Last Day in Russia

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our last day in Russia (not counting our day on the train before crossing the border to Mongolia) was easily the coldest day we’ve had so far, and with blustery winds to boot. We started the day with another huge (and delicious!) breakfast by Rita, our hostess. Then we set out in search of the Baikal Museum, which we knew was about 2km down the main drag. There seemed to be a light snow or perhaps it was just the wind whipping around the snow from the ground, but in any case, we were walking into the wind and as a result, our faces were numb after about 10-15 minutes of walking. Fortunately, we happened upon a souvenir shop right around that time so we bopped in to thaw out and pick up some last minute souvenirs from Russia. Our map of Listvyanka was not exactly detailed, so didn’t really know the precise location of the museum and were hoping it would be obvious when we got there. However, after what felt like much more than 2km, the buildings on the street appeared to be running out, so we turned back thinking we must have missed it. With still no obvious indications of a museum, we went into a hotel and asked the receptionist, who informed us it was about 1km back the way we had just came. So we turned around again and trekked on, and ultimately found the museum, which was quite small and had only a handful of displays with English text. They did, however, have an aquarium, including two freshwater seals, who were seriously speedy despite their resemblance to a blimp.

We walked back through the aquarium on our way out of the museum, which happened to be during feeding time, and we discovered that they did in fact have heads and necks, contrary to our initial impression.

There were lots of different kinds of fishes.

My favorite was this guy… Check out those lips!

Upstairs were several displays about the various stages of the exploration of Lake Baikal, most of which we weren’t able to understand, but they did have some neat models of ships, as well as full diving suits.

One of the few items with an English description was this model, of the icebreaker “Baikal” which was used in the early 1900’s to ferry trains across Lake Baikal before that section of the railway was completed. It could fit 25 train cars and 300 passengers, but apparently had difficulty with the 3 meters of ice on the lake in winter and the storms in summer.

This cool picture made out of colored sand, pebbles, and gemstones was hanging above one of the doorways.

And they also had a few stuffed animal displays, most of which were just kind of creepy (particularly the shelves full of jarred fish specimens). There was a lynx that looked like it was ready to pounce on us from the ceiling.

After the museum, we walked back to the village, had a bite to eat and picked up our bags at the guest house before finding ourselves a minibus back to Irkutsk. We went back to the Admiral Hostel, where we had stayed one night before going to Listvyanka, dropped our bags and headed out in search of dinner and supplies for our next train journey. We found a bakery that had been recommended by our guidebook called Niva, which was well worth the trek. We had a couple delicious pre-dinner doughnuts stuffed with caramel filling and picked up a loaf of nice soft bread for the train. We also tried to pick up a bottle of vodka before leaving Russia (our phrasebook indicated that there were some interesting flavors we wanted to try), but we accidentally bought cranberry cognac instead. We turned in pretty early since we had a taxi coming to pick us up at 4:30am for our 5:18 train to Ulan Bator!


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