Today is the ferry tour to Port Baikal.
Day 26 Planned:
Port Baikal tour:
- Transfer to ferry,
- Walk around Port Baikal
- Return ferry to Listvyanka,
- Picnic lunch.
Day 26 Actual:
Pretty much as the planned itinerary suggests. Plus a few other bits and pieces. We were able to sleep in a bit before a leisurely breakfast in the chalet. The chalet we were in used to have views of Lake Baikal until this got built:
The guide picked us up around 11ish and drove us to the ferry over to Port Baikal. The weather today was just terrible. NOT.
The ferry was quite small – basically room for 3-4 cars plus people along the siderails.
A Potted History of Port Baikal
Port Baikal in its current incarnation requires a little bit of explanation.
The train line used to run to Irkutsk from Port Baikal but that stretch of railway was flooded when the hydroelectric dam was completed in Irkutsk. Yes, Irkutsk has a hydro dam right in the middle of the city.
The line to Port Baikal is now essentially a spur line and a bit of a weekend site. Mostly people get to Port Baikal by ferry from Listvyanka these days, and the dual rail line from the Trans Mongolian/Siberian has been cut back to a single line.
Port Baikal Railway Museum
The original railway station at Port Baikal was bombed in the Russian civil war, but a replica has been built on the site.
The replica railway station contains quite a neat little railway museum with photos and dioramas of the construction process (especially the tunnels).
So for example the dioramas give a pretty clear picture of the challenges that would have been involved in building the railway:
This one illustrated the tunneling process:
The tunneling diorama was also supported by a schematic view on the wall:
Finally there was a very impressive diorama of Port Baikal in its heyday:
This was fascinating to see and well worth the visit.
From the Railway Museum we went on a long walk along the shore and climbing up to the top of the hill overlooking Lake Baikal. The weather today was simply superb for this. Cold, but clear with glorious blue skies and views clear across the lake to the snow covered mountains on the other side.
One of the first things we saw is the apparently traditional Soviet era steam loco on display near the railway station:
Whilst there was some snow around, it mostly persisted in the shade:
Some of the puddles had a thin layer of ice over them though that you had to watch out for:
We stopped for lunch at the top of the hill next to a lovely church that really works in the setting. This panorama kind of worked and gives you an idea. We ate at the benches in the middle:
Here’s a closer look at that really quite pretty church:
Just imagine what it was like to be eating freshly made pies and sandwiches after a long steep climb to earn our appetites, and with a view like this.
The views from up there really were stunning.
From there we headed back down to the shore, and on a bit to a pebble beach. We even walked along the tracks for a bit:
However we didn’t do that for too long. According to our guide there was a period in the Soviet Union that discovered that people were using the tracks for paths in busy areas with the sadly predictable results. So, after a study, the sleepers were deliberately installed in an irregular pattern that is very uncomfortable to walk on for extended periods. I’m sure there’s a design lesson in that.
There were often signs of Port Baikal’s decline from its glory days along this stretch of the lake:
You can also see how the track curves along the lake shore, and how steep the hills are:
The views really were stunning
At which point Julian, then I, briefly went for a swim.
Oh, and it was cold in there. I didn’t initially plan on going in, although Julian did, but when I got there the moment took me. Let’s face it, I’m probably never going to be here again, and this is supposed to be my grand tour in celebration of my 50th birthday.
So I did it. Admittedly it was very briefly and there are pictures (first one is me, 2nd one is Julian):
(Incidentally I think that these may be the only pictures of me without glasses taken in the last 30 years or so).
I picked up, courtesy of our guide who actually found it, a polished piece of marble near where I went in. I’m seriously thinking about having it engraved when I get home.
From there we headed back to the ferry, and back to the chalet with a brief stop at a souvenir shop. Then dinner at the chalet and a relaxed evening before turning in.
And here’s the photo album for today.