Many tourists come to Irkutsk for a short time only. Irkutsk serves as a starting point in your journey to the world's deepest Lake Baikal in Siberia. Some people opt for a longer stay on a farther lake’s destinations, the ones that demand days of traveling to get there, where the living conditions are tough. But if you have only one day for Baikal, you probably would not want to travel so far. There is one place in Irkutsk where you can easily go and see the lake’s beauty. I am talking about Listvyanka, the nearest village to see Lake Baikal.
Although getting to this small village by the lake may take up to three hours, the journey there is not complicated! If you stay in Irkutsk, you should go to the Central Market to catch a small private bus to Listvyanka, which travels without any stops. The public bus, however, goes slower because it makes lots of stops on the way. You can also sail to Listvyanka on a motorboat too. You can buy the tickets at the office of Irkutsk Inland Navigation Company. Another way to visit this place is to see historic railway tunnels by Lake Baikal on the Circum Baikal train. The most fascinating, albeit the most expensive way to go to Listvyanka is to fly on a helicopter there.
To tell you the truth, locals do not like Listvyanka very much. As they say here: “Moscow can not represent entire Russia”, and neither can Listvyanka reflect the Baikal special atmosphere. It is full of tourists, and the day trip there will be far from calm. But still, I go to Listvyanka every summer to see its hidden gems which there are plenty. One of them is Port Baikal, a small village unchanged by time. Another treasure is a small Orthodox church located a bit sideways from the main road. Even if you are not religious, turn from the busy main road and march into the depth of the village. You will see the cutest wooden temple of Orthodox Christianity built by the people of the village and one rich merchant. Have a break in the improvised small garden made by the nuns. Time seems to have stopped here at the porch of this little church. Curiously enough, the building, although it was built in 1950, has some masterpieces of the 18th century inside.
In the not so distant past, Listvyanka’s only street was occupied by fish sellers. They went fishing early in the morning to catch omul, the most famous fish in Siberia. Nowadays, as the omul fish became an endangered species, Listvyanka’s authority only allows selling the fish on one street. It is in the fish market situated near the only bus station in Listvyanka. Here, you can buy smoked or raw omul to eat right away or take home with you.
All in all, although Listvyanka may not be the obvious choice for your first encounter with the Lake Baikal, I strongly advise you not to miss your chance to visit it. It is the nearest point to see Lake Baikal from Irkutsk, and it also has a fascinating atmosphere that will not leave you indifferent!
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