getting ready for a winter trip to or onto Lake Baikal does not necessarily require a fur coat, but there are a couple of things to pay attention to.