Irkutsk flag
Description of the flag

The flag is a rectangular with 3 vertical stripes, two ones are blue and middle one is white. In the center of the last the main part of coat of arms is - black babr running to the left side and holding of red sable in its mouth. The babr is surrounded with stilized branches of cedar. The flag siblolizes:
a) blue - simbol of water. At this context it simbolises Baikal Lake, Angara and other rivers of region;
b) white - simbol of purity, good, modesty. It simbolises the purity of thougths of the regions habitants. Also, it is simbol of white Siberian winters;
c) green colour of cedar's branches colour of hope, joy, abundance.

Irkutsk coat in arms and some general information
Oblasts coat of arms description

Blazon Argent, running black babr [the old russian (siberian) name of tiger] with red eyes, holding of sable [fur animal like ermine] in its mounth. The heraldic colours are simbolising:
a) black - prudence, humility, sorrow;
b) red - courage, unfearity

Irkutsk, located 68 km west of Baikal along the shores of the Angara (the only river draining the lake), is the center of the area with the same name. The area covers more than 767 thousand square km and has about 2.5 million inhabitants, the city itself more than 650 thousand. Its climate is influenced by the huge lake, even when covered with thick ice from January till April. The lake accumulates the summer warmth and releases it slowly during the winter. Even spring starts earlier up to 300 km around.

Irkutsk - the heart of the City
Irkutsk was founded on the place of the rivers Irkut and Angara confluence in 1661. At first, it was a wooden fortress (ostrog), which was growing fast, and in 25 years it received a city status.

The city foundation is connected with the territory, close to the city central square the Kirov square. This is the place where wooden buildings appeared. Today there is almost nothing reminiscent of it. Church stone buildings were constructed much later. The earliest church among them was the Spassky church, built in 1710. It was constructed on the place of a previous wooden church, built together with the fortress. This church remembers many events in our city. For example, in 1812 when Irkutsk emergency volunteer corps went to the war against Napoleon after public prayers, served here. Now there is one of the branches of Irkutsk regional museum in this building.

Behind the Spassky church there is the Bogoyavlenskii Cathedral, built in 1723. This Cathedral has been recently restored and there is church service there presently. Both orthodox temples are considered to be the Russian architecture monuments.

It is natural that an important monument for Irkutsk townspeople Memorial in honor of the Great Patriotic War dead is located on the same place. It was opened on the 30-th Anniversary of the Victory, the square was done around it. Today the Veterans Boulevard is one of the most favorite places of recreation for the Irkutsk townspeople.

The Regional administration building separates the Memorial Complex from the central square. Its architecture has a little difference from the same buildings in other regions of the country. The places, where it stands now, used to be a sacred one for the Irkutsk townspeople. The main Irkutsk temple Kazanskii was located here before 1932, built in a Byzantine style. The cathedral was laid in 1875; the construction work was carried out for several years and it was ended in 1895. Irkutsk Cathedral was included in a number of the tallest church buildings in Russia. It could accommodate 5000 people, its height reached 60 meters. The temple values were highly appreciated by contemporaries. In 1932 the Kazansky Cathedral building was blown up by the raging Bolsheviks.

There is another Cathedral, which can be seen in the area of Kirov square. This is a Catholic church (kostel), built according to an architect I.F.Tamulevichs project in 1884. In 1978 its building was restorated and an organ, made by German masters especially for Irkutsk, was installed there. The organ concerts, held here, have a large success among the Irkutsk townspeople and city guests.

Another important historical building, located on the Kirov square, is the city administration. It was a Irkutsk General-Governors residential before 1838, then the building was taken by the Siberian military district Main Staff management. The City Duma and City Administration, engaged in city economy organization and city development problem solution, occupied the house in 1874-1920. The city Duma was opened in Irkutsk on November 17 1787. The first city head (mayor) was a well-known in Siberia merchant gold-mining trader M.V.Sibiryakov (1744-1814). Later this post was taken by the same active people. Their names were kept by Irkutsk chronicles pages: Xenofont Sibiryakov, E.A.Kuznezov, K.P.Trapeznikov, I.L.Medvednikov, V.N.Basnin, P.E.Katyshevzev and other honored citizens. Within the City Duma walls many important city development decisions were passed. For example, Irkutsk State University foundation necessity resolution was endorsed in 1916 there. During the Soviet power the building changed greatly 2 more stores were added, the front was widened. Therefore it is hard to see its historical predecessor features in a present view of the city administration.

There is the hotel Angara opposite the city administration house. The hotel was built in the 1970s on the place of a previous six-stored house of a merchant Sivers and first public library in Irkutsk. The library was founded in 1778 by Irkutsk governor F. Klichka and local merchant class representatives, including B.N. Basnin and G.I. Shelikhov. 2000 rubles were allocated for this purpose by Catherine the Great (II).

