Russia Day 7 – Listvyanka

My original plan had been to go for a 5km run before breakfast as I knew I’d be awake long before I needed to be for the 10:00 pick-up time. This was put into doubt though by the weather forecast as if my running clothes got too damp I wouldn’t be able to get them dry before they needed to be packed for the journey to Mongolia. Sure enough it was raining heavy enough to instead mean that I got 10 hours of sleep instead.

We went for breakfast, and the selection in the “Courtyard by Marriott” was about the same as the selection had been in the Hotel Angleter. We met our driver for the day in the lobby just before 10:00, but the guide was running 5 minutes late due to the traffic. I assume the traffic was worse today due to the relentless rain.

We drove south for about 45 minutes and stopped at the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture and Ethnography. It was raining even heavier by this point so I decided to wear full waterproofs for this. As it happens that was a good decision as it turned out to be also cold.

The 67 hectare territory contains over 40 different buildings from both Russian and Buryat history which demonstrate different parts of Siberian life in the past. We went around several of the buildings including a fort, a gatehouse and a functional Kazan cathedral before getting around to a wooden house that was locked up as the attendants were on a break.

Instead of waiting around we headed over to the cafe where I got a tea for what I’m guessing was only 25 roubles. When we headed back after this the house was open so we were able to look inside. We were told about how each living room in a house would have a corner that would have a religious “icon” which they would pray to before each meal, but only the mother would be able to touch it so it could be cleaned, and as such would hide their supply of salt behind it. This was because salt in Siberia was valuable and difficult to get in foods otherwise.

We then drove on to the small town of Listvyanka, and the rain hadn’t really improved. It made it difficult to photograph Lake Baikal due to the direction and intensity of the wind, we were however able to see what an effect it was having on the waves of this lake. Unable to stay out in the cold winds too much longer we headed over the road to their market where they sell the locally caught fish called “Omul”.

Our guide asked us what we’d like to eat here so we both said we wanted one of the kebabs. The guide however misunderstood and only ordered one of them, so I let my friend have that. By the time I realised their mistake I felt it was too late to get another one ordered as the time for them to cook it, and me eat it would mean we probably wouldn’t have much time at the Baikal museum. When leaving the market I noticed they were selling Duo Mars bars so had one of those for 80 roubles – it was at least some food.

The next stop was another church – the church of Saint Nicholas. This one had a lot of original religious “icons” as some which had been saved from the churches in Irkutsk had been brought to this one during the Soviet times as this one in Listvyanka was still a functional church at that time. We spent a fair bit of time in this one as our guide talked to the person who ran the church shop there to find out why they had so many. In hindsight, if we’d had time for a very long stop here then we’d probably have had time for me to have got some lunch before.

The tour ended with a stop at the Baikal museum which has the Pisces XI outside of it. It was 260 roubles to go in, and an extra 120 roubles to take photographs. Our guide managed to make this stop last around 2 hours due to the extensive information on the background and ecosystem of the Baikal lake that she provided us with. It was pretty impressive really.

The last part of this stop was a section which was an aquarium containing various local fish and two female Baikal seals. When we left the museum it had more or less stopped raining so we were able to take a couple of photos of Lake Baikal. On the drive back the rain returned with a vengeance however.

Fortunately when we were dropped off at a supermarket it had once again stopped raining. This stop was to allow us to buy supplies to take with us on the train as for the days on the Trans-Siberian Express it was very likely we wouldn’t be able to get food as it doesn’t always include a restaurant carriage.

The weather held out whilst we walked back to the hotel, and at this point we checked our train tickets for the morning. To our surprise and confusion, the ticket said the train was at 03:15 in the morning! As far as we knew, and as far as all the paperwork said, the train should have been at 07:53. In a panic, James phoned the travel company in England who had booked the tickets for us to find out if there was some mistake as it could mean our pick-up time to be transferred to the train station might need to be changed. They assured us this was in Moscow time, which meant we’d be leaving at 08:15 (so 22 minutes later than the paperwork said), and would be arriving at 14:45 instead of 07:20.

We were promised a phone call back once he’d confirmed what was happening, so we went down to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner. I had pork medallions with black currant sauce and apple puree which tasted pretty good, and a Russian honey cake for dessert. At last I’d have a proper meal for the day.

The travel agent still hadn’t phoned back, but by this point we’d spoken to the front desk about it as we got some packed breakfast ordered for the next day. The lady explained that the times in Russia on train tickets was always Moscow time, and after a phone call was able to confirm that the destination time was local time due to it being Mongolia. This finally made sense and we knew everything would be okay as it was in the morning.

Even though it was close to 21:00 I went out for a 5km run around Irkutsk. My watch was taking a while to get a signal so to start with I walked to get it chance. Whilst walking down one of the side streets someone started talking Russian to me and shown me some ID – which I took as suggesting he was a plain clothes policeman of some sort. When I said “sorry, could you repeat that in English” he said something else in Russian and walked off.

By the time my watch got a signal I was almost at the nearby closed power station so ran from there to the first church we’d been to the day before, and then over the pedestrian bridge to the waterfront as the sun was setting. I took a couple of photos and then carried on running along the waterfront until I ran out of path and ran back, and repeated myself a couple of times before running to Kirov square, around that and then back to the hotel.

The travel agent still hadn’t phoned back, even though we now knew the answer, they didn’t know that. So as far as they were concerned they were ignoring tourists who had no idea what was happening. It was too late now, so instead of waiting I went sleep.

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