Christmas Eve in Baikalskoe

This post contains around 50 images from our trip to Baikalskoe, a 300-year-old village at the north-western end of Lake Baikal. I am currently in the process of writing a huge post about our train travels through northern Siberia, and the following photos were supposed to be contained within that. However, we hadn’t counted on the village being so stunning, and we ended up taking something silly like 250 photos of it.

That is definitely enough to warrant having its own special post. So here we go.

baikalskoe

Let this be the beginning of a tradition where I start every post with a picture of a goat. Let it also be the end of that tradition.

Baikalskoe village is one hour north of Severobaikalsk. Taking a day-trip is simple enough. A shuttle leaves every morning at 8 a.m. from “Underneath the armpit,” as we were told, of the statue outside the train station. The shuttle ride for us was a 1-hour trip of pelvis-shattering ice-driving in the darkness. Our fellow passengers were two young women and an older, fatter woman in furs who scolded the younger ones to move aside for her. We paid 110 roubles each for the journey.

Each day after arriving in the village, the shuttle returns immediately. It does the same round trip at 5 p.m., leaving Baikalskoe at 6. There is practically nothing in the way of tourist infrastructure, but we made arrangements to meet a babushka in the town. We began and ended our day at her house, eating a hearty soup and freshwater fish caught on Lake Baikal.

baikalskoe

Baikalskoe is a mixture of cute, colourfully painted houses, and crumbling abandoned shacks. The temperatures drop pretty steeply in the winter months, and the houses are typically heated with white painted concrete wood burners. None of the things I just mentioned have anything to do with the above photo of a fence.

baikalskoe

Not sure what all of this says, but the first word is “Bamovets”, the name for those who worked on construction of the BAM railway. My next post will be about the BAM.

baikalskoe

The town ambulance.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

There were a lot of dogs running around town. These puppies took an interest in us. The brown one took a strong interest.

baikalskoe

o face

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

The town naturally concludes at the edge of Lake Baikal, the largest, deepest, and oldest lake on earth. The entire lake freezes during the winter months beginning with the most northern section first. Down at the southern end in Irkutsk, the lake won’t freeze until late January.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

This is an orthodox town.

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A fisherman rides his old soviet bike (with sidecar) down to the lake to engage in some ice fishing.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

He begins by peering into the ice with his rod lowered, occasionally blowing so the hole doesn’t freeze over.

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His fish were tiny, and he was catching one every 30 seconds or so. He told me to peer into the hole. I saw an illuminated lure a few metres down through the clear water. As I watched, a fish swam up and stopped at the lure.

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Got one. These little guys are used as bait for bigger fish, he told us. Note: he isn’t wearing gloves.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

This colourful graveyard sat at the edge of town.

baikalskoe

There is a hike that leads all the way back to Severobaikalsk. This fence marks the beginning¬†of the hike, but it isn’t really feasible in winter unless you start early in the dark. We opted for a four hour short loop along the track, doubling back and crossing over some hills north of town.

baikalskoe

A spectacular pee.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

From high up on the cliffs we had a clear view of the fishing holes. These holes were made recently by men driving a green Lada over the lake.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

Carvings like this were dotted along the cliff. I wanted this fish to have a snow hat, and it was so.

baikalskoe

This is where popcorn comes from.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

The trail was marked with blue paint – and just as well. It was snowing all day and the powder was ankle deep in places.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

A stretch of unfrozen lake resembles a river.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

Wild horses foraged in the snow for buried grasses.

baikalskoe

baikalskoe

Like pagodas in Myanmar, orthodox crosses in Russia always seem to be erected in prominent positions. This metal cross was about 5 metres high. The village can be seen far below.

baikalskoe

This fat little grump is a Bohemian Waxwing. It can consume double its own weight in berries per day.

baikalskoe

One individual was recorded as eating between 600 and 1,000 cotoneaster berries in six hours, and defecating every four minutes. (Thanks, Wikipedia)

baikalskoe

Waxwings eat snow in winter to quench their voracious berry-thirst.

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A mountaintop view of southern Baikal on the ride home.

It was a cold, but rewarding Christmas eve; a lovely opportunity to breathe some fresh, Siberian air before our next adventure: two more days of train travel.

A post about that will be coming soon!

~~~

Just an ordinary train