Irkutsk - Lenin street
Lenin Street is one of the main ones in the city. It has many signs of historical past. One can stop on some of them. Irkutsk regional art museum is one of the biggest in the region. Its base was a collection of pictures, icons and other art works, given to the city by an Irkutsk merchant, city head V.P. Sukachyov. The museum was named after him in 1995. In 1999 Irkutsk celebrated the 150th anniversary of this patron of the arts. The Irkutsk male gymnasium, one of the oldest city civil educational establishments was placed in it. The gymnasium students (besides a set of subjects taught in similar educational establishments of Russia) had an opportunity to study navigation. This subject was necessary for the maritime expeditions in Northern seas, travels to the American coasts and lake Baikal navigation. This gymnasium had one of the first Japanese classes. This class consisted of the students, whose instructors were native Japanese, sailors from the ships, wrecked off the northern-eastern Russian coast.

There is an eye problem clinic of the Medical University opposite the Art museum. Today it is one of the leading such profile medical establishments in the region. The roman style building was built in 1883 on the funds of a merchant I. Bazanov. It was so called Bazanov educational house in this building. The babies, abandoned by mothers, and foster-mothers took care of them until the babies reached 4 month age. Then the babies were given to the families. Guardians received 6-8 rubles per month from Bazanovs funds. 8 years old children were taken into the orphanage in order they could master reading and crafts. This educational house also included maternity house and gynecological ambulatory clinic.

The Kirov regional policlinic, located at the corner of Lenin and Karl Marx streets, has interesting history. The house was built in 1910-1912 in modern style by Irkutsk architect V.I. Kolyanovskiis project. Before 1917 Irkutsk branch of Russian-Asian bank was in this building. That bank was one of the biggest joint-stock pre-Revolutionary Russian bank. Its budget was 35 mln. rubles. In Siberia the bank gave credits to such industrial branches as gold and coal-mining, flour-milling, leather-processing and sawmill. It invested bread trade. In 1914 there was conference about Northern sea road pioneering.

Irkutsk - Bolshaya street
The Karl-Marx street is the second main street in the city. It was called Bolshaya (Big) before 1917. The street appeared in the second part of the XVIII century when palisade (wall made of top-sharpened logs, dug into the earth) was dismantled. The palisade used to be natural border of the city between the Angara and Ushakovka rivers. We can point out only several buildings, connected with the city history, on this street with rich past.

The city theater was built in 1894-1897 by St. Petersburg architect V.A. Shreter. Irkutsk General-Governor A.D.Goremykin was an initiator of that building construction. The Irkutsk townspeople gave their personal savings to its construction. The theater was opened on Sep. 2 1897 with a performance Inspector. There were many famous actors in Russia on the stage of the theater, such as V. Komissarzhevskaya, V.Dalmatov, A.Yablochkina, K.Varlamov, L.Soblinov and others. Several years ago a museum was opened in the theater, which recorded many bright pages of the city theater history. In 1999 the theater building was reconstructed and renewed. The theater space expanded; near-by square was improved.

The Mauritian style building located at the corner of the Karl-Marx and Gagarin Boulevard belongs to Irkutsk Regional museum ( pcture). It was built in 1883-1891 and projected by architect G.B.Rosen for hosting Eastern-Siberian department of the Russian geographical society. It was the first research establishement in Eastern Siberia. In 1879 fire the old building perished together with rich collections and exponats, collected for many years of the regional study. The unique library was destroyed. Many Russian and Siberian research organizations and Irkutsk townspeople participated in a revival of the lost. For a short time new funds were raised for new building construction, which serves today as the city decoration. Many outstanding researchers enriched the science by new discoveries and study work. These were V.A.Obruchev, D.A.Klemenz, N.M.Przhevalskii and many others. The stone planks with the names of scientists, who made contribution into Siberian exploration, are installed in the wall of the building.

The White House is located opposite the museum building. It is a famous historical and architecture monument of Irkutsk. The House was built in the first quarter of the XIX century for Irkutsk merchant family and first city head Mikhail Vasilyevich Sibiryakov. The house project was brought from St. Petersburg and a famous architect Kvarengi is considered to be its author. Kvarengi projected Smolnyi Institute in the Northern capital. Some legends about that Sibiryakovs palace splendor of decorations and interior were left. But after family heads death his heirs were forced to sell the building to the city administration. Since 1836 the White house became a residence of Irkutsk General-Governors. It was the place where the exploration and development strategy of the huge region, including Eastern Siberia and Far East, Russian territories in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, was shaped. And even Fort Ross, a small colony of Russian people in California, was administratively placed under Irkutsk General-Governor. The White House was visited by many famous people the Decembrists; renowned writers, scientists, political activists, passing through Irkutsk. The Governors house was frequently visited by Innokentii Veniaminov, Aleutian Bishop. In 1891 zesarevich (prince) Nikolai Alexandrovich stayed in the White House. In 1909 the General-Governors house was visited by another Romanovs dynasty representative Konstantin, known in Russia under the nickname K.R.. In 1918 Irkutsk University was opened in the White House. Nowadays it is one of the Zonal Scientific library buildings of Irkutsk State University. The library is one of the biggest book keeping places in Siberia.

There is one more building of the University on the Gagarin Boulevard. The Girlish Institute of Eastern Siberia, was located in this building until 1920. It was the first female educational establishment in Siberia. Irkutsk General-Governor V.Y.Rupert took an active part in its opening in 1845. The educational process there was similar to the Smolnyi institute of St. Petersburg. Two daughters of the decembrist S.P. Trubezkoi studied there. While leaving Siberia in 1856, he gave the Institute a gift a small collection of books in French. This gift is kept in the Zonal Scientific library of Irkutsk State University now.

The tsar comes back!!!
In 1900 the Irkutsk City Duma (Congress) passed a resolution to mark the end of the Siberian railroad construction by the monument to Alexander III . In 1903 the monument was laid, and it was opened in 1908. The monument project belonged to a sculptor P.P.Bakh, who won an art competition, organized by the City Duma in 1902. The pedestal is made of polished red Finish granite. The Tsar bronze figure (5,3 meters tall) was cast in St.Petersburg. The monument pedestal was decorated by high relief portrayals of Siberian conqueror Ermak, General-Governors M.M.Speranskii and N.N.Muravyov-Amurskii. On the eastern side there is a bronze double-headed eagle, holding Tsar edict about the Siberian railroad construction. All townspeople prepared that event: some donated money, others took part directly in the ground and square around the monument preparation works. In 1920 the Tsar figure was removed and destroyed, and the pedestal was empty for a long time. In 1964 according to an architect V.P.Shmatkov obelisk was constructed. It was scorned and called by the locals ' the dream of an importent'.

In 2003, the monument to Alexander the III was finally reinstalled right at the heart of the historical center of Irkutsk on the bank of the mighty Angara river. In the chapter that follows we will write about the Decembrists who revolted against the Tsar in defence of the common people. No one will ever know why Russia broke away with the rest of the civilized world in its bloody revolution of 1917. The decembrists, of course, did not want that to happen, but they were the first to try to shake the very core of the Russian organization. Others followed their example later and succeded.

Now to the monument itself:

A monument to the emperor Alexander 3 was set up in Irkutsk in 2004. A year before the management of East-Siberian Railway offered to reconstruct the bronze sculpture of the autocrat and to erect it on the same place - on the embankment of the Angara. Hundreds of citizens attended the unveiling of the monument.

Irkutsk greeted Alexander 3 with a horn of an age-old steam locomotive, a salute and balloons. Hundreds of citizens came to see the ceremony of the unveiling of the monument. One of the guests of honour was the sculptor Albert Charkin from Saint Petersburg. It was him who reconstructed the monument for half a year according to old drafts and sketches. The first monument was set up in 1908 on the occasion of the finishing of the Trans-Siberian Railway construction. It's known that the decree of the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway was issued by Alexander III. After the Revolution, in 1920, the sculpture was dismantled and destroyed. Exactly a year ago the management of East-Siberian Railway offered to reconstruct the sculpture of the emperor on the embankment of the Angara. The whole project - the modelling of the monument and the reconstruction of the base - cost 10 million roubles. About 7 tons of bronze was spent. The height of the monument is 5 meters 30 centimeters, the emperor wears the uniform of a Cossack ataman and looks north, in the direction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. That was an idea of the creator of the first monument, Robert Bach.

Irkutsk - wooden laces. Decembrists
The center of East Siberia was not only famous for its brick buildings. The timber part of the city was very competitive and there you can find a deeper national heritage. The majority of Siberian cities are proud of their timber architecture, but Irkutsk offers some paricularly splendid examples. Here the wooden parapets are decorated with swathes of plaits and wooden bouquets.

Darkened carved tulips over windows, fans and beamed suns on plaited bands, slim irises covering house walls, figured carvings at the edge of roofs, and far more were used by carpenters to decorate Irkutsk houses. Even if you know only a little of the mystery of wooden lace work, sightseeing in Irkutsk along old streets could take you on a fantastic journey into the heathen world of the ancient Slavs. Of course these houses have seen better days and are mostly in an awful state, only to demonstrate the past glory!

Great Russian Women

Yekaterna Trubetskaya, countess and wife of Sergei Trubetskoy, one of the founders and headers of the Northern Secret Society.
Many of the Decembrists' wives voluntarily followed their husbands. According to Russia's laws, convicts' wives, if they so desired, were allowed to follow their husbands to Siberia. However, for the Decembrists' wives a new law or, rather infringement of the law, was devised. In order to strike the Decembrists totally out of their lives, the Church and State passed a law whereby the Decembrist's wives were considered widows and allowed to remarry within their husbands' lifetime without an official divorce. However, Yekaterina Trubetskaya turned down this offer, and so did the other Decembrist's wives. When they departed for Siberia, they left behind their privilegies as nobles and were reduced to the status of exiled prisoners' wives, with restricted rights of travel, correspondence and property ownership. They were not allowed to take their children with them, and were not always allowed to return to the European part of Russia even after their husbands' death.

But nothing could stop these courageous women. Yekaterina Trubetskaya was the first to leave for Siberia (in July 1826).

On the night of July 23, 1826, Sergey Trubetskoy was deported as part of the the first party of Decembrists sent to Siberia. And on the following day Yekaterina Trubetskaya set off for Irkutsk. During her long journey she was pursued by bandits in the taiga, and her carriage broke down on the ice of the River Yenisei, but nothing could stop her. At Irkutsk the officials did everything possible to prevent this brave woman from going any further. They detained her for about nine months, first forcing her to sign the renunciation paper mentioned earlier, and then telling her that her husband was already on the other side of Lake Baikal when he was in fact very close by, for the Decembrists had not yet been sent to work in the mines. Day after day Countess Trubetskaya suffered these obvious indignities, and in the end gained permission to leave for Blagodatsk, where the first party of Decembrists was imprisoned. Together with another Decembrist's wife, Maria Volkonskaya, who had caught up to her on the way, she rented a little house with tiny rooms that were so cold that at night hoarfrost would form on the walls and their hair would freeze to the bed.
In 1839, Trubetskoy was deported to the small village of Oyok, thirty-eight kilornetres from Irkutsk, and Yekaterina Trubetskaya and their three daughters and son, who had been born in Siberia, went with him.

Although their relatives sent them large sums of money, the family still had financial problems. The house they built in Oyok cost a considerable amount, and they also they sent large sums of money to help their comrades scattered across Siberia's vast cold territory. According to contemporaries' memoirs, the Trubetskoys' house was open to everyone, and its warm atmosphere was due mostly to Yekaterna Trubetskaya, with whom anyone felt at ease.

In 1845 the Trubetskoys were allowed to move to lrkutsk, where they rented a house. In 1854 they began to build a wooden mansion in the style of the 18th century, with a suite of rooms.
Unfortunately, Yekaterina Trubetskaya, who was so happy about the mansion being built, never had the chance to live there - she passed away on October 14, 1854.
The Decembrists made a great contribution to the study of the history, geography, economy and ethnography of Siberia. They also continued their literary and journalistic activities. N. Bestuzhev created a whole series of portraits of exiled Decembrists and their wives and children. These, like many other relics from the lives and activities of these remarkable men and women, are now on view at the museum in S. Trubetskoy's house.

They all rest in peace!
There is a nunnery, founded in 1693, behind the Ushakovka river in the Znamenskii suburb (district). Its first wooden structures became dilapidated for a short time. That is why in 1757 the stone church of the Sign of Gods Mother was laid on the funds of a merchant Bichevin. The building process lasted long and the nunnery was finished only in 1818 when the nuns living quarters were constructed on the funds of merchant Chupalov. During the Soviet power the nunnery was closed, and only the temple worked. In the present time the nunnery has been restored to life. There is a working Sunday school there. The church-historical readings are held weekly. Since 1991 the city patron, first Irkutsk bishop Innokentii, relics have been kept in the Znamenskii Cathedral. The Innokentiis readings, dedicated to memory of the outstanding Orthodox church activist, are held yearly on the initiative of Eparchy administration and a bishop Vadim.

The nunnery walls recall many important city events. The priests and other Irkutsk townspeople, having donated money to the church, were buried in its fence. Many famous people were buried there too. These were an Irkutsk honored citizen V.F.Kolygin, the Decembrists V.A.Bechasnov, P.A.Muhanov, A.A.Panov, a wife of Decembrist, E.I.Trubezkaya, who followed her husband in Siberia.

The most significant monument, kept on the nunnery territory, is the monument to G.I.Shelikhov, brave navigator, founder of first Russian colonies on the North American coast. He died in Irkutsk in 1795. In 1800 his widow put up the monument to him, which represents a stone pyramid, covered by marble and bas-relief portrayals of Shelikhov and attendant navigational and trade articles: map, compass, anchor, small sword, bales with goods, and manuscript. The manuscript meant Shelikhov, having left his travels description, was involved in literary art. Derzhavins poems were written on the monument: Russian Columbus was buried here. He crossed the seas and discovered unknown countries. On another side of the pyramid there is another inscription, the text was composed by Derzhavin. Shelikhov was described as invaluable by his deeds, respected citizen with vast and open mind by his ideas' person. On the southern side of the monument there is a poem of another famous Russian poet I.Dmitriev, which ended by the words:
Dont forget, descendent,
That Ross is your ancestor and hes loud in the East.

Irkutsk - let's go East!
After visiting Irkutsk, most visitors want to see great Baikal. Let us move eastwards, but first again few words about Baikal.

Baikal in its immense size alone, is unique: its length of 636 km (the distance between Moscow and St. Petersburg), and width up to 79 km. It can not be compared with anything and nothing can be compared to it. Everything about Baikal impresses our imagination and boggles the mind: its age of minimum 20 million years, unlike most other lakes on earth who are 15,000 years old at most, its crystal mirror-like surface which expands to 31,471 square km, and its maximum depth of 1637 m. It contains 23,000 km3, or almost one fifth of all the freshwater reserves of our planet. The water is so transparent that you can throw a white disk of 20 cm in diameter into Baikal and it can be seen down to a depth of 40 meters. During the winter, the ice can be up to 10 meter thick, still transparent.

In every aspect, the lake is outstanding. Judge for yourself: three quarters of all living organisms (approximately 2630 types) found in Baikal are found nowhere else in the world. When seen on a map, Baikal resembles a giant blue saber laying at the bottom of a bowl between the Baikalski and Primorski mountain ranges. For a long time it attracted the attention of many different people: travellers, archeologists, historians, geographers and biologists. Journalists call it 'The bright eye of the Earth'. Scientists call it 'Great puzzle of the Planet'. Writers note that it could not be the 'work of human hands'

Baikal, like any perfect creation, has many different and varied picturesque places. That is why every route you choose will give you satisfaction and cause for deep admiration.

Museum of wooden architecture
On your way from Irkutsk to Listvyanka, at your request, a car can take you to the Museum of Wooden Architecture (47 km from Irkutsk and 23 km from Listvyanka). This museum has a large collection of original wooden houses equipped with the old-style furniture and domestic utensils. They were brought from several local villages. The museum shows the style of life in the 16th to 19th century Siberian villages and Buryat and Evenk gers. You can observe the interiors of a Russian fort and the 15th century watchtower, a Siberian izba (house) and a chapel, a Shaman yourt and other interesting things.

Tourists stay also in a saloon a la old good Tsarist Russia to have some rest and a typical Siberian drink.

Baikal, Listvyanka
Lake Baikal is the world's oldest lake believed to be between 25 and 50 million years old (by contrast the second oldest lake in China is only 5 million years old and Lake Tahoe is a mere 10,000 years old.) Lake Baikal is also the largest lake with 20% of the world's fresh water supply (more than the water in all the Great Lakes combined). 335 rivers feed into the Lake and one drains out of it, Angara River. Some of the most beautiful landscapes in Russia surround the Lake. 70% of species found in the Region are found nowhere else in the world including nerpa, a freshwater seal. There are lakes in Africa and America, which are larger than Baikal. But there are no deeper water bodies among fresh water lakes in the world: the deepest place in Lake Tanganica - is 1435 m., in Lake Issyk-Kul - 702 m. But in Baikal near the largest of its islands - Olhon - the depth is 1637 m. The Baikal water is in the proper meaning of this world, from the very surface to the bottom - 1637 m. deep. Lake Baikal shelters in itself a great number of various forms of life.

In contradiction to all the other lakes in the world where lower layers are dead as they are poisoned by hydrogen sulphide and other gases, its thickness is saturated with oxygen.

The First marvel of Baikal is its age. As a rule lakes life is 25 - 30 thousand years. Gradually all the space is covered with slime, water plants become denser, the layer of sediment raises the bottom nearer and nearer to the surface and at last water - loving plants turn the blue color into the green one, a lake into a goose - foot and for many more thousands of years the newly - born bog puffs and accumulates peat. Baikal is 25 million years old. Scientists calculated the amount of yearly precipitations and predict a still longer life to Baikal.

The second marvel is Baikal's water. Anyone who comes to the bank of the glorious Siberian Sea is impressed by its transparence. The inhabitants of Siberia call this water bewitching. It casts a spell, it is fantastic, still more impressive are the color metamorphoses of the lake surface. The water reacts to the slighest weather changes, the sun position, moving clouds or some mist coming from taiga, to seasonal changes on the banks - snow, delicate greenery, malachite glow of summer and autumn fire. Tints change from white-blue, silver-grey, to sharp dark blue or slate black with white splashes of waves. Even those who live there and see this lake-sea every day and every hour cannot boast that they have twice seen Baikal the same.

The highway from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal goes through picturesque taiga-forest and in about one hour you come to a viewpoint facing the Shaman Rock, at the source of the Angara River. Listvyanka lies 80km / 1 hr by car/ from Irkutsk.
Just before the village of Listvyanka the bus will bring you to the steep bank of the Angara river and you can see the wide glittering silver surface of Lake Baikal. From this height it is difficult to see the small rock island in the mouth of the river, but a mighty rock base extends down to the bottom of the lake. This is the remains of Primorski mountain range which was washed away by the river. There is a legend that daughter Angara ran away from her father Baikal to her fiancé the Enisei River. Baikal became furious and threw a big rock after his running daughter and so it lays there from that time. The village itself is an old-style Siberian village and is famous for its trade history. From the 18th century its ferry took merchants across the lake to Mongolia and China and the Far East. Listvyanka is also the site of the Limnological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It studies the lakes and man-made reservoirs of Siberia and the Russian Far East, with particular focus on Lake Baikal. The institute has a small but very interesting museum of the flora and fauna of Baikal and its region. You can also learn about geology, tectonics, climate of the Pribaikalye and its unique flora and fauna. You can see the Viviparadae fish - a golomyanka. Its pale pink body is so transparent that you can read a book through it. At the Shamansky cape and Khoboi cape, you can sometimes see an animal with a mustache and wide bulging eyes - that is one more of the wonders of the lake: the Baikal seal.
A video film gives you the opportunity to see the deepest point of the lake's bottom (1.637 m) from the submarine board. Lake Baikal is frozen over from late January to early May, the thickness of ice near Listvyanka can be 70-80 cm. The part of the lake near the source of the Angara River is the only natural water place in Siberia which never freezes over. In the village, a variety of hot- or cold-smoked and salted omul and grayling fish is on sale. A great snack on the shore is omul, a delicacy of Lake Baikal, which has been just smoked for you. Several private cafes and restaurants offer traditional Siberian or European meals for you. You can taste pelmeny (stuffed dumplings), pirozhki (with cabbage, or meat, or berries), sandwiches with caviar to feel the spirit of Siberia. If you are brave enough, you can try to taste that all!

Circumbaikal Railway
Krugobaikal Railway is the monument of industrial architecture of the end of 19 - the beginning of 20 centuries. Before the construction of the Irkutsk reservoire it connected Irkutsk and Slyudanka and was an important part of West-Siberian Railway. After the flood of the part of railway tracks caused by the reservoir only the section between Port Baikal and Slyudanka is exploited. In summer on weekends a tourist electric train runs on Krugobaikal Railway.

The construction of the Circumbaikal Railway encouraged the further investigation of the lake. A large hydrogeographical expedition headed by F. Drizhenko (1896-1902) gave a detailed atlas of the Baikal depths and its sailing directions that are used by the Baikal sailors up to this day.

The construction of the Circumbaikal Railway as part of Trans-Siberian Railway (the section from Port Baikal on the south-western shore of the lake) to Mysovaya Station (on the south-eastern shore) took 4 years.

Ancient crystal rocks, granite, gneiss, gabbro, diabases, possess enormous strength; the steep rocky shores precipitously go under water, forcing railroad builders to make excavations and niches in rocky cliffs, and to construct arches and tunnels. The railway is 84 km long. It includes not only Russian engineering design of that time but also the hard work of Russian, Polish, Italian and English workers. The Circumbaikal Railway needed 200 bridges and 33 tunnels. Within the 56-mile section from Kultuk to Port Baikal alone there are 48 arches and tunnels. And how many bridges and supporting walls! It is no coincidence that this part is rightly regarded as the museum of Russian engineering thought, and foreign tourists respectfully name it the golden buckle of the Great Siberian Trail.

Stones, stones, still more stones
Looking for stones in Sludyanka
The deposit near Sludyanka is called 1st mine and is just fantastic for stone-lovers! You can find more than 20 kinds of minerals there such as apatite, flogopite, diopsite, pargasite, scapolite, pyrite, quartz, dolomite, calcite, malachite, gialofan, tourmaline, ortite, biotite, Mn, limonite, aragonite.

There is also the 2nd mine deposit (2km) from Sludyanka with lavrolit, amazonit, spinel.

And so it is no surprise that the small settlment boasts the only marble railway station in the world.

There is also a good private collection of minerals there.

Winter in Baikalsk
Baikalsk is a popular Siberian ski resort situated right on the shore of Lake Baikal in Baikalsk city. There is magnificent view to Lake Baikal mirror and snow white mountains around from the top of the mountain. Total length of Baikalsk ski slopes is over 15 km, maximum altitude difference -550m, 5 lifts. The resort is one of the best in Siberia and Far East of Russia.

Snowboard and cross-country skiing are also popular at Baikals.

Departure from Irkutsk is early morning as tourists are picked up from hotel / homestay and transferred to Lake Baikal shore, Baikalsk city (140 km, 3 hours). The road to Baikalsk is a part of Moscow-Vladivostok highway, getting along in Siberian taiga forest. There are also few gorges view points on the way. Day is spent at ski slopes, at late afternoon driving back to Irkutsk.

The winter season lasts from December 1 till early April.

The call of the wild
Tunkinsky Region (Tunka)
If you have more time and can leave Irkutsk for 3 to 5 days here is one of the most interesting wild destinations.

Tunka - one of the most attractive wild areas for all kinds of travellers and adventureres, photographers as well, it was named after a small river that leaves deep and narrow canyon in the ridges for flat plains of the valley. Connected with a good paved way to Sludyanka Transsiberian railway station and Federal Highway M55, Tunka is a lot more populated than other regions. The valley of Tunka is sprinkled with settlements as it is good for agriculturing and herding, with rich soils and good pastures. The region is well-known among adventureres first of all because of Tunkinsky Range of Eastern Sayan mountain country. Perfect for backpacking tours, it's also exellent for rafters and kayakers, and particularly for mountaineers and rock climbers. Trekking season lasts almost the year round, excluding most cold months January and December. The climate on a whole is continental, wintertime is characterized by strong frosts starting from November and fading out in February. The whole area bears traces of ancient glaciering, with sharp pyramid summits and deepened cirques, hemmed around with old moraines, the ridges of a sierra type with vertical rock faces and steep cliffs. Glaciers are now replaced by deep and clear lakes with ice cold water.Mountain passes mostly are rocky saddles, with steep slopes lined by long screes with patches of green grass. The absolute altitude of the range is around 3000 m over ocean level. Current icing process is not characteristic for this district of Sayan Mountains. Sandwiched in between two main streams of the area, Irkut on the South and Kitoy on the North, The Tunkinsky Range is cut across with many rivers and creeks that run down along narrow gorges with waterfall steps which are many. Backpackers' tours usually start in June through September. February, March and April are perfect for skiing. Climbing season opens in June and lasts till early September. As for rafting and wild water kayaking, the best time is from the end of June to mid August. Main rafting streams are Irkut, Zun-Morin and Kitoy.
Surrounding taiga (Boreal forest)is abundant with wildlife and different kinds of wild berries, such as raspberry, redberry ( Russian 'brusnika', also called as billberry, mountain cranberry), blueberry (Russian 'golubika'), huckleberry (Russian 'chernika'), bittersweet (honeysuckle) and others. Partly taiga cosists of Siberian stone pine which is called 'cedar' by locals. The nuts of this tree previously served a perfect raw material for cedar oil, that was replaced by sunflower oil later.

Sudden snowstorms are not rare in mountains in June yet they don't last long. Local population uses horses to ride over the ridges through flattened low passes with good horse trails. It is also possible to arrange horsebacking trips to the main highlite of the Range Shumak Spring Valley. Along the southern foot of the Range there are a lot of spots with mineral water springs which are utilized by people as a medicine for a number of diseases. The most popular and wellknown are two of them - Arshan and Nilova Pustyn resorts, spa villages with developed infrastructure, good warm curative baths, drinking water springs, hotels and hostels and small cafes along the streets. Arshan is more visited by people as it closer to Federal Highway and Transsiberian Railroad. Nilova Pustyn is a desolated spa village now.

Since 80-s the whole territory of Tunka region announced a National park.

From Irkutsk to the north - Sand Bay
This place is compared to Pushkin's fairy-tale Lukomorye. The Bay's grandiose natural architecture has made it one of the symbols of the lake and one of the most popular tourist places. Mighty cedars with wind-twisted branches resemble dancing shamans. For a long time winds blew the sand out from under the roots and now trees stand in the air on stilts of roots. On the picture you can see from above the bay. The rocks there are considered to be sacred by local shamans as you can get positive cosmic energy just bearing your feet an staring rigth across the bay! Another little-known fact: at this place of Baikal there are more sunny days than at the majority of southern resorts.

Some information for fish-lovers: resident in the lake are four populations of omul (fish): Selengin, Chivyrkui, North-Baikal and Posol. It is no coincidence that in Siberian songs the lake was called 'the omul barrel'. There are 52 kinds of fish in Baikal and old-timer Baikal fishermen can recollect sturgeons which were up to 120 kg in weight and salmons of 40 kg. One can taste all this direct from the lake at the local camp.

For tree-lovers: the famous Siberian cedars which are especially outstanding here. There is a strong belief among the local people that holding at the trunk of the cedar tree for some 20 minutes will ease your soul and raise your spirits. We tried that ourselves while being there and it worked!
The tree is also referred to as patriarch of the Siberian taiga. It is called 'bread-tree', because it really was the bread for the Siberian people. From the cedar, oil was pressed from the cedar, as was a heavy cream, much fattier than we know. Cedar oil is a good multi-purpose medicine in treating different disorders such as nervous diseases, nephritis and stomach ulcers. Four centuries ago early Yermak soldiers found that there were a lot of sable and squirrel living in the cedar forests of Baikal.

Where the Buryats sing their ancient songs
Duration of the tour Irkutsk-Ust Orda is 7-8 hours. It is an exiting ethnographical tour to the region where the Shamanism is still practised. It is the brilliant way to experience the Buryat people traditional hospitality and cuisine, to enjoy their dancing and music. You are supposed to take part in the original ceremony of 'meeting-and-greeting' guests at Buryat dwelling, view the folk arts, make offerings to the local spirits, etc.

Ust-Orda, the administrative and cultural center of Ust-Orda Buryat National Region, is situated 70 km from Irkutsk. Its population is about 10.000 people, mostly involved in herding cows and sheep in the vast Mongolian-like steppe. A must-see is the Local Lore Museum, showing the history of Siberia from the Stone Age to the present day in fossils, rock-painting, pictures, authentic tools, robes and dresses, weapons and jewelry. Sometimes after dressing in Buryat traditional clothes, the tourists are invited into the ger. Before getting in, the major Shaman accomplishes the procedure of cleaning the guests from possible evil spirits and gives them further protection. Inside the ger, everybody sitting around the fire tastes the Buryat tea, followed by oriental dishes typical of this region.

Something very special - Olkhon
Olkhon offers numerous beautiful bays, mystical places, remote capes and rare plants. The south and the north of Olkhon Island is dominated by the Taggeran Prairie. Along the steep coast in the east, you will mainly find spruce and larch forests.
It is hard to say which places you must have seen and which are less impressive. It depends on your own preferences. On Olkhon Island you can do almost everything - either you enjoy the sun as in Florida, or you go hiking from one cape to the other and climb up to the 1200m-high Mountain Zhima.

Salgi Bay
The bay is known as the most sunny place in the region. In parts, the sun shines over 2000 hours a year. Accordingly, the place is very popular during the summer months.

Cape Kobylia Golowa
Because of its form which reminds of a horse that is drinking water from the Baikal, the cape is sometimes also called 'Horse Cape' or 'Khorin Irgi'. if you take the ferry from Sachurta to Olchon in the summer, you will directliy pass this place.
'Kobylia Golowa' comes from a little river at the facing shore of 'Maloi Morie'.
In a legend it is told that Tchingis Khan's soldiers stayed at the cape. However, the legend says that the most dangerous wind in the Baikal region - called 'Sarma' - terrozises the region once a year.

Khaday Mountains
The mountains are the highest point between the ferry landing and the regional capital Chuzir. This point, where the Buryats resp. Shamans get their wisdom from, is a holy place for them.

Cape Khargoy
This place is surely one of the most beauiful places of Olkhon. Very impressive is the treeless prairie and the view to the mainland and to the small island Ogoy. The Kurykans lived here in former times. Partly you will even find old ramparts of the Kurykans. It remains unclear until today, whether they had a defensive or a religious purpose.

Bay Chankhoi
The bay is surrounded by two capes - Elgai and Chungai - and is separated from Lake Baikal with a natural sandbank. Especially in summer, the bay is definitely the most popular camping space of the whole of Olkhon. Because of its special location between the two capes, the bay warms up to 20C in summer. However, due to it being in the middle of the prairie, you will not find any wood here.

Schamans- or Burcha Rock
This is probably the most famous and most visited natural monument of the island. The rock is near Chuzir and is said to be one of the holiest places of Asia. The Burjiats believe that the rock is the residence of the biggest and most important god, Tengrii. Because of this, it is strongly forbidden to climb the rock. In former times even the horses' hooves were upholstered so that they could not disturb the god's peace.
Of course things have changed today and the rules are not that strict anymore. Nevertheless, it is advised that you do not behave in a bad way or think something bad. Unfortunately, not all visitors respect the holy place - as numerous thrown away beer- and wodka bottles in the immediate vicinity show.

Saraysky Beach
Situated between the Schamans Rock and the village Harantzi, this sand beach is a wonderful place to go swimming and to sunbathe. When the weather is clear you will have a wonderful view from the beach to the mountains on the other shore of Maloe Morie.

Do not mix it up with more famous sandbay in the north of Bolshoy Koty - although this bay is more silent and not less attractive. The bay is not very big. However, the dunes here are also moving and make some trees look like growing on stilts.
Shortly after World War II, a penal institution was built here. The prisoners worked in a small fish factory, from which only parts of some cottages survived. A little cemetery is located in the forest but in fact, it is not that spectacular.
Near the sandbay was a little settlement that is unfortunately also very dilapidated. But if you have some time, visit the fisherman who is still living there. Sometimes he even invites you to go fishing with him.
In summer, numerous herbs (i.g. wild thyme) and flowers are growing. In winter you sometimes see the so-called 'Geologsbanya' - sauna. For this some stones are warmed up. A little wooden scaffhold, covered with a plastic tarpaulin is built over the stones. For lots of fisherman in the Baikal region, that is the only possibility to wash themselves during the winter months.

Cape Sagan Khuschun
Also called 'White Cape' or 'Three Brothers'. The cape consists of three single rock formations and of marble - that is were the names come from. Especially in winter, the cape offers a wonderful view and many people had already thought it is the northern point of Olkhon. Valentin Rasputin was so impressed by this place that he devoted some thoughts to it: 'I would choose this place to be the grave of Tshingis Khan. I believe that poor souls will find a home here, suffering people will find health, and people with too much self-confidence - humility.'

Cape Choboy
The cape is the northest point of Olkhon Island an looks like a 'tusk'. However, it is better known for its echo effects, caused by a huge stoned slab. Seen from the water, the relief of the cape looks like a profile of a woman. Good weather assumed, you have a fantastic view over the mountain ranges on the other shore of Maloe Morie as well as over Svetui Nos and Uskani Islands.
If you are lucky you will even see the rare Baikal seals. In summer, lots of rare plants grow at this impressive place.

Schara Nuri Lake
This is the only lake on the island and is pleasantly warm in summer, which makes it a very popular place for swimming. The name stands for 'salt lake'. The lake's mud is supposed to be healing.

Taschkin Valley
The valley lies at the Eastern shore of the island between steep coasts. The little river is surrounded by big rocks and offers a perfect living space for numerous rare plants and animals.

Mountain Schima
With 1274m in altitude, Mount Shima is definitely the highest mountain of the island and one of the holiest places, too. One legend says that Olkhon's imperor lives here. Even today, it is forbidden or at least very undesirable that women climb the summit. The way up to the summit, however, is not that spectacular, because the mountain is covered in wood and the view thus is blocked by trees. But you can find some remnants of old Buddhist's houses (Mankhos